Much of our service area is experiencing an uncharacteristically dry winter, and even in the city fire is a hazard. Debris on roofs, near chimneys, and even in the chimney and firebox can become a fire hazard during burning season. The average homeowner won’t be aware of a fire hazard in the chimney system without an expert to discover it. You can reduce fire hazards, however, and prevent catastrophic damage by taking certain measures this winter.
Schedule Routine Maintenance
The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) together recommend routine professional maintenance. An annual inspection of the entire chimney system can reveal insufficiency and hazards that might go unnoticed until it decreases the chimney’s efficiency or causes a fire.
Having the chimney swept regularly can prevent a buildup of creosote and soot that becomes a fire hazard. When a fire is burning, these natural byproducts are constantly entering and often settling on the chimney walls. A chimney sweep is the only way to remove it.
Burn Only Seasoned Wood
It’s important to burn only properly seasoned wood to insure that your fire burns completely and safely. Burning wood that is too wet will cause excess creosote and soot in the chimney. Leaves and trash are too light and will rise up the chimney ignited, raising fire risk.
Keep the Roof and Gutters Clean
Your fireplace, though inside your home, can affect the outside. Sparks can sometimes fly out of an extremely hot chimney and ignite debris on the roof. If gutters are filled with dry leaves and the roof is covered in leaves and debris, it can easily ignite, causing a dangerous fire. It’s a good idea to clean the gutters during regular monthly home maintenance, especially if you burn fires often.
Use the Damper to Control an Unruly Fire
The chimney has many parts that keep it working safely and properly. You can use the damper to control a large fire as well as glass doors if your fireplace is equipped.
Install a Screen or Glass Door
A custom glass door or a screen can prevent sparks from flying out of the fireplace and igniting decorations or furniture near the hearth. It’s best to keep furniture and home decorations, wall hangings, and curtains a safe distance from the fireplace opening.
Our top priority at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep is the safety and comfort of all of our customers in Boston, North Shore, and Portland. We offer preventative services to help reduce fire hazards through the winter, and to keep your chimney system working efficiently all season.
Many people do not give any thought to chimney repairs until it becomes clear that there is a problem. If the chimney is starting to smell strange or is producing a great deal of smoke, it may be time to hire a certified chimney sweep to investigate. A chimney specialist is a critical piece, because their training and experience give them the ability to see problems, or potential problems that you don’t notice or cannot interpret.
So you know you need to call a chimney professional, how often does your chimney need an inspection? This should be done on an annual basis, not just when there seems to be a problem. In fact, having the chimney inspected each year is the best way to avoid most common chimney problems before they become major issues. This can save you money and prevent any damage to the structure of your home.
A yearly inspection by a certified sweep helps you see problems before they become more expensive and more dangerous.
Replacing or relining the flue liner is a common repair. The liner protects the inside of the chimney from corrosive gas, chemicals and general wear and tear on the flue. In many cases, chimney professionals find that the liner has started to detach from the flue, making it ineffective. Older homes may not have a flue liner at all and, if this is the case, the chimney should not be used until one is properly installed.
A great deal of chimney damage is caused by excessive amounts of moisture that collect within the flue. This may be the result of rain or snow that makes its way into the chimney and collects there. A simple way to fix this problem is by having a properly-sized chimney cap installed. This little piece fits right over the top of the chimney and prevents unwanted material from getting inside. This can prevent damage such as deteriorating bricks, dangerous molds or damage from critters setting up a home in your chimney.
Sometimes, a chimney inspection will show that there are cracks inside of the chimney as a result of foundation settlement. This is a serious issue that a homeowner would not likely know about if they did not have a proper inspection. In this case, it may be necessary to have the entire chimney refurbished or replaced. This may seem like a major undertaking but, if it is not addressed in a timely manner, the damage could spread throughout the foundation of the home.
It is important to remember that even the simplest of chimney repairs should only be handled by a professional chimney repair person. The average person who tries to repair their chimney may end up causing more problems instead of solving them. In addition, they put themselves at serious risk for bodily injury if they are not used to climbing up on the roof. The Chimney Safety Institute of America is a great place to find professionals who are trained to deal with many of these issues. Annual cleaning and inspection is a must-do for homeowners wanting to save money in the long term. Catching little issues before they become catastrophic is why expert eyes are needed.
