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The Dangers of Neglecting Chimney Maintenance and How to Prevent Them

When your chimney is working properly, it provides safe and efficient drafting of smoke and toxins from your fireplace. Keeping a chimney in great shape isn’t difficult. A couple annual maintenance tasks and repair work when needed will do the trick in most cases. If these services are neglected, you could end up facing a variety of serious problems.

Here are the two best ways to avoid the dangers of neglecting chimney maintenance.

Chimney Cleaning in West Seneca, NY1. Keep your chimney clean

This means annual chimney sweep services by a licensed, CSIA-certified technician. Chimney sweeps have specialized tools and advanced training to remove flammable creosote from your chimney flue and greatly reduce the likelihood of a chimney fire.

Chimney sweeps also remove draft-blocking debris such as the nests of small animals (squirrels, birds, raccoons, etc.) as well as leaves, twigs, fruit and other debris from nearby trees. Drafting obstructions can cause smoke to back up into your home and carry with it deadly carbon monoxide.

(Two important safety tips: 1. Keep working carbon monoxide monitors in your home; 2. Make sure your chimney has a full-width custom chimney cap to keep debris, rain and snow out of the flue.)

2. Schedule annual chimney inspections

A chimney inspection performed once a year can save you big money on complicated repairs down the line. Certified chimney inspectors look closely at the condition of the chimney’s bricks and mortar and components such as the cement chimney crown, chimney cap, chimney chase top, roof flashing, fireplace damper and more.

Just because your chimney seems to be working well doesn’t mean trouble isn’t brewing. Only a professional chimney inspection will be able to find early signs of damage and recommend the best way to solve the problem.

You as a homeowner can do some monitoring on your own. The issues below tell you that you should arrange for an inspection.

  • Water dripping into the firebox (common sign of a chimney leak)
  • White staining on the exterior chimney masonry (indicates water penetration)
  • Crumbing or loose bricks
  • Damp patches on walls and the ceiling near the chimney (this may not indicate a chimney problem, but it should not be ignored)
  • Strong, musty odors coming from the firebox
  • Smoke backing up into your room
  • A squeaky, hard-to-adjust damper

prevent a chimney fireWhat’s the worst that can happen?

A neglected chimney will sooner or later become a dangerous chimney. Water that infiltrates cracks in the masonry can deteriorate significant areas of the chimney and lead to a collapse. Incoming moisture also can damage the chimney liner and destroy the chimney crown.

Warped roof flashing and a compromised chimney cap are other ways water can flow into and around the chimney. Once water gets into contact with your home’s walls, insulation, beams and flooring, you could be facing dangerous mold issues and widespread structural damage.

When chimney sweep services are neglected, large amounts of creosote in the flue can easily catch fire. Nobody wants to experience a full-on chimney fire, but even smaller fires, which start and extinguish on their own, can lead to serious problems. If you know you’ve had a chimney fire, do not use your fireplace again until an inspection has been performed.

In summary, by scheduling yearly chimney cleaning and inspection services along with repair work as needed, you’ll be taking a huge step toward increased safety and comfort for you and your family all year long.

Felgemacher Masonry & Chimney of Buffalo, NY, has provided the very best in chimney sweep, inspection and repair services since 1953. Our technicians are CSIA-certified and know how to solve any problem with your chimney, fireplace or stove.

Learn more or arrange an appointment by calling (716) 907-4914 in and around Buffalo or (585) 308-4914 in the Rochester area.