How to Inspect a Fireplace Chimney

Inspecting and cleaning a fireplace chimney is a dirty job, but is also vital to its lifetime and longevity as a functional piece of your home. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that chimneys and fireplaces should be cleaned an an annual basis. Whether you choose to DIY-it, or hire a professional certified chimney service, here are ways to make sure this process is done safely.

What to look for in a fireplace and chimney sweeping and inspection

  • Look at the general condition of all of your fireplace chimney inside the home. Are bricks coming loose? Is mortar cracking and falling out? If so, we highly recommend getting those issues fixed as soon as possible. Fireplaces in disrepair are dangerous.
  • Go outside and look up at the chimney on your roof. Walk around the house and inspect all 360 degrees. Are bricks or mortar coming loose and falling out? Is there a cover over it to keep out rain, snow, birds, bats, and other intruders from entering?
  • Are tree branches blocking the top of the chimney? If so, consider removing them and cutting the back at least 20 feet.
  • Look for smoke stains. Smoke stains can be another signal that your fireplace chimney isn’t functioning properly. If you see stains on the ceiling, smoke could be escaping from a gap between the hearth and the firebox. This is most likely because the hearth has settled, which is not an unusual occurrence in an older home.

What will a fireplace chimney sweep and inspection help avoid?

There are a lot of bad things that can happen with a malfunctioning fireplace — the worst being a chimney fire that can spread to the roof structure and cause major damage.

Here’s a list of things a good chimney sweep will inspect:

  • There should be a cap with a screen on the chimney to prevent rain or snow from coming down the chimney and to prevent birds or other critters from nesting there.
  • They will look at the condition of the bricks and mortar to see if bricks exposed to the weather need to be reset or the mortar needs repointing.
  • Flue liner check for excessive creosote buildup or cracked flue tiles.
  • If the fireplace has glass doors, the sweep should inspect the gasket material around the door opening. Defective gaskets should be replaced to ensure proper operation of the fireplace which is is especially important if you have an insert or a wood stove, which are meant to be airtight. If an airtight appliance is operated without these gaskets effectively sealing the openings, excess air can leak into the firebox creating an over fire condition, which may permanently damage the appliance.
  • As part of the service, the sweep should clean the blower if your fireplace is equipped with one. These blowers do not have a filtering system to prevent the buildup of dust and hair on the blower. Excessive dirt will shorten the life of the blower and may be a fire hazard.
  • The inspection may reveal broken or deteriorated brick lining in the firebox. Replacement of the damaged bricks may or may not be necessary depending on the severity.

Remember, as fires burn in your fireplace throughout the years, the oils, moistures, chemicals that are the result of combustion, and particulate matter all accumulate within the inner walls of your chimney. Creosote is the result when these things build up and can provide the perfect fuel for a chimney fire later on down the road.

We strongly recommend a thorough fireplace chimney inspection and having a licensed chimney sweep. The professionals at Chimney & Masonry Outfitters will not only clean the chimney of built-up creosote but will alert you to defects in the flue or firebox that can be downright dangerous. We pride ourselves on our customer service, and would love the opportunity to give your fireplace chimney a thorough inspection, chimney sweep, or chimney cleaning. Whatever is needed! Give us a call to discuss: 317-500-1250 or visit www.cmoutfitters.com.

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