A dirty chimney presents all sorts of risks to your safety, health, and home. Dirty chimneys are prone to chimney fires, and they can also release harmful carbon monoxide when the creosote, or black soot-like substance inside them, burns. Thus, it's very important to keep a close eye on your chimney and home. If you notice any of these signs, make sure to have the chimney cleaned by a professional before you use your fireplace again.
Sign #1: A smoky smell in your home.
A chimney that is doing its job properly should direct all of the smoke from your fire out of the home. If you notice a smoky smell or a smoky haze in your home during or after a fire, that means the chimney is not working properly -- probably because it is becoming clogged with soot or other debris. Smoke accumulation in the home not only makes your fabrics and carpets stink, it also puts you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, since this dangerous gas is released when wood burns.
Sign #2: Your carbon monoxide detector is going off after you light fires, or you're experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.
If your carbon monoxide detector is going off after you light a fire, do not ignore it. This is a sure sign that your chimney is not exhausting properly and is in need of a cleaning. Extinguish the fire, open your windows to ventilate the home, and find somewhere else to stay for a day or so while the home airs out. Before you return to the home, make sure you check the carbon monoxide detector again to make sure it's not still beeping, and call your chimney cleaner immediately.
You should also extinguish your fire, evacuate the home, and call a chimney cleaner if you experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as:
- upset stomach
Sign #3: There's creosote buildup in the lower portion of the chimney.
Creosote is a soot-like, greasy, black substance that accumulates in a chimney over time. It is the primary material your chimney cleaner will remove when he or she comes to clean your chimney. If there is too much creosote in the chimney, it can ignite and cause a fire.
When your chimney and fireplace are cool, put on some goggles and gloves, and take a peak up into the opening of the chimney. Use your fingers to scrape the wall inside the chimney. If you get more than a small smudge of black on your hand, or if you can actually feel the thick layer of buildup on the wall of the chimney, it needs to be cleaned.
Sign #4: You're having trouble getting fires to burn.
Of course, there are many reasons why you may be struggling to light a fire. Maybe your wood is damp or you're not using enough kindling. If you've considered these options and ruled them out, however, there's a chance you're having a hard time lighting a fire because your chimney is plugged. A plugged chimney will restrict the oxygen that reaches your fireplace, and if you have an enclosed fireplace, the flow may be restricted enough to make it hard to start a fire.
Keep in mind that such restricted airflow does not usually result from the buildup of normal creosote. Rather, it is usually caused by a foreign object, like leaves or a birds' nest, ending up in the chimney. Do not keep trying to light a fire if you think your chimney may be blocked. You might start the birds' nest or leaves on fire, leading to an all-out house fire.
Having a fireplace with a chimney can provide a sense of warmth and comfort, especially in the winter months. By having your chimney cleaned on a regular basis, you can ensure your experience is as safe as possible. For more information, check out a website like http://earlytimeshomesolutions.com.