How To Get Your Chimney Ready For Fall

It is a rare person who doesn't look forward with happy anticipation to autumn. Autumn brings cooler temperatures, beautiful colors, and the first chance in a long time to sit by the fire with a blanket and a good book. Speaking of fire, if you don't want yours to burn out of control or cause major damage to your house, maybe you should consider making sure it's ready for fall now, while it's still sweltering most days. Here's how:

Check the Inside

Some of the worst things you can have happen when you get a fire going on the first cold day of the season is to have a bunch of smoke pour into your house instead of out through the chimney, or have a fire start in the chimney. Those disasters are preventable, if you take the time to look in the chimney. Get a good flashlight and put on some old clothes, because this could get messy. 

  • Check for obstructions. Common blockages are caused by leaf litter, birds (both dead and living), and small critters like squirrels. If you have animals living in or gunk building up in your chimney, they need to be removed before you can light a fire.
  • Creosote is a flammable substance composed of soot, which is charred carbon powder, and tar, which is charred tree resin. It builds up on the inside of your chimney as you burn wood, and is difficult to remove. If you shine your flashlight around and see black or brown sludge deposits, call in the professionals, because creosote is potentially toxic to humans, and must be handled with care.

Check Out the Outside

Chimneys are subjected to extremes in heat, cold, and moisture. That means that there is a lot of stress put on the masonry and mortar that holds it all together. Inspect your chimney carefully each year before you start using it to make sure the masonry is in good shape, and the mortar isn't cracking and falling apart. If you do notice structural problems with the chimney, don't mess with it. Chimneys aren't as simple as they look, and unless you are an experienced mason, you're more likely to mess it up than fix it.

Check the Flue

First, make sure it opens and closes efficiently, and doesn't need any mechanical service. Next, in order to visualize the entire flue and make sure it is in good condition, you will need a scope, or special camera. If you're determined to service your chimney yourself, you can invest in one of these instruments. If you're not thrilled with the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a tool you'll use once a year, you can call in the pros.

Check the Chimney Crown

No, it doesn't look like a tiara. The crown is the bit of cement that hangs out on top of the brickwork. It protects the mortar and the inside of the chimney from moisture, and if it becomes damaged, it doesn't do its job efficiently. Water mixing with creosote is a recipe for disaster, because it will break down the lining of the chimney, which could cause a house fire.

If the chimney crown is cracked, call in a pro. It may be worth adding a chimney cap at the same time, which further protects your house from damage.

There is a lot of upkeep and maintenance that needs to be performed to keep chimneys operating safely. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends annual chimney inspections. It's worth it to make sure your house won't burn down, right? Call Excel Chimney & Fireplace Service to have your chimney inspected, and call even faster if you have found any problems with the chimney.