A house fire is one of the worst situations we can think of ourselves in, especially when we think of home being the safest place we know. A fire can occur at any time, even in the middle of summer, and it is important to be prepared if a fire occurs within the home to keep you and you, your family, pets, and others staying in your home safe. f you have a chimney, it is critical to have it inspected and cleaned annually.
No matter how careful and preventative you are, you can still face a home fire.
Take alarms seriously
When a smoke or carbon monoxide detector goes off, it is for a real warning. Take all precautions seriously from the moment you become aware of an alarm or other problem such as seeing or smelling smoke. If an alarm goes off, GET OUT! It is important to notify the proper authorities, but do so after you have ensured your safety and to those around you.
Most fires start small and can be contained if acted upon quickly. Use fire extinguishers on small fires if available and accessible. Not only is a fire extinguisher a good protection, be familiar with its operation. Never operate a fire extinguisher if you do not know how to us it.
Take caution with closed doors
When evacuating a house that is on fire, always feel the door handle to see if it is hot. Never open a door if the handle is hot. Opening the door can bring more oxygen to the fire feeding it and possibly bringing you into more danger. Find another way out of the room. If you cannot escape, signal for help. Window ladders can be useful for second story rooms. Never use a non-approved ladder.
Stay low to the ground
Heat and smoke will rise, so being close to the floor will help keep you safer. Keeping low to the ground will help reduce the amount of smoke inhalation. Crawl and keep your hand on the wall to keep from being disoriented.
Once out Stay Out
Once you reach safety, dial 911 if someone has not already, and never re-enter a burning building. Stay clear from danger and await for authorities to arrive.
Have a Plan
The most important thing to consider about home fire safety is to have a plan. Practice as a whole household proper procedures in case there is a fire. Pick a spot a safe distance from your home as a meet-up spot to gather in case of a fire. Fire extinguishers, ladders, and proper procedures for exiting a burning house or building will help keep you and your loved ones safe.
Everyone that has a wood-burning fireplace knows how wonderful they can be in the cooler fall and winter months but your first actions regarding your fireplace should take place long before you build your first fire of the season. A regular chimney inspection should be performed every year to ensure that your chimney is safe and ready to use. Just as all chimneys are not created equal so to can be said about chimney inspections. In fact there are 3 levels of chimney inspection and all have different qualifications on when they should be performed.
Hire a professionally certified chimney sweep to inspect your chimney each year.
The first and most common type of inspection is a Level 1 inspection. This is the type of inspection that should be performed annually to ensure the safety of your fireplace and chimney. This involves basic examination of all accessible chimney components. This includes both exterior and interior components. While some tools may be required to remove coverings or doors to gain access to certain parts of the chimney there is no work done on the actual structural integrity of the masonry unless obvious flaws are visible prompting your chimney sweep to perform a level 2 chimney inspection.
Level 2 chimney inspections are performed when changes are made to the system or some sort of seismic or weather event may have cause damage to the foundation and structure of the chimney and flue itself. It is also recommended that a level 2 inspection be performed if you have moved into a place with a fireplace. The types of changes that can facilitate the performance of a level 2 inspection include changes in the type of fuel being burned in the fireplace as well as changes to the flue or lining (whether it be materials, positioning, etc.). Level 2 inspections usually involve the use of a video scanning system to inspect the entirety of the interior sections of the flue and chimney. It will also include inspection of the exterior portions of the chimney accessible through the attic and/or crawlspaces. If this turns up additional structural issues a level 3 chimney inspection will be performed.
Level 3 chimney inspections involve an extensive inspection of the entirety of the chimney and flue systems. Removal of part of the chimney structure may be required to properly assess the safety and functionality of the fireplace and chimney and will determine the steps necessary to bring the chimney into compliance with safety codes. This type of inspection is used if some serious hazard exists.
Always remember the old adage “It is always better to be safe than sorry”. Have you chimney inspected regularly to make sure that your system is safe and ready to use and avoid a problem that can cost more than just money.