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Chimney FAQ

Why is it important to inspect and clean oil chimney flues and gas chimney flues annually?

The chimney flue is the passageway for toxic gases to escape out of your home. Cracks, holes or obstructions in a chimney flue can cause dangerous carbon monoxide fumes, or soot, to leak into your home. This is why the National Fire Protection Association recommends that oil and gas furnace flues are inspected yearly to insure proper draft, venting of soot & fumes, and, to guarantee that there is not an obstruction in the flue.

What does a chimney sweep determine from inspecting my chimney? Is this inspection necessary?

To understand what is getting inspected in your chimney, you need to understand what is happening in your chimney. For starters, your furnace is exhausted into your chimney. If this passageway becomes obstructed with debris, carbon monoxide and soot will be exhausted into your home, which creates a very dangerous situation for you and your family.

The debris that accumulates in your chimney is from the ongoing breakdown and decay of the inside passageway from your furnace chimney. This passageway is constructed of terracotta tiles that form a column to exhaust the gases. Over time, the exhaust, which is laced with sulfur and water, attacks the skin of these terracotta tiles, and this begins an ongoing shedding process. The shedding debris then begins to accumulate at the base of the chimney or in the turns of the chimney column. This shedding and accumulation process requires yearly monitoring by a chimney technician. Failure to do so puts your furnace chimney, and your home, at risk of a carbon monoxide blockage.

Also, as your chimney ages its 5/8” thick liner can become so decayed that partial or full sections of tile can collapse and cause obstructions and holes or cracks in the exhaust column. This allows gases to leak into your home’s living quarters. At this point you may need to have the liner replaced with stainless steel. Your chimney technician monitors this aging process, protecting your chimney, your home, and your family.

Finally, if your chimney was built prior to 1900, there is no column of tile. This is called an unlined chimney and should be relined with a stainless steel chimney liner.

At what age does a chimney begin to deteriorate?

Our technicians have encountered flaking tiles and misaligned flue tiles in homes as young as ten years old.

What factors can accelerate the deterioration of a furnace chimney flue?

  1. Gas Heat: The high volume of water vapor in gas heat exhaust increases deterioration.
  2. An Adjacent Laundry Room: Vapors from chlorine and other cleaning products can enter the chimney through the combustion chamber of the furnace, the draft hood of heating appliances, or the draft regulator on the smoke pipe.
  3. A Nearby Workshop: Again, vapors from solvents can be drawn into the chimney liner.

What is the best way to fix the lining of a chimney flue?

Terra cotta is very vulnerable to the elements, while stainless steel is corrosion resistant. That is why we believe that a stainless steel chimney liner is the best solution. We offer a stainless steel, singular piece of tubular flexing pipe. This pipe can be fitted inside of the existing terra cotta tiles in your chimney. Smoke rises in a circular motion, so having a circular flue drafts the smoke more efficiently. Also, having a singular piece of tubing, instead of multiple parts, reduces the likelihood of leakage or deterioration.

What is leaking from my chimney, and what should I do?

Rain leaking into the fireplace, or out through a basement cleanout door is a very common problem. Installing a chimney cap is the first line of defense, and solves 90% of chimney related water problems. Chimney caps also add the benefit of animal protection.

Some water problems can be more persistent, and a chimney cap may not be the best solution. There are a couple of helpful considerations to consider as well:

  1. Chimney Crowns. Be sure to have your chimney technician report on the condition of the chimney crown before installing the chimney cap. The chimney crown is the slab of cement the chimney mason installs over the bricks on the top of the chimney. This crown may have cracks that allow water to leak in. These cracks can be sealed with a product called Crownseal.
  2. Waterproofing. Another line of defense against water penetration is to have the chimney waterproofed with a water repellant product called Chimney Saver.

My chimney is on fire – what do I do?

To put out a chimney-fire follow these steps:

  1. Call the fire department.
  2. Notify everyone in the building, and
  3. Assemble them in a safe place

To minimize the damage a chimney fire can do to your chimney, and home, try the following:

  • Extinguish the fire in the fireplace with a fire extinguisher.
  • Regulate the pressure from the fire extinguisher, to prevent ashes from flying all over the room.
  • Use a metal trash can to remove still solid pieces of wood.
  • Now, close the damper (a glove may be necessary to do this) and wait for the fire department

Trying any of these suggested procedures should substantially reduce the fire, minimizing the damage to your home. These suggested procedures are at your own risk – we cannot be held responsible for any damage or injury.

Please remember that chimney fires can be prevented. They occur when a chimney is over fired and the interior is coated with creosote. Inspect and clean your chimney annually to prevent chimney fires.

What is creosote? Why is it a potential problem?

Creosote is a common problem that occurs in chimneys venting wood.

Webster’s Dictionary defines creosote as follows: ‘a dark brown or black flammable tar deposited from wood-smoke on the walls of a chimney.’ This substance looks black, very shiny, and sticky. It is removable with a steel chimney brush, and it is visible in your fireplace. To see if creosote is a problem in your chimney, take a flashlight and examine the back of the fireplace wall near the damper and also the damper. Then, shine the light up thru the damper and into the smoke chamber and flue. Sometimes, you will find a softer creosote covering on the shiny glaze – this softer creosote is removable. Other times, you will look up and see a mirror-like shiny glaze.

The causes of creosote problems vary from chimney to chimney. Some common causes are burning green wood or pine. Cold exterior chimneys are another cause. Burning smoky fires also adds to the problem. Often, a combination of these three factors causes a creosote problem.

Although creosote does pose a fire hazard, there are a couple of easy steps to clear up this issue. Have your chimney cleaned and the shiny surface scratched up. After scratching this up the technician will apply a creosote powder to the areas, called Creaway, which is a creosote modifier. The technician will also leave you with a bottle of Anti-Creosote, which also attacks the glazed creosote, and should be applied to the wood as you burn. You should then burn around 20 fires in the chimney to activate the products, but remember to never over-fire the appliance.

When the above has been completed, a technician will come back to your home to remove the converted creosote. You could also have the creosote removed mechanically, which we often recommend if you are about to sell your home and want to get it in tip-top-shape.

Improving your burning habits is the most important step in creosote prevention.