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Chimney Dangers and How to Prevent Them

A fireplace is a delightful amenity, especially during winters here in the Hudson Valley. It can be a hazard if you don’t keep up with your chimney maintenance. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends an annual chimney inspection and cleaning to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and a chimney fire. Following their recommendation can also prevent black mold from growing in your chimney.

The three top reasons that chimneys can be dangerous are creosote, flue obstructions, and black mold. Read on to learn more about these chimney hazards and how to prevent them.

creosote clean up, escopus nyChimney Fires & Creosote

Creosote is the leading cause of chimney fires. It is a highly flammable substance that builds up in chimneys. Creosote forms when combustion by-products in smoke combine with condensation along the walls of the chimney. Together they create a tar-like substance that can be tough to remove without professional-grade cleaners or equipment.

Even a small amount of creosote in a chimney can cause a fire. It could be ignited by a tiny stray spark or extremely high flue temperatures.

 

Prevention:

You can reduce the risk of a chimney fire by always burning seasoned wood and predominately hardwoods. While all firewood produces some creosote, green firewood and softwoods produce the most. When you close your damper for the season, schedule a professional chimney sweep. They will clear out this year’s creosote buildup so that your chimney is clean when you light up your fireplace again.

Flue Obstructions & Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless toxic gas produced when you burn fuels like firewood. When your chimney is operating correctly, it goes up the flue with the smoke. If your chimney flue is obstructed, it may not be able to escape outside. Instead, it could leak into your home.

Breathing in large amounts of carbon monoxide can be fatal. It’s especially dangerous since you can’t see, taste, or smell it. The only way to know if carbon monoxide is in your house is with a carbon monoxide detector.

Obstructions are the leading cause of carbon monoxide poisoning from fireplaces. Your chimney flue could be clogged with lawn debris or blocked by broken chimney liner tiles.

If your chimney is full of leaves, twigs, trash, or other debris, it may have a missing or broken chimney cap. A damaged flue can have many causes, such as prolonged water damage or a chimney fire, and can also lead to issues.

chimney chase top, germantown nyPrevention:

Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector in the room with your fireplace. Check the batteries at least once a year before using your fireplace. If your chimney doesn’t have a cap or chimney chaise cover, have one installed to stop debris from getting into your chimney. To find out if the flue is damaged, schedule a chimney inspection. During the inspection, a CSIA-certified chimney sweep will look for signs of disrepair. If they notice any, they will take a closer look using special equipment to determine the problem. A professional chimney sweep will provide you with visual proof, such as a video or photographs, if they found any damage. They recommend the best solutions to fix your chimney lining before you use your fireplace again.

Mold

Chimneys can quickly become a breeding ground for mold because they are warm and humid. Mold thrives in that type of environment. The spores released by mold can aggravate allergies and cause unpleasant respiratory symptoms.

Prevention:

Installing a chimney cap and scheduling routine cleanings are the best solutions to prevent mold growth. A chimney cap will prevent rain, sleet, and other precipitation from getting into your chimney. Reducing the moisture in your chimney will decrease the risk of mold growth. Annual cleanings will clear out any mold or mold spores in your chimney.

It may seem unbelievable that a yearly chimney cleaning can do so much to prevent chimney dangers. But it’s true! Any appliance fueled by fire can be a hazard; our job is to reduce those risks and keep you safe! If you want to learn more about chimney cleanings or schedule one, call us today! December is the busiest time of the year for chimney professionals. Be sure to reach out soon to secure an appointment!

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