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The Dangers of Not Cleaning Your Chimney

Unless you’re a professional chimney sweep, you probably don’t enjoy cleaning your chimney. It’s a chore that many homeowners try to put off for as long as they can. Not cleaning your chimney is like playing Russian roulette – you never know when disaster will strike.

Chimney Sweep, Richmond VADangerous Accumulation of Creosote

Creosote is one of several natural by-products of combustion. As you continue to burn in your fireplace, additional layers of creosote develop. The creosote also begins to change from a relatively harmless white powder into a thick, tarry, and crusty substance that is extremely difficult to remove. It is also highly flammable in this stage. A spark from a hot ember is all it takes to spark a chimney fire.

Every winter, fire departments respond to thousands of structure fires. Sadly, failure to clean the chimney is the primary cause, nearly one-third, of all residential structure fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. 

Flue Obstructions

A flue obstruction is another danger of not regularly cleaning your chimney. Small animals, rodents, leaves, branches, and other debris can clog the flue. When there is an obstruction in the flue vent, smoke and fumes can back-up into your living space, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and other harmful effects. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. Symptoms of potential exposure include headache, nausea, lightheadedness, and confusion, to name a few.

Low Indoor Air Quality

An uncleaned chimney can contain a lot of creosote, soot, ash, and other dirt that significantly decreases the heating efficiency of your fireplace. You may notice that the fireplace isn’t keeping you as warm as in the past. You may experience smokier fires, which increases indoor air pollution that can affect your health. When the fireplace is not in use, there will also likely be foul odors seeping into your home.

Chimney Sweep, Richmond VAHealth & Safety Risks

Failure to clean the chimney can jeopardize the health and safety of your family. It can be hazardous for your pets too. The inhalation of smoke, creosote, soot, and other dangerous gases can cause a variety of health issues, especially in children, the elderly and those with respiratory ailments. It can cause eye and skin irritations, headaches, difficulty breathing, and confusion. Prolonged exposure to these contaminants can result in more severe health issues such as skin and lung cancers. 

How to Prevent a Chimney Fire

Whether you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace, regular chimney cleanings will help ensure your heating appliance is safe. Hiring a professional chimney sweep to clean and inspect your chimney is surprisingly affordable. They are the best way to prevent a chimney fire and reduce health and safety risks for your family.

Also, only burn wood that has been “seasoned” for at least six months. The lower moisture content in seasoned firewood generates more heat with less pollution. 

Never leave a fire unattended. Douse the flames before leaving your home or retiring to bed.

We recommend all homeowners with solid or liquid fuel appliances to install a CO detector. Check the batteries in smoke and CO detectors at least twice per year.

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