The chimney may appear to be a simple structure, but it is comprised of several components that are designed to work in unison. Together, these parts of the chimney contain the heat and vent the smoke and fumes while you sit back and enjoy the warmth of a wood-burning fireplace. We’ll help you to get better acquainted with your chimney by introducing you to eight chimney basics homeowners should know.
Whether you are a first-time homeowner experiencing a wood-burning fireplace for the first time, or an avid user, chimney inspections are a must. The examination will not only ensure your fireplace is safe for use; it will reveal any problems before they grow into more expensive repairs. The inspection will also show if there is excessive creosote or any flue obstructions. Both of which can increase the risk of fire and exposure to carbon monoxide. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends homeowners have annual chimney inspections.
Annual chimney cleaning is another necessity every homeowner should know. The gases created during combustion can be corrosive. It can accelerate the deterioration of internal components when the chimney is not adequately maintained. Creosote is another by-product of combustion that is highly flammable in excessive quantities. It is the primary cause of residential fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). While some homeowners opt to clean the chimney themselves, it is best to hire a Certified Chimney Sweep® that follows industry-standard NFPA guidelines to ensure the chimney is cleaned correctly.
The chimney crown tops the masonry structure. It is made of cement with a sloped design to help keep water out of the flue. When cracks develop on the surface, water can leak inside the chimney, where it can cause extensive damage to the masonry. The crown should be inspected at least once per year for cracks.
The chimney cap is a device that covers the flue opening to help keep moisture, debris, and small animals from entering the flue. Its position at the top of the chimney makes it susceptible to wind or storm damage. Homeowners should periodically check the cap and immediately replace it when broken or is blown off.
The flashing is a piece of sheet metal that covers the seams where the chimney meets the roofline. When the flashing material is rusting, warping, or is otherwise damaged, water can leak through the seam and into the chimney. Since water stains appear on the ceiling and walls near the fireplace, damaged flashing is often mistaken for a roof leak.
Most chimneys have a clay tile flue liner that protects the masonry walls from the high temperatures and corrosion of combustion. It also helps improve fireplace heating efficiency and the venting of smoke and fumes. The clay tiles are prone to cracking and should be checked at least once per year, preferably during a chimney inspection.
The damper is in the middle of the chimney in an area called the throat. It keeps moisture and debris out of the firebox when the fireplace is not in use. However, many homeowners are replacing the traditional throat damper with a top-sealing damper. It does a better job of keeping moisture out of the flue.
The firebox is the opening of the fireplace where you stack and burn the wood. The walls surrounding the firebox should be made of firebrick. Sometimes they are built using standard bricks like the rest of the chimney. Homeowners should check the bricks inside the firebox and have a trained chimney specialist repair them when they notice cracks or crumbling.
Complete Chimneys in Pasadena, MD, has certified, experienced chimney sweep technicians who perform professional chimney maintenance services. Chimney inspections, chimney cleaning, and preventative maintenance have been available since we were established in 1984. We also offer fireplace and stove sales and professional installation. Contact us today to discuss getting a fireplace added to one or more of the rooms in your home. Call (410) 544-7600 today.