We all remember the colorful chimney sweep in Mary Poppins, and though in the movie he was simply a swell guy, in real life he performed an important function. Many people think that their chimney is a simple invention that funnels the smoke out of their home.
It does funnel the smoke out and it is a relatively simple process, but as with all processes, it must be properly maintained or it will fail. Failure of a chimney to operate properly can have dire results.
When you burn firewood, as the smoke rises through the chimney, it leaves a tarry residue called creosote on the chimney walls. These are actually unburned gases, and over time, they build up. Though it can be minimized by burning small fires and using well-seasoned wood, creosote buildup cannot be avoided entirely.
When creosote deposits are heated up by the extreme heat of the fireplace, it can ignite and cause a chimney fire. It is actually the number one cause of chimney fires. The fact is, at some point, everyone’s chimney needs a good cleaning and it should be performed only by a professional. Here’s why.
When a professional cleans your chimney, he uses specially designed brushes to remove the creosote from the chimney walls. But he doesn’t simply remove the creosote. He also inspects your chimney stack for cracks or missing mortar joints.
Small cracks or holes in the flue can serve as an entry point for sparks generated by a fire. These sparks can get through the openings and cause a fire in your attic or the wood framework that surrounds your chimney. This type of fire can quickly spread throughout your house, and is another reason why should be sure that your fires are always put out before you retire for the night.
Another reason to clean your chimney is to ensure that your friendly, neighborhood family of birds has not decided to make their nest inside the metal chimney case. You’ve probably seen them make nests in air conditioners. Well your chimney is no less vulnerable to our flying friends. A professional chimney sweep will ensure that you don’t have a second family blocking the chimney pipe in your roof, yet another recipe for a disaster.
Fireplaces are a charming and functional addition to any home, but as with anything else you own, without proper maintenance, your favorite feature could become your worst nightmare.