Have you ever wondered how your chimney works? If you’re like most of us, the answer is a resounding “Nope!” It just does. This is one of those aspects of the home that tends to go unnoticed … unless there is an issue. Because the risk involved with chimney malfunctions is so great in terms of safety and cost, it is important to understand how it works – and how to keep it in top operating condition.  

The Evolution of Chimneys 

The chimney is one of the most important inventions of modern life. In the first homes (or huts, rather), people in colder climates had fire pits inside and may – or may not have – cut a hole in the roof for the smoke to exit. It wasn’t until the 12th century that folks began installing an ingenious (but dangerous!) contraption that allowed smoke to escape. Early models were “wattle and daub,” a wood structure covered with straw, mud, clay, and dung or wood lined with clay. We’ve come a long way! 

As building science evolved, so did chimneys. The point remains the same though: to give smoke and toxic gasses (e.g. carbon monoxide, or CO) a direct path out of the home. Today, chimneys are constructed of brick and mortar or prefabricated metal. The flue (i.e. the “tunnel” through which smoke and byproduct gasses exit) is then lined with a material like aluminum, stainless steel, or PVC to prevent the buildup of corrosive creosote and soot, which can lead to chimney fires and CO poisoning.  

Whether you are using wood, oil, or gas as fuel, you need a functional chimney to vent the byproducts of combustion. A chimney for a wood-burning stove or fireplace works in essentially the same way as one designed for oil and gas appliances. Let’s take a look. 

How Does Your Chimney Work? 

Heat rises, right? This is due to the stack effect. When it comes to your chimney, the warm air, including smoke, rises up from the heat source (e.g.. your wood stove or furnace) and through the chimney flue. The rising warm air is called the draft. A good, strong draft pulls the smoke and byproduct gasses out of the home, replacing it with cooler air, which continues to push the smoke and gasses out… It’s a great cycle. 

What if that cycle is interrupted? If you have a poor draft, smoke and gases can fill the living space instead of escaping. It can also put out your fire or cause malfunctions in your oil or gas furnace. This can happen for many reasons, from an obstruction in the chimney to build up of soot and creosote to a closed damper.  

Maintaining Your Chimney  

Chimneys play an important role in not only ensuring your home is comfortable and warm, but that you and your loved ones are safe. No matter how clean the fuel you burn, there will always be hazardous byproducts. They need to be vented out properly. To protect the people, property, and possessions that mean most to you, schedule annual chimney cleaning and inspections. It’s a small investment that has big returns when it comes to safety and peace of mind. 

At Brick + Ember, we are not most people! We think a lot about chimneys – as well as your safety and wellbeing. Contact our team to request an appointment