Along with annual inspections, regular chimney cleaning is among the most important things you can do to protect your family and your home from chimney fires. A warm crackling fire is the perfect centerpiece to a family gathering or even just a quiet evening with your loved ones. Every fireplace or furnace has its own exhaust system, called a flue, which ensures that all the products of combustion are safely vented out of your house. But overtime, the soot and creosote can build up inside your chimney’s flue system. These materials are essentially enriched fuel similar to charcoal or coke.
Contrary to popular belief, creosote and soot rarely builds up to the point where the chimney has problems venting. Rather, the problem lies with a structure designed for high levels of airflow and filled with an enriched fuel. Can you name another such structure? If you answered blast furnace, you’d be right. That’s why chimney fires can burn at such extremely high temperatures – over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures are much higher than masonry or steel chimney is designed to withstand. We mentioned earlier that it is rare to see a chimney so dirty as to create a clog that prevents venting. This is because the creosote almost always ignites and burns away before it can get to this stage. Every time a fire is burned with a certain amount of buildup in the flue (typically ⅛ inch), it will either ignite and cause a chimney fire, or add more flammable, increasing the risk of a chimney fire the next time. Without regular chimney cleaning, sooner or later, chimney fires are inevitable.
While chimney fires can and do cause home fires that damage or destroy the home, chimneys are designed with certain safety features to help protect your home from chimney fires. Terra cotta liner systems and brick chimneys are designed to contain fires and insulate them, absorbing much of the heat and keeping it away from the combustible elements of the home. But chimney fires can do massive damage to those very systems, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage. Thermal shock from the extreme heat of a chimney fire cracks the clay liners and mortar joints, and even stainless steel can be chemically altered and destroyed by such extreme temperatures.
When chimney systems are not kept up to proper standards, even regular cleaning may not be enough. If a chimney liner has cracked flues or missing mortar, creosote can start to build up outside of the flue system, where it cannot be cleaned out. Not only does this increase the risk of a fire, but it also means that the system cannot properly protect your home from the heat of a fire when it does happen. That’s why every chimney cleaning comes with a full, certified inspection of your entire chimney and flue system. There is no such thing as a “safe” chimney. But of the home fires that started from a chimney or heating system, 98% came from chimneys that had not been swept or were in sub-standard condition. That means if you don’t have your chimney inspected and cleaned regularly, you could be putting yourself at 50 times higher risk! If you’re like us, home and family are the most important things you have. Don’t put them at risk. Schedule your chimney cleaning and inspection today.
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