“Is my chimney safe?”
This is the most common question homeowners ask our chimney sweeps. Whether your home has suffered damage after severe weather, had a chimney fire, or is simply receiving regular chimney maintenance, homeowners want to feel assured that their fireplace systems are safe to use. Unfortunately, the real answer may not be reassuring.
The truth is, not a single chimney is 100% safe. Even the best maintained and well-cared for chimneys carry risk. At Coopertown Services, the job of our certified chimney sweeps is to mitigate as much risk as possible while ensuring the chimney and fireplace are code compliant.
The best – and most important – way to make your fireplace system safer is by having it regularly swept, inspected, and maintained. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that all homes have their chimneys swept and inspected at least once per year.
Chimney sweeping removes soot, ash, and creosote that builds up in the flue over the course of normal fireplace use. Creosote removal is particularly important as it is extremely flammable. The ignition of creosote from stray sparks or embers is the leading cause of most chimney fires. Chimney sweeping removes anything blocking the chimney and helps the fireplace continue to burn safely and efficiently.
Chimney inspections are another important part of fireplace maintenance. During a chimney inspection, the chimney sweep checks all accessible portions of the interior fireplace and exterior chimney to check for signs of damage or deterioration. A chimney inspection can help identify problems when they are still minor, helping to prevent a minor repair from turning into a major one.
Signs of damage outside
Homeowners don’t need a ladder to investigate the condition of their chimney; many signs of chimney damage are visible to the naked eye, even from ground level. Homeowners with a two-story home, however, may want to use a pair of binoculars to check the condition of the upper chimney. Signs of damage/risk to the exterior of the chimney include:
– Tree branches that hang over the roof or next to the chimney
– A chimney cap that is damaged – or missing entirely
– Missing bricks or crumbling mortar
– Darks stains on the side of the chimney
– Flashing that is buckled or peeling upward
Signs of damage inside
Performance problems, such as smoke blowing back into the room, are often the first signs or symptoms of chimney problems that homeowners notice. Other signs of fireplace damage you may notice inside your home include:
– Standing water in the firebox or signs of water dripping into the fireplace
– Cracked masonry in the firebox or on the bricks or stone surrounding the fireplace
– Stained masonry or walls around the fireplace
– Fireplace damper that won’t fully open, close, or is stuck in a position
Do I need to call a chimney sweep?
If you’ve noticed any of the signs or symptoms of chimney damage above, it is imperative to call a chimney sweep as soon as possible. Continuing to use a damaged chimney does two major things; first, it causes additional damage and deterioration to occur with every fire, and second, it increases the risk of accidental chimney fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other serious health and safety issues.
Safe versus “code compliant”
As we said earlier, no chimney is ever truly “safe”. As with everything in life, there is always a small risk associated with using even the best-maintained fireplaces. That is why our sweeps are trained to recognize code-compliant fireplaces.
A code-compliant fireplace is one that was constructed to meet building standards. In order to recognize this, our sweeps have received extensive training. This, along with our experience, means we can recognize when a chimney is or is not built correctly. However, even some experienced chimney sweeps do not fully understand building codes; a sweep who has cleaned 1000 chimneys, for example, may not understand that a vitreous clay tile must be supported on its entire perimeter. This is why training, not just experience, is very important for a person working on your chimney system.
At Coopertown Services, our chimney sweeps are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fireplace Institute; a number of our sweeps are licensed, HVAC contractors. This qualifies them to work on gas logs, gas fireplaces, and even furnaces. In addition, a few of our sweeps are even instructors who teach chimney educational courses around the country for other industry professionals! We are happy to put in the extra time, money, and effort to ensure our customers are working with professionals up to date with the latest in cutting edge industry technology.
Trust the certified chimney sweeps at Coopertown Services!
When it comes to protecting your home and the people you love, you can never be too careful. Since 1977, the team of chimney sweeps at Coopertown Services has been providing quality chimney care for our friends and neighbors in Shelby County. We are licensed, bonded, insured, and have a team of CSIA-certified chimney sweeps to provide industry-leading chimney services for our customers. For more information, contact us today.