If you heat your home with a wood stove -- or even an older furnace that still vents out of a chimney -- then you need to keep an eye on your chimney. Issues with the chimney are quite common, especially as the structure ages, and they can lead to dangerous conditions like carbon monoxide buildup inside the home. Sadly, many homeowners do not know a lot about chimneys, so issues tend to go unaddressed until they become very serious. To make sure the same fate does not befall you, take a look at these five common chimney problems.
If something ends up inside the chimney, it could block the flow of smoke out of the chimney, resulting in smoke buildup inside the home. The obstruction could also start on fire, which may spread to the chimney itself and to the rest of your home. Obstructions can come from outside the home or from inside. Birds may work their way into the chimney during the spring, building nests. In the fall, fallen leaves and other debris may blow into the chimney, getting caught in a clump on their way down. Children have also been known to shove toys and other items up the chimney when it has been out of use for a while.
Always take a look up inside the chimney before you begin using it each season. If you see any blockage, call an HVAC contractor to come and take a look before you start a fire or turn your furnace on.
2. Creosote Buildup
Creosote buildup is a common problem in chimneys that vent wood-burning fireplaces. If the wood does not burn hot enough, it may give off a substance called creosote, which sticks to the walls of the chimney. The problem with creosote is that it is flammable and can cause chimney fires. Make sure you have your chimney inspected each year to detect creosote buildup, and keep your fires hot to reduce the formation of this substance.
3. Crumbling and Broken Bricks
Broken bricks can present issues since smoke may billow out from between the bricks and into your home. A few cracks in a brick may not seem like a big deal, but they are often the first indication of an impending problem. Take a look at your brickwork each spring, since this is when problems are likely to appear (after a harsh winter). If you see any cracks or damage, have it repaired by a masonry expert sooner rather than later.
4. Cracked Flue
The flue is the pipe that leads from your fireplace up into the chimney. It is meant to gather heat so that the chimney itself does not get too hot. If the flue cracks, it may pass too much heat up into the chimney, increasing the risk of a fire. It may also allow smoke to leak into your home. You can see most of the flue from inside your home, so peek at it each time you light a fire. If it is cracked, it generally needs to be replaced.
5. Cracked Chimney Cap
The chimney cap is the "lid" over the top of the chimney. It is meant to allow smoke to escape while preventing debris from entering the chimney. If the chimney cap cracks, it may soon fall off entirely -- which will encourage birds and other animals to enter the chimney. Check the cap whenever you happen to be on a roof or ladder to clean gutters or do other maintenance.
To learn more about chimney maintenance, reach out to a masonry contractor who offers chimney repair and inspection services.