Each year, an estimated 25,000 fireplace and chimney fires occur in homes in the United States. Property loss resulting from chimney fires totals more than $30 million each year. These fires, and the resulting property damage, can easily be prevented with basic chimney maintenance. Keeping your chimney clean means keeping it safe for you and your family, so do not neglect to have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
Common Chimney Problems
Many homeowners fail to realize that, over time, their chimneys will degrade and even something as minor as a few cracked bricks can quickly become an expensive and dangerous problem. Few homeowners ever think about maintenance for their chimneys beyond a basic flue cleaning, but there are many other things you need to think about. For example, a crack in the chimney crown may be a small problem at first, but when winter comes around, repeated freezing and thawing could expand the crack, turning it into a major problem. The freeze/thaw cycle of winter can also result in spalling of chimney bricks, which can result in cracking and flaking of the outer surface of the brick. If this type of damage isn’t repaired, it can result in water leaking into the chimney and causing more damage.
In order to make sure that your chimney is safe, you should have an annual chimney inspection. There are three different levels of chimney inspections. A level 1 chimney inspection consists of a visual inspection of the fireplace and chimney without the inspector going up onto the roof. This type of inspection typically costs less than $200. A level 2 inspection is recommended after making a change to the fireplace or after a major weather event – it is also recommended that you have the chimney inspected when you buy a new house. This type of inspection is more thorough than a level 1 inspection and costs between $100 and $500. A level 3 inspection involves tearing down and rebuilding portions of the chimney, and it is typically done after a chimney fire – this can cost up to $5,000.
Tips for Chimney Maintenance
In addition to having your chimney inspected once a year, there are certain maintenance tasks you should complete to keep your chimney clean and safe. These tasks include:
Keeping tree branches and other objects clear of the chimney.
Installing a retrofitted chimney cap to keep leaves, debris, and animals out of the chimney.
Using the appropriate type of fuel for the type of fireplace you have (never burn pine, green wood, or treated wood).
Keeping the area around your chimney clean and clear of things that could catch fire.
Making sure you have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home and checking them twice a year.
A simple chimney cleaning generally costs under $200, and many basic chimney maintenance tasks don’t cost you anything at all. To keep your chimney safe and clean, perform the maintenance tasks listed above and have your chimney inspected annually.