There’s nothing quite like sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night! After all, the yellows, orange and blue flames are almost hypnotic as you watch them reach upward dancing with the air as the smoke drifts up the chimney. Yes, there is much to be said for the beauty of a well maintained fire. But more important, is how well maintained your chimney is.

Each year there are more than 45,000 chimney fires in America causing a staggering $23 million in property loss, not to mention the loss of life. More sobering, is that the large majority, if not all, of these losses can be avoided by taking preventative actions that ensure that the chimney is not at risk for fires. Rather than take the risk of becoming a victim, follow these steps of chimney maintenance. However, keep in mind that these steps do not negate the need for having a professional check and clean your chimney at least once a year!

The 3 C’s of Chimney Maintenance

Before getting started on your chimney inspection, be sure to put on protective clothing, as well as eye and ear protection and gloves. In addition, be sure that if you have a wood stove or furnace that the unit has been turned off, and that you open clean out doors slowly as this is where soot will collect. Other items you may want to have on hand are binoculars, a flashlight and a mirror which can be angled to allow you to see up the chimney.

Conditions-Take a close look at the chimney, both inside and out. Do you detect anything that is wrong or looks out of place? If you have a masonry chimney you will need to look for any missing or loose bricks, chipped bricks or masonry joints, cracks, a leaning chimney or anything that does not appear to be safe or part of the original construction. If you note any visible damage, corrosion, bending, stains, or movement of the chimney in windy conditions then you need to call a professional.

Chimney Caps– Does your chimney have a cap on it? Moisture from the elements can seep into the chimney causing the tiles to dissolve and corrosive elements from exhaust to mix together ultimately resulting in weakening the liner. Be sure you have a good chimney cap to prevent this from happening. If you need to purchase a chimney cap, then be sure it is one with a screen mesh and has a lifetime warranty. The screen mesh will prevent animals from getting inside chimney as well as help keep sparks off of the roof. Again, having a cap professionally installed is the only sure way to know the job is done right.

Check for Leaks and Stains-Look for leaks and stains near the fireplace. Pealing wallpaper, dampness near the chimney, and stains on the walls are all signs that the roof flashing is faulty, or that there is missing or damaged flue liners, interior decay, or a surplus of condensation. To properly inspect the chimney, you must look inside as well as outside. When your chimney is professionally inspected, a camera and mirrors are used to ensure that nothing gets overlooked. Without specialized equipment and training, it’s not evident when there may be a problem. A professional inspection from a certified service provider ensures that your home remains safe and secure.