Why You Need to Check Your Chimney Before You Cozy Up to the Fireplace

It's that time of year again! If you have a fireplace, here's a quick way to tell if your chimney is safe to use.

signs of trouble in your housestefanphotozemun/Shutterstock

Check Your Chimney or Risk a Fire

Creosote buildup causes chimney fires. You should have your chimney professionally inspected or cleaned after every 70 fires. If you burn wet wood (which you shouldn’t), have it inspected or cleaned every 50 fires.

Creosote buildup may not look dangerous but it ignites at 451 degrees F, the low end for a fireplace. And once it starts burning, it expands like foam sealant. In less than a minute, it builds to more than 2,000 F and can engulf your entire chimney and destroy your home.

If you see moisture bubbling out the ends of the logs when they’re burning, the wood is wet. This green wood doesn’t burn cleanly and sends a lot of unburned particles (smoke) up the chimney, where they build up as creosote and soot. Dry hardwoods, such as oak and birch, burn hotter and cleaner. With them, have your chimney cleaned or inspected every 70 burns. Check out our collection of tips for buying the best firewood.

Set aside some time now to complete these simple fall maintenance tasks so you can rest easy, knowing you’re prepared.

Do a Quick Chimney Build-Up Check

Most chimney fires start in the smoke chamber/smoke shelf area, so it’s the most important area to clean. Since that area is hard to reach in some fireplaces, check yours to see if you can reach into it and still have room to maneuver a brush. Plus, see our foolproof ways to start a fire in the fireplace.

clean chimneyFamily Handyman

Don’t remember the last time you had it cleaned by a pro? A quick way to tell if your chimney needs cleaning is to run the point of your fireplace poker along the inside of your chimney liner. If you find a 1/8-in. layer or more of buildup, call a chimney sweep. Here’s how to clean a chimney yourself with just a few simple tools.

For additional expert chimney maintenance advice, check out what two certified professional chimney sweeps have to say.