Your chimney and the flue that lines it adds architectural interest to your home, but its’ real function is to carry dangerous flue gases from your fireplace, wood stove or furnace safely out of your home.
As you relax in front of your fireplace or bask in the warmth of your wood stove, the last thing you are likely to be thinking about is the condition of your chimney. However, if you don’t give some thought to it before you light those winter fires, your enjoyment may be cut short rather quickly.
Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, which damage structures, destroy homes and can have fatal outcomes for the ones we love.
Indications of a chimney fire have been described as creating:
loud cracking and popping noise
a lot of dense smoke, and
an intense, hot smell
Chimney fires can burn explosively. The fires can be noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbours or people passing by. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying airplane. However, those are only the chimney fires you know about.
Slow-burning chimney fires don’t get enough air or fuel to be as dramatic or visible as their explosive fire cousins and they often go undetected until a later chimney inspection. Their temperatures reach very high degrees and can cause as much damage to the chimney structure and nearby combustible parts of the house as an explosive one does.
Since a chimney, damaged by a chimney fire, can endanger a home and its’ occupants and a chimney fire can occur without anyone being aware of them it’s important to have your chimney regularly inspected. Here are the signs that a professional chimney sweep looks for:
“Puffy” or “honey combed” creosote
Warped metal of the damper, metal smoke chamber connector pipe or factory-built metal chimney
Cracked or collapsed flue tiles, or tiles with large chunks missing
Discoloured and/or distorted rain cap
Heat-damaged TV antenna attached to the chimney
Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground
Roofing material damaged from hot creosote
Cracks in exterior masonry
Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners