Now that the weather in Lynchburg and around the Tennessee Valley region is getting cooler, many folks are stocking up on firewood or checking their gas lines to make sure they have plenty of fuel to enjoy the flames and keep their home warm through the winter season. However, hidden, or unforeseen problems with your chimney or fireplace can quickly put a damper on the holiday spirit. So, before you get caught up preparing for the upcoming holiday season, here are a few easy steps to make your fireplace is safe.
The chimney cap is your chimney’s first line of defense for protection against moisture intrusion that can damage the interior masonry, the damper, and other components. Since wind and weather can damage or dislodge the chimney cap, it’s important to ensure it is securely attached to the top of the chimney before lighting the fireplace. It should also have a wire mesh screen to prevent leaves, twigs, and small animals from obstructing the flue to make sure your fireplace is safe.
While you’re outside inspecting the chimney cap, pay close attention to the exterior masonry for visible signs of damage, including cracked, crumbling, loose, or missing bricks or stones. Also, check for decaying or eroding mortar and gaps or holes in the mortar joints. Any type of staining on bricks such as white (efflorescence), green, black, or rust stains should also need attention as these are often the first signs that the brickwork is absorbing moisture. To make sure your fireplace will be safe to operate and prevent more extensive water damage, schedule an appointment with an experienced chimney technician like A-1 Chimney Specialist in Huntsville, AL, and Tennessee Valley area, to make the necessary masonry repairs as soon as possible.
Visible water stains appearing on the ceiling or walls near the fireplace are often mistaken for a leaky roof, but it is also a sign that the chimney flashing is failing. The flashing is a piece of metal that seals the gap where the chimney meets the roof. Warping, corroding, and weather conditions, can damage the flashing allowing water to leak in the chimney. If left unrepaired, the water leak can also damage the attic, roof deck, ceiling, and walls. Since improper chimney flashing can cause premature failure, it’s best to hire a professional chimney technician for flashing repair or replacement.
When you light the fireplace, the firebox absorbs intense heat. So, it’s critical to examine the masonry walls and firebox floor for any cracks, gaps, staining, or scorching. Also, look for any pieces of clay material which may indicate that the chimney liner needs repair or relining. Then, take a flashlight and look inside the flue (you may need to open the damper) to check the liner for any visible cracks, creosote, or smoke stains. If you notice any cracks, staining, creosote, soot, or other damages be sure to have a Certified Chimney Sweep® conduct a chimney inspection and cleaning to make sure your fireplace is safe.
The fireplace damper is a vital component for regulating airflow in the chimney. When it’s open, it allows smoke and toxic gases to vent out the chimney. After the fire burns out and when you are no longer using the fireplace for the season, closing the damper increases energy efficiency. So, it’s vital to test the damper to ensure it opens and closes smoothly. Replace a worn or damaged damper before you light the first fire of the season.
Whether you have a gas or wood-burning fireplace, it is critical to ensure your home has smoke and CO detectors on every level of the home. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can be lethal when inhaled. A CO detector is the only way to know if your home has unsafe carbon monoxide levels. Test smoke and CO detectors monthly and replace the batteries every six months.
While you’re thinking about fireplace safety, now is a great time to schedule your chimney inspection and cleaning. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that all homeowners who use wood and gas-burning fireplaces have yearly chimney inspections to ensure their chimney and fireplace are safe to operate. Our trained and certified technicians service Southern Middle Tennessee, northern Alabama, and the Tennessee River Valley communities.