The Fall Season has officially arrived in our area with the first frost (last night) and the cooler temperatures means that it’s time to start using our fireplaces and wood-burning stoves to help warm a room or to take a bit of the chill out of the air. Before you begin to use these, however, it is recommended to inspect and clean them to make sure they are safe to operate. According to the National Fire Protection Association, this should be done at least once a year, usually in the fall months.
A chimney inspection will check for soundness, freedom from deposits and correct clearances. Even if you don’t use your chimney often, there may be nesting materials from animals or other types of deterioration that make the chimney unsafe to use. A chimney sweep will clear out any sooty buildup in the chimney (1/8″ can be enough to cause a chimney fire that could damage the chimney or spread to the home), and will typically also include cleaning of the chimney flue and smoke chamber. Sooty deposits are also very acidic and can shorten the life of your fireplace and chimney.
Over time, chimneys may become clogged with creosote, a by-product of burning wood. This builds up over time and leaves a highly combustible glazed coating on the inside of the chimney. Creosote build up is often caused by poor air supply, so your regular chimney cleaning helps to prevent creosote formation as well. Chimneys with poor air flow can also cause the buildup of carbon monoxide in your home. At low levels, carbon monoxide can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion and fainting, and at high levels, it can be deadly.
When a chimney is not cleaned regularly, there is the chance that soot will accumulate around the flue which inhibits the ability to draw smoke up the chimney and instead causes smoke to enter the room. A black film around your fireplace, or on nearby furniture, carpeting or decorations, this indicates that your chimney is not working properly.
In addition to annual maintenance, we encourage our families, friends, and clients to always use safe fireplace practices:
- use appropriate fuel for your fires;
- use fireplace screens to protect nearby areas and provide a reliable barrier from embers;
- maintain a safe zone of 36 inches or more around your fireplace or stove;
- never leave a fire unattended
- install monitoring equipment for smoke and carbon monoxide
Taking these steps help to protect your family and your home. If you have any questions about your homeowners insurance and chimney fires, please contact our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency – located Cooperstown at 547-2951 and in Morris at 263-5170.
For additional information, click on over to our article on Fireplace Safety.