As we get ready for the upcoming fall season, many homeowners in Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee are making plans to get their fireplaces prepared for when that first cold snap arrives. Since some folks may be wondering if they need to sweep a gas fireplace, why they have a terrible smell in the fireplace, or if they need to inspect an unused fireplace, we have the answers to these and other common questions about chimneys and fireplaces for your home.
Many homeowners wonder if they need a chimney sweep even though they have a gas fireplace. While gas is a cleaner-burning fuel, it is corrosive. The residue that sticks to the masonry can damage bricks and mortar, increasing the risk of fire and exposure to carbon monoxide fumes if it is not regularly removed. Also, small animals, leaves, and debris can clog the flue, obstructing harmful gas venting, causing them to back up into your living space. For these and many other reasons, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends homeowners with gas and wood-burning fireplaces to have a chimney sweep conduct a chimney inspection every year and clean when necessary.
Creosote is a chemical by-product of combustion formed through the distillation of tar prevalent in wood and other fuels. It sticks to the interior masonry walls, smoke shelf, damper, and other components as the smoke and fumes vent up the chimney. Creosote typically begins as a powdery substance easily removed with regular chimney sweeping. However, if it remains in the chimney, it hardens into stage 3 or glazed creosote, a dark, tarry, and flammable material that is extremely difficult to remove. Creosote in this stage is very dangerous because the intense heat of the fireplace or a hot ember can spark a chimney fire that can spread throughout your home.
Foul odors coming from the fireplace are often a sign that your chimney needs cleaning. The build-up of soot and creosote can make your fireplace smell bad. In addition, bird’s nests, leaves, and decaying organic matter in the chimney can also cause a foul odor. The odor can get even more unpleasant when air and moisture seep into the chimney through masonry cracks, a damaged chimney cap, or another issue. Since water in the chimney can also create conditions for mold and mildew to grow, you should schedule a chimney inspection and cleaning soon.
Hardwoods like beech, hickory, and oak that have been seasoned (dried) for at least six to twelve months are the best type of wood to burn in the fireplace due to their low moisture content. They also burn cleaner and more efficiently, so your fires will be hotter and longer-lasting with less smoke and creosote.
Although you may not be using your fireplace, annual chimney inspections are still essential for maintaining the chimney’s structural integrity and protecting your home and family. Cracks, water leaks, masonry damage, and corrosion can weaken the chimney. Also, air, moisture, and debris can attract mold, mildew, and pests that can spread to other parts of the house and even cause health issues for those living in your home. The slow deterioration of the chimney can lead to a partial or complete collapse, causing extensive damage to your roof and home.
The amount of time it will take for a professional to sweep the chimney will depend on the work involved. However, it typically takes 45 to 60 minutes to sweep most chimneys. Our certified chimney professionals bring all the necessary equipment, supplies, and safety gear to thoroughly inspect and clean the chimney and fireplace safely without leaving a mess.