Many homeowners often wonder if chimney cleaning is always necessary. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), a build-up of 1/8″ or more of creosote is dangerous and should be removed. Since it can be difficult to discern how much creosote is actually present in the chimney, an annual chimney inspection is always necessary.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends homeowners with solid fuel and liquid fuel appliances have an annual chimney inspection even if the chimney doesn’t need cleaning. A comprehensive interior and exterior visual inspection of the chimney, fireplace, and vents are the best way to determine whether the chimney and attached heating appliances are safe to operate. During the inspection, the chimney technician checks for creosote, obstructions, damages, and structural issues. After the inspection is complete, the technician will provide a full written assessment that will include recommended repairs and replacements to ensure the safe operation of your heating appliances. The technician will also advise if chimney cleaning is necessary.
Creosote is a natural by-product of combustion, and it sticks to the interior walls and components as smoke and gases are venting up the chimney. Creosote becomes increasingly flammable the longer it lingers in the chimney. Each year, fire departments across the country respond to nearly 50,000 residential structural fires involving home heating equipment resulting in over 500 deaths, 1,300 injuries, and more than $1.1B in property damage.
Failure to clean the chimney was the primary cause in most incidents. However, most chimney fires are small and go unnoticed by the homeowner until the resulting damage is discovered during a chimney inspection.
Although masonry chimneys and fireplaces are built to withstand a gas or wood-burning fireplace’s temperature, the intense heat of a chimney fire can exceed its limits. Even a small chimney fire can cause the clay tiles lining the flue to crack or burst under pressure. It can also damage the masonry and other internal components, increasing the risk of fire spreading to combustible building materials.
Chimney cleaning is the best way to prevent a chimney fire and reduce the risk of exposure to dangerous carbon monoxide fumes. A certified chimney tech will thoroughly clean the chimney removing any creosote, soot, ash, and corrosive residues. The technician will also remove any small animals, nests, and debris that may be obstructing the flue vent. Many professional chimney sweeps will perform a chimney inspection and cleaning during the same appointment.
Although gas fireplaces are cleaner burning appliances, they still require annual safety inspections and periodic cleaning to reduce the risk of fire, explosion, or exposure to carbon monoxide gas. The technician will inspect the appliance, vents, fittings, burner, and ceramic logs for signs of wear or damage. The technician will also perform any necessary cleaning of the fireplace and chimney.