Tips to Ensure Your Chimney is Ready for Cold Weather
Although winter is the time of year when fireplaces and heating stoves in Middletown, NY, and throughout the Hudson Valley are used the most, the cold, wet, and icy conditions typical of the season is when chimney damage is likely to occur. Also, if your chimney has signs of masonry damage, water leaks, or other issues, the high temperatures of a burning fire inside the fireplace and winter storms are likely to make matters worse. To help keep your home and family safe, check out these essential tips to ensure your chimney is ready for cold weather.
Sweep the Firebox
If you haven’t done so already, remove the grate and sweep the cooled ashes into a metal container. You can also use a vacuum to pick up any remaining debris. Use a bristled brush with water and mild detergent to remove any stains. Dry with a paper towel or clean lint-free cloth. Brown or black stains are creosote. It’s highly flammable, so be sure to remove it altogether. Then, carefully clean the fireplace glass doors. Next, clean the grate outside before replacing it in the firebox. Spreading a one-inch layer of ash underneath the grate will help get your fires started. Finally, check the firebrick for cracks, missing mortar, scorching, or other abnormalities, and alert your chimney sweep when they arrive for your annual inspection.
Empty the Ash Dump
Many fireplaces have an ash dump that is usually in the middle of the firebox. Open the door and dump the ashes into a metal container. Leftover ashes can be recycled in various ways, such as enriching fertilizer in the garden, compost, melting ice, and absorbing odors.
Check for Water Stains Around the Fireplace
Water stains around the ceiling or walls near the fireplace are usually signs that the chimney flashing is failing and needs to be replaced. It’s critical to repair or replace damaged flashing to prepare your chimney for cold weather. Otherwise, the winter weather will worsen the condition, and water will continue to leak inside the chimney causing damage to the attic, roof deck, and masonry.
Inspect the Chimney Cap
The chimney cap is an accessory installed at the top of the chimney to help prevent moisture intrusion. If the chimney cap is damaged or missing, rain and snow will drip into the flue when you’re using the fireplace. It can also damage the chimney liner, accelerate corrosion, and weaken the interior masonry. If the chimney cap has cracks, is loose, or is missing, replace it right away. When replacing a chimney cap, make sure to get the correct size that will fit your chimney. It should also have a wire mesh screen to keep small animals and debris from obstructing the flue and a spark arrestor to prevent sparks from landing on the roof.
Test the Damper
The fireplace damper is an essential component that regulates airflow in the chimney, making it safe to start and maintain a fire in the fireplace. It should open and close quickly without sticking or making loud noises. When the damper is shut, the rubber gasket should create an airtight seal without any gaps. This helps keep moisture out of the fireplace and prevents heat loss when the fire burns out. Repair or replace a defective damper before using the fireplace.
Look for Signs of Masonry Damage
When preparing your chimney for cold weather, it’s vital to look for signs of masonry damage. First, walk around the exterior examine the masonry for spalling or cracked, chipped, or crumbling bricks and gaps in the mortar joints. Also, look for any pieces or chunks of bricks and mortar on the ground, as these are signs of significant masonry damage. Any masonry damage will need to be repaired as soon as possible to prevent structural issues. Otherwise, your fireplace may not be safe to operate.
Schedule a Chimney Inspection and Cleaning
The best way to ensure your chimney is ready for cold weather is to schedule a chimney inspection and cleaning. It is the only way to know for sure whether your fireplace is safe to operate for the upcoming winter season. If the chimney sweep determines that chimney cleaning is necessary, it can often be accomplished during the same visit.
Contact Hudson Valley Chimney to schedule your annual chimney inspection today. Our certified chimney technicians provide safe, efficient, and affordable chimney inspection and cleaning. We have been proudly serving Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and the Hudson Valley community since 1985.