As you snuggle in front of a cozy fire or bask in the warmth of your wood stove, you are taking part in a ritual of comfort and enjoyment handed down through the centuries. The last thing you are likely to be thinking about is the condition of your chimney. However, if you don’t give some thought to it before you light those winter fires, your enjoyment may be very short-lived. Why? Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, which damage structures, destroy homes and injure or kill people.
CREOSOTE & CHIMNEY FIRES: WHAT YOU MUST KNOW
Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to safely contain wood-fueled fires, while providing heat for a home. The chimneys that serve them have the job of expelling the by-products of combustion – the substances given off when wood burns.
HOW CHIMNEY FIRES DAMAGE CHIMNEYS
Masonry chimneys. When chimney fires occur in masonry chimneys – whether the flues are an older, unlined type or are tile lined to meet current safety codes – the high-temperatures at which they burn (around 2000° F) can “melt” mortar, crack tiles, cause liners to collapse and damage the outer masonry material. Most often, tiles crack and mortar is displaced, which provides a pathway for flames to reach the combustible wood frame of the house. One chimney fire may not harm a home. A second can burn it down. Enough heat can also conduct through a perfectly sound chimney to ignite nearby combustibles.
Ways to Keep the Fire You Want…From Starting One You Don’t!
Chimney fires don’t have to happen. Here are some ways to avoid them:
Here are the signs a professional chimney sweep looks for:
If you think a chimney fire has occurred, call a CSIA Certified Chimney SweepTM for a professional evaluation. If your suspicions are confirmed, a certified sweep will be able to make recommendations about how to bring the system back into compliance with safety standards. Depending on the situation, you might need a few flue tiles replaced, a relining system installed or an entire chimney rebuilt. Each situation is unique and will dictate its own solution.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A CHIMNEY FIRE
If you realize a chimney fire is occurring, follow these steps:
1) Get everyone out of the house, including yourself.
2) Call the fire department.
If you can do so without risk to yourself, these additional steps may help save your home. Remember, however, that homes are replaceable, but lives are not: