Every year, hundreds of homes are destroyed by house fires that start when creosote (a carbonaceous chemical) accumulates inside the chimney. Despite these obvious dangers, homeowners still neglect to take the proper steps to ensure that their fireplace is safe for use.

Your wood burning fireplace is susceptible to creosote buildup in the damper and flue. Homeowners are encouraged to have their chimney inspected for creosote buildup and cleaned each year in spring, as necessary. It only takes one spark and a small amount of creosote glazing to create a chimney fire that could endanger your family.

How often do chimney fires happen?

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), more than 25,000 chimney fires occur in the U.S. each year. These fires can cause over $125 million in property damage and can spread to neighboring homes, the result of which leads to serious injuries and death.

These fires are often explosive and can burn at temperatures up to over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  A professional chimney sweeping removes the spots, blockages, and creosote from your system to ensure that it runs as safely as possible. 

Even if you don’t use your fireplace that often, it is still important to perform regular maintenance. With infrequent use, birds, squirrels, or even raccoons could be nesting in your chimney. The debris caused by wildlife, along with leaves and branches that have accumulated, need to be removed to ensure that your chimney is safe to use.

 What are the signs that my chimney needs cleaning?

The CSIA recommends that fireplaces be cleaned once 1/8in of soot buildup is present in the flue system or interior of the chimney. The condition of your fireplace is not always apparent to the untrained eye. That’s why it’s necessary to hire a professional chimney sweep to perform an inspection and cleaning. If there are signs of glazing present, an immediate cleaning will be necessary to prevent a spontaneous chimney fire from occurring.

When is the best time to clean my chimney?

It is recommended that you get your chimney inspected at least once a year by a reputable company like Brick + Ember Outfitters. Ideally, you’ll want to complete your inspection in the spring while temperatures are still relatively mild. For those of us in the Midwest, that could be as early as September. How often you clean your chimney depends on how often you use your fireplace.

Preventative Maintenance

There are things you can do as a homeowner to maintain the safety of your chimney between cleanings. Here are a few suggestions that we recommend to help you avoid dangerous chimney fires:

  • Do not allow ashes to accumulate at the bottom of your fireplace. Clean them out of your firebox if you find that they are accumulating.
  • Only use seasoned firewood in your fireplace. If you choose to gather firewood yourself, you should season it for a year or more before burning it. If you purchase it from a vendor, make sure that the firewood company only offers seasoned wood.
  • Make sure that the damper is completely open before lighting a fire.
  • Never burn  pressure-treated or painted wood in the fireplace. Doing so will rapidly increase creosote buildup or could potentially create toxic fumes that could cause harm to you and your family.
  • Stack the larger logs on the bottom of the firebox, followed by the smaller logs on top. This is important because this helps the fire burn hotter and produce less smoke. You should also top the pile with approximately one inch of kindling and crushed newspaper to properly start the fire. Using this method will retard the residue buildup in your chimney.
  • Schedule an annual inspection of your chimney by a professional. An experienced chimney sweep company will perform a thorough cleaning of your chimney, by removing tar and creosote buildup.

Hiring a Chimney Sweep

Why take a chance when it comes to protecting your home and your family? Our experts at Brick + Ember Outfitters will provide professional, reliable service to keep your chimney system working year-round.

Is your chimney in need of an inspection or cleaning? Give our professionals at Brick + Ember Outfitters a call for your free consultation. We’ll work around your schedule and have one of our certified technicians perform a complete assessment of your system and make an appropriate recommendation for cleaning or repair.  

Before you build your next fire, make an appointment with us to service your system. The best time to get your chimney inspected is before the start of the burning season: during spring, summer or early fall. Don’t wait until the temperature drops too low outside. Brick + Ember Outfitters can do your chimney cleaning or inspection any time of the year.

Call us now at (317) 500-1250 to get started!