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Keeping Your Chimney Clean
Written by Elizabeth Wood
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement

Proper chimney care can save you hundreds of dollars in chimney repairs and protect you and your family from dangerous house fires. For those of you that own a fireplace, it is extremely essential that you keep up with chimney maintenance. Special care is required to ensure that smoke and flue gases are properly vented. It is important to keep your fireplace safe by having a professional inspection and cleaning at least once a year.

Keep in mind, the main purpose of a chimney is to vent the products of combustion from your home. The products of combustion contain hazardous and noxious gasses, including carbon monoxide. Inadequate venting can lead to a spread of carbon monoxide. In adequate venting is usually the result of a blocked flue, but carbon monoxide can also come into your home through cracks in the flue as well. It is a good idea to have working carbon monoxide detectors in your house for extra safety.

Regular cleaning is extremely necessary as a protection against carbon monoxide, but also for the removal of creosote. Creosote is a hard tar-like substance that accumulates in chimneys and can ignite and cause a chimney fire if not maintained. The amount of creosote that accumulates depends on the design of the fireplace, the types of fires you make, and the chimney. Keep in mind, creosote build-up occurs in chimneys upon first light. A continuous burning fire will result in less creosote build-up compared to small separate ones.

There are certain things that a homeowner can do to check on the condition of their fireplace and chimney. For example, with masonry fireplaces it is always a good idea to check for loose brick and cracks. With metal, keep an eye out for corrosion, bending and stains. On all fireplaces, check for leaks, chipping paints and pealing wallpaper. Also, be sure to check for chimney caps. Caps will keep water, small animals and debris from getting into your chimney.

In addition, you may want to invest in a chimney liner if you have not already. Most new chimneys come equipped with a chimney liner. Chimney liners help protect chimneys from hazardous fires and also prevent water form getting into the masonry work. If you do have a chimney liner, it is recommended that you insulate it. Insulating your chimney liner can reduce creosote adhesion, reduce heat transfer and improve draft.

Although you may be able to save yourself money by keeping a good eye on the condition of your fireplace, you must also invest in a professional inspection to ensure optimal performance and safety. An inspection will typically cost you anywhere from $30 to $50. Professional sweeps will check for signs of deterioration or weakness. They will typically run you anywhere from $70 to $140, depending upon location and how much work needs to be done. Make sure that you get the furnace flue cleaned at the same time that you get your chimney cleaned.

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