The Dangers of Going Too Long Without Cleaning Your Chimney

A crackling fire in the fireplace is a common sight in millions of homes during the winter.  It provides warmth and comfort while helping to keep heating costs down. With proper maintenance and good safety practices, your fireplace will provide years of enjoyment. However, a lot can go wrong when you neglect to clean your chimney regularly.

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One hazardous by-product of burning liquid and fossil fuel is creosote. It’s a carbon chemical compound that sticks to the walls inside the chimney. It continues to build up with every burn. When creosote is not removed through regular chimney cleanings, it becomes a dark, tarry, and highly flammable substance. A spark inside the chimney from a hot ember is all it takes to ignite a fire. Every winter, there are over 70,000 house fires, resulting in millions of dollars in property damage, injuries, and even deaths.  The overwhelming majority of residential structure fires, approximately 30%, are caused by excessive creosote in the chimney, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Exposure to Carbon Monoxide

Your chimney must be free of obstructions to vent smoke and fumes. It’s not uncommon for leaves, twigs, and small animals such as squirrels and birds, to find their way inside the flue, especially during the colder months. The debris and nests can cause an obstruction, hindering the venting of carbon monoxide and other toxic gases. Instead, the gases will be forced back into your home, where they can cause adverse health effects. These blockages can also restrict airflow into the fireplace. Inefficient burning will result in increased pollution and higher energy costs.

It Can Make You Sick

The soot, creosote, and other particles of dirt that continue to accumulate inside the chimney can reduce your indoor air quality and emit an unpleasant odor in your home. It can even make you sick. Breathing in many of these contaminants can lead to a variety of health issues. Some of the symptoms you may experience include itching of the eyes and skin, headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems, to name a few. Prolonged exposure to an unclean chimney can also increase the risk of skin and lung cancer.

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When homeowners neglect to clean the chimney, they also miss out on an opportunity to notice signs of water leaks. A warm and humid flue are ideal conditions for mold. It can quickly multiply into millions of tiny spores that can spread throughout your home. Besides health issues and chimney damage, mold can also cause damage to walls, ceilings, and other surfaces around the house.

Professional Chimney Cleaning

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and national fire safety experts recommend homeowners have annual chimney cleanings and inspections. If it has been more than a year since your last chimney cleaning, it is time to hire a professional chimney sweep.  It is the best way to ensure your fireplace and chimney will keep your home and family safe.