Have you ever considered if your fireplace is operating safely? If not, it may be time to start. If things aren’t functioning as they should, your home and family could be at risk every time you light a fire.
Because of this, knowing the signs of chimney damage (and calling sweeps in right away to address it) is imperative.
Signs of Damage: On The Outside
By visually inspecting your chimney regularly, you can prevent some damages before they become major (more expensive) problems. Whenever you get a chance, glance up at your chimney, and look for any signs of damage or vulnerable spots. Here’s what we suggest watching out for:
- Discoloration: From excess creosote to too much moisture in the flue to mold accumulation and more, any signs of discoloration is an indication that some professional attention is needed. Homeowners have noticed stains that are black, brown, green, red, and even white (a sign of efflorescence).
- Growth Throughout the Chimney: If you notice leaves, moss, or even small trees coming out of your flue, this is a big indication that you not only have blockages, but cracks and other openings, as well. Any damage throughout your structure gives smoke, fumes, and flames clear pathways to the rest of your home, putting you and your loved ones at serious risk.
- Cracking & Crumbling: As you use your fireplace and chimney (especially throughout the winter), make it a point to watch for any cracks or signs of decay. Sometimes cracks are merely cosmetic blemishes, but not always – a pro can rule out any serious damages and recommend repairs, as necessary.
- Rusted Metal Components: Rust on your chimney cap, flashing, chase cover, top-sealing damper, and any other metal components surrounding your system is a clearcut sign that there is damage elsewhere and that it’s spreading. It could also be that these components need adjustments or replacing.
- Signs of Tilting: If your structure is showing any signs of tilting, then get a reputable team of sweeps to your home right away. You could be on the verge of a collapse.
Signs of Damage: On The Inside
It may seem like any obvious signs of chimney damage would be on the outside of the structure, but there are things you can watch (or sometimes smell or listen) for on the inside of your home, too.
- Stains On Your Walls/Ceiling: If you’re spotting stains on the walls and ceiling near your chimney, there’s a good chance your exterior structure is damaged or that one of your chimney components (like the flashing or cap) isn’t doing its job. You’ll also want to be watchful for actual pools of water inside of your firebox, which is a clear indication that a new cap or chase cover is in order.
- Unpleasant Odors: If your system smells moldy, damp, or like a burnt barbecue, get an expert in right away to look things over. It’s likely that water is mixing with your creosote to create odors, or it could be that animals or debris are blocking things up and triggering smells while they’re at it.
- Rotted Woodwork: As water spreads through your home’s interior, you can bet any adjacent woodwork will start showing signs of rot. Call in a pro right away to put a halt any further home damage.
- Animal Noises: Hear chirping in your flue? Or maybe it sounds like something is scampering around on your chimney shelf? Animals in your chimney cause all kinds of problems, such as clogging things up with their nesting materials and leaving behind bad feces-related odors.
- Mold & Discoloration: Some outside signs of harm can be applied to the inside, as well. Any indication of mold growth or discoloration means it’s time to call in a certified team of sweeps.
- Rusted Throat Damper: Is your damper located at the throat of your chimney? You may notice some visible signs of rust if you do a quick inspection, or in some cases it become corroded shut and will not open.
- Draft Issues & Inefficiency: There are two main functions of your chimney – release smoke out of your house and provide air to fuel the fire. If smoke is backing up into your home, or if your fires are simply not burning strong or hot enough, it’s time to get some expert insight. It could be that the height, diameter, or maybe even the location of your chimney is negatively affecting things.
Which Signs Are The Most Urgent To Address?
So, of all these signs, which should take top priority? The simple answer is that there isn’t an answer!
All of these issues are threatening in a different way and, honestly, none outweigh the other. Clogs can lead to house fires and smoke back-up, moisture can lead to harmful mold growth and decay, and animals throughout the system can seriously impact draft and indoor air quality. Not to mention, all of these things can cause cracking and crumbling, which means carbon monoxide and other harmful gases can easily creep into your home.
Chimney fires are another major threat to be aware of. These are caused when creosote builds up inside of the chimney. Creosote is highly flammable, and if it catches on fire, flames will spread up into your flue (which isn’t built to withstand that heat). In the end, your masonry will break down significantly, and your chimney components will become damaged and warped.
Basically… if you feel any concerns regarding the state of your chimney, then it’s time to call us in.
Avoiding Damages Down the Line
So, knowing the signs of chimney damage (and what can be done to address it) is great and all, but… wouldn’t it be better to simply avoid the damage in the first place? We sure think so!
This is why the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends scheduling annual inspections. These allow sweeps the opportunity to spot masonry damages well before they bring serious harm to your home or system. They will also be able to look for clogs and obstructions, harmful creosote accumulation, and any other hidden imperfections that may be putting you at risk.
Once you make an appointment to have your fireplace inspected and/or cleaned there are a few things you should do to make your appointment go smoothly.
- Stop usage. Stop using your system 24 hours before your cleaning and/or inspection appointment, so that the sweeps can work safely with an appliance that is fully cooled.
- Clear the area. On the day of your appointment, clear the hearth area of any fragile items, as well as anything you wish to keep clean while the appointment takes place. A good rule of thumb is to clear 5 – 6 feet of space for the chimney sweep to work.
- Ask questions! Professional chimney sweeps encourage customers to watch them work and ask questions if they’d like. It is here that you can learn important information about how to better care for your appliances.
Put Your Worries to Rest Today
If you haven’t used your chimney in months, have recently moved into a home, fear you may have serious damage, or are just plain scared about what might be living up there, rest assured our qualified techs can take care of any size chimney job. From minor chimney repairs to major chimney reconstructions, we can handle it all.