Q: Why is annual chimney maintenance important?
A: When gas, wood, and oil burn in vented heating systems, the dangerous fumes produced — including carbon monoxide — are released into the chimney through a connector pipe. Funneling these fumes out of the living area is the primary purpose of the chimney.
In addition to carrying off toxic gases and smoke, chimneys also create draft (flow of air) that provides the proper air to fuel mixture for efficient heating appliance operation.
Unfortunately, many chimneys in daily use in homes throughout the country are either improperly sized or have conditions that prevent them from performing their intended function. These conditions may include:
- weaknesses in the brick and mortar
- cracks or gaps in the chimney liner
- missing chimney liners
- damage from the acid produced by a gas appliance
- chimney blockages
- soot/creosote accumulation
- chimney leaks
- damaged smoke chambers
- and more
Keeping up with inspections, maintenance, and cleanings can help ensure that your chimney operates as it should, so you can enjoy a safer home. This is why it’s necessary to have your chimney serviced annually.
Q: Why does smoke come from my basement fireplace when I build a fire in my upstairs fireplace?
A: The answer is air pressure! When you have a fire going in the fireplace, the fireplace exhausts household air, creating negative pressure. To equalize the pressure, the home will draw air down through the unused flue (connected to your basement fireplace), bringing in smoke through the fireplace.
So what’s the solution? Some possible solutions to this include the installation of a top mount damper on the fireplace that’s least used or the installation of a chimney fan, which can work to pull smoke and carbon monoxide up and out of the home when there isn’t enough makeup air.
Q: My fireplace stinks. Why?
A: Most fireplace odors are the result of creosote deposits in the chimney. Creosote is a natural byproduct of wood burning, but when the humidity is high in the summer months, the odor can really become noticeable.
One thing you can do is have your chimney cleaned, but you may also want to invest in a top sealing damper. This can prevent the downdrafts that carry the smell of creosote down through the chimney and into your home. Some people have also found it helpful to put a little kitty litter or baking soda in the fireplace.
Q: My fireplace is smoky. What can I do?
A: A number of things can contribute to a smoky fireplace. Visit our Smoke/Odor Problems page to learn about some of the most common causes.
Q: If I heat with gas, do I need to have my chimney checked too?
A: Yes! Gas is a clean burning fuel, but that does’t mean the chimney never needs to be checked! You’ll still want to have the chimney that vents your gas appliance regularly inspected for bird nests, blockages, and damage.
Q: How often should my chimney be cleaned?
A: The National Fire Protection Association’s answer: “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.”
The Chimney Safety Institute of America’s answer: “Open masonry fireplaces should be cleaned at 1/4” of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. Factory-built fireplaces should be cleaned when any appreciable buildup occurs. This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home.”
Whether you use your chimney or not, whether you burn gas, oil, wood, or coal, make sure to have your chimney inspected every year, and a professional will let you know whether or not it’s time for a cleaning.