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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Get your chimney ready for fall and winter now

By Marge Padgitt

The Midwest Chimney Safety Council recommends annual inspection of all flues and chimneys serving furnaces, hot water heaters, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, and wood stove inserts by a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep in Spring or Summer before the Fall rush.
MCSC Educational Director, Marge Padgitt, says that many people are unaware of the condition of their chimney, which can be a serious problem for homeowners. “Carbon Monoxide backup or leakage can cause the occupants to become ill or die,” says Padgitt. This can be caused by a faulty flue that has missing mortar joints, missing flue liner, cracks in the liner, or flues that are clogged with debris such as mortar, bricks, twigs, and bird nests. CO problems usually arise when a gas appliance such as a furnace or hot water heater is not venting correctly. HVAC Technicians do not inspect or maintain chimneys or flues, but professional chimney sweeps do.
Another issue is creosote accumulation from wood-burning, which is a fire hazard. All wood produces creosote, even dry hardwoods, so an annual inspection is necessary to see if sweeping is needed and to check the chimney for cracks, holes, flammable nests, and construction issues. Sweeping is usually done annually for flues serving fireplaces, and annually or bi-annually for flues serving wood stoves used for heating purposes.
Chimney fires are caused by a spark, or heat above 1,000 degrees, which is the temperature that can ignite creosote. Padgitt says that most chimney fires go unnoticed by the homeowner and are only found later by a chimney sweep. However, if there is sufficient creosote in the flue and air for combustion, a large chimney fire can result which can lead to a house fire. Chimney fires almost always cause damages to the flue liner and smoke chamber, and these need to be repaired before further use of the chimney. “It is more dangerous after a chimney fire to use a damaged chimney, because creosote has more places to go between cracked flue liners and blown out mortar joints, and the next fire may be worse,” said Marge.
Padgitt says that inspecting a fireplace flue properly usually requires the use of an internal video inspection camera in order to see the entire flue. She suggests that homeowners do some research to make sure their chimney sweep uses a camera system for inspections and is Certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Visit the MCSC website at for more free consumer information.
Marge is the President of HearthMasters, Inc. in Kansas City. Contact her at or 816-461-3665 

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