Chimney care is often overlooked when it comes to maintaining elements in and around the home. As professional chimney repair specialists there are a few questions that are often asked of us. Below we will answer the most common questions, concerns, and problems associated with chimneys.
The number one question asked of the Kearns Brother chimney specialists is,
“How can I tell if my chimney is safe to use?”
This is one of those questions that is difficult to answer without actually seeing the chimney. Upon inspection it is common for inspectors to skirt away from the term “safe”. Instead, a chimney is inspected and if nothing is found a more common phrase to address the chimney’s use is to say that there are no visibly apparent issues that can be noted. If there is any question to the stability of a chimney, we will call in a certified chimney sweep. F.I.R.E. certified inspectors are experts and are the most qualified to make a judgment of a chimney’s safety.
“How can I tell if my chimney needs to be cleaned or swept?”
Fireplaces: Take a bright flashlight and look up and down the chimney. Most often the top of the chimney will be cleaner than the bottom for a number of reasons. If you notice a buildup of soot of more than a ¼ inch it is time for it to be swept.
Woodstoves: If your home has a woodstove and you actively use it, you should plan on hiring a professional chimney sweep each year. If you keep up on cleaning your woodstove there should never be a dangerous level of creosote buildup.
Gas/Oil Flues: With a gas or oil flue you will need to pull the pipe out of the bottom. If the system has been operating efficiently, as it should be, there won’t be a lot to see. The main thing to check for is that the passage is open. To be safe it is a good idea to pass a brush through the passage.
“How can I tell if my chimney is on fire?”
You would think this is evident right? Chimney fires are scary and can occur with little to know advance notice. It is important to keep your chimney clean to avoid fires within the chimney. It can be hard to tell if a chimney is on fire from the inside of your home. Many people don’t really know their chimney is on fire until a neighbor comes over and knocks on your door to let you know that flames are shooting out your chimney. When your chimney is on fire it can sound or feel like a freight train flying through your space, sometimes however the sound may not accompany it. Here are a few signs your chimney is on fire:
- Are flames shooting out the top of your chimney?
- Do you see mountainous billows of black smoke coming from the chimney?
- Can you hear a sound coming from the chimney, similar to a train?
“Is my chimney flue open?”
One of the biggest issue’s homeowners have is making sure their flue is open. The flue is the passage that moves the smoke out of the home. If the flue is shut the smoke will fill the room and won’t allow the smoke to flow out. To check and see if your flue is open you will want to get on your hands and knees to see if the flap within the chimney stack is open or shut. There is usually a handle on the outside of the pipe that operates the flap. Have someone help you by moving the handle back and forth until you can see the difference between it being open and closed.
“Could my chimney be blocked?”
A visible check of the chimney will tell you if there is a blockage. If you have a wood or oil fireplace that is blocked smoke, or a smell of oil fumes will fill up the home, this is a good indicator your chimney is blocked.
As a full-service home improvement contractor servicing all Southeast Michigan, Kearns Brothers, Inc. offers clients a wide range of services to meet their construction needs including: roofing, siding, window, masonry, chimneys, gutters, and insulation services. More information can be found at www.kearnsbrothers.com.