Why Fireplace & Stove Maintenance Are Essential
Let’s start off with this fact: The majority of all chimney fires – and a large number of house fires, in general – could be prevented if the homeowners arranged for regular fireplace and stove maintenance. Wood-burning heating units, more so than gas, need to be inspected and professionally cleaned on an annual basis.
If left unattended, a chimney or stovepipe will begin building up high levels of a smoke byproduct known as creosote. This is a dark, oily substance that clings to the inner walls of vent systems. Creosote is highly flammable, and it’s the primary reason for the more than 25,000 chimney fires in America each year.
When temperatures inside the flue are high enough, creosote can ignite. Some chimney fires start and then go out on their own – and therefore are not noticed by the people in the house. But even small fires can cause damage. A large fire can get through damaged pipe or loose masonry joints and enter the attic, resulting in catastrophe.
Soot also is produced when a fire is burning. The soot mixes with the creosote to create an ever-smaller passage for smoke and gases to be exhausted. At one point, smoke may begin backing up into the house. A greater concern than smoke, however, is carbon monoxide, which is made by burning wood. Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, and it can be deadly.
Chimney & stove pipe cleaning & inspection
Many people attempt to clean their own chimneys. It’s technically possible to do this, but there are two important factors to keep in mind if this is the route:
- Professional chimney sweeps who are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America have specialized tools and specialized training to clean chimneys safely and thoroughly. They’ve performed this work many times, and they know all the techniques needed to do an outstanding job.
- Certified chimney sweeps also can perform detailed inspections of vent systems and all other fireplace or stove components – from the chimney cap on top, to the foundation on which the unit sits. They know how to spot cracks and compromises anywhere within the system and then initiate the necessary repairs.
Virtually every fire safety agency in the United States recommends annual chimney cleaning. For the reasons listed above, it should be done only by licensed professionals.
What you can do for your chimney
Creosote is the primary concern with wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Fortunately, you can cause less of this substance to be created by doing one simple thing: burn only dry (seasoned) firewood. Damp (green) wood creates far more smoke than dry wood, and it’s the smoke that condenses and forms creosote.
Ideally you should buy only seasoned wood. It should be stored with a tarp covering but with the sides left open so air can keep drying the wood. Never store firewood in a place where rain can get to it.
If it’s time to have your chimney or stove pipe inspected and cleaned, Chimney Saver Solutions provides service by certified, licensed technicians throughout the Richmond, VA, area. With questions about fireplace and stove maintenance, or to schedule an appointment, call (804) 440-5000.