Give your chimney a checkup before the burn season starts. Regular inspections are important to spot warning signs of potential dangers. Following this handy checklist will reduce your risk of a chimney fire or house fire this season.
Visually Inspect the Damper
The damper is a metal cover inside the fireplace flue pipe. The damper slides open or closed to control airflow and keep the fire under control. Too much air creates a raging, out of control fire; too little air will suffocate the flames and create excess smoke. The damper should open and close easily. Look out for cracks in the lining and ensure a tight seal when the damper is fully closed.
Look for Structural Damage
Check for structural damage both indoors and outside. Watch out for clues like cracks, missing bricks, a tilted stack, or damaged mortar. Flaws like these allow moisture to enter your stack which damages the lining. Make sure the chimney cap is intact and in good condition. A chimney cap keeps out natural elements such as rain and snow as well as leaves, general debris, and small creatures including birds and squirrels. A good chimney sweep will include this step in your annual cleaning.
Shine a powerful flashlight up the flue to check for ash buildup or damage. Venting and exhaust passages allow smoke, flue gases, and other fumes to vent outside your living space. If these become blocked or develop cracks/tears, these harmful byproducts could enter your home. Refer to our detailed checklist for cleaning a pellet stove HERE. Thick layers of creosote or vent damage will need attention from a professional.
Schedule a Professional Sweep
Any stove or fireplace, including gas appliances, should be professionally cleaned by a licensed chimney sweep at least once per year. Depending on how frequently you run your stove or fireplace, and the length or severity of winter in your area, you may need to sweep the chimney again after 4-6 months of use. Burning a creosote-reducing log does NOT replace the need for professional cleaning or inspection by a trained chimney sweep technician.
Burn Quality Fuel
Extend the length of time between cleanings by following the fuel specifications of your stove or fireplace. High-quality pellets produce less ash and require less frequent cleanings. Firewood should be split and stacked to “season” or dry until it contains no more than 20% moisture.