5 Chimney Dangers You Should Know

Building a cozy fire in your fireplace on a cool day can create a romantic and delightful atmosphere. However, fireplaces can become a serious hazard if you don't know how to use one properly. If you have a fireplace in your home, you need to know these five common chimney dangers that can cost you your home or life.

Structural Damage

Loose bricks, cracks, bumps and other damage can affect how well your chimney works, including how well it eliminates dangerous carbon monoxide. Like any part of your home, your chimney needs routine maintenance. Depending on the age of your home, you should have your chimney inspected about once every two to five years. During the inspection, the technician can spot and repair any dangerous damage. Expect to pay about $60 or $80 for an inspection, but the price may be higher if repair is necessary.

Layers of Creosote

As smoke passes through your chimney it creates a black buildup known as creosote. This substance is highly combustible, which is why your chimney needs routine cleaning to prevent explosions and fires. The best time to clean your chimney is whenever it needs it. You can clean fresher, thinner layers of creosote yourself with a flat wire brush or special chemicals. However, if the creosote has become glazed, it's best to call a professional. You can spot glazed creosote because it either looks gooey or shiny (once it dries). Glazed creosote occurs when layers of creosote stack up quickly, and it is extremely hard to clean.

Wrong Burning Fuel

The only fuels you should be putting in your fireplace are appropriate firewood and burning logs. Appropriate firewood is seasoned, which means it has minimal moisture. Unseasoned firewood isn't as effective and can cause a lot of smoke. Don't try to accelerate the fire with charcoal or lighter fluid. They expel dangerous gasses and flammable vapors into your home. Garbage is also not an appropriate burning fuel. Items like cardboard and paper allow particles to fly into the air, which may catch fire to your home. Other pieces of garbage, such as plastic have dangerous chemicals, which can be released into the air when burned.

Improperly Used Damper

Another major danger when using your fireplace is an improperly used damper. The smoke from the fire needs someplace to go, which is why you have a chimney in the first place. However, when you aren't using the fireplace, the chimney becomes a major source of air leaks. Dampers are used to close the chimney to stop leaks. Using the chimney with the damper closed, however, causes the smoke and dangerous gasses to enter your home. You have to keep the damper open while using the fire. Even after the fire is out, don't close the damper again until the ashes are cooled.

An Airtight House

Typically, an airtight home is a good thing, but when you are using a fireplace, it can actually become a threat. A lot of devices in your home pull oxygen out of the home and expel it outside, such as bathroom fans. However, if your home is airtight, this creates a problem. The bathroom fan pulls air out of the home, but the home needs fresh air to replace it. If your home is airtight, the home may pull air from the chimney inside the house, which means it's also pulling carbon monoxide into the living space. An air exchanger can equalize the pressure to stop this from happening.

Having a fireplace can be a wonderful experience, especially during the cold fall and winter months. However, if you use your fireplace incorrectly, it can become a serious threat to your home, health and life. If you need your chimney inspected, repaired or cleaned before you can start using it, contact a technician in your area today.