When you burn your fireplace or wood stove did you know that some of the smoke that flows up the chimney condenses and becomes creosote that sticks to the walls of the flue. Creosote is a tar-like substance that builds up over time. As creosote thickens, it increases the chance of a fire breaking out in the chimney or fireplace.
When a fire burns in the fireplace or stove, extremely high temperatures are created that can create cracks to form in the flue. The cracks may pose a serious health problem to your family if it allows carbon monoxide into the home. Carbon monoxide is an odorless colorless gas that can be deadly.
To prevent fireplace or chimney problems, you should have your chimney inspected and cleaned yearly by a chimney sweep specialist. The National Fire Protection Association has adopted these levels of inspection to create code NFPA 211, Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances. This is the standard that certified chimney sweeps use when cleaning chimneys:
Inspection 1: If the chimney is easily accessible to the homeowner and they are planning to maintain it as is. In this inspection, a certified chimney sweep verifies that the chimney structure is sound and that the chimney is obstruction free without any deposits of creosote.
Inspection 2: If the homeowner has added a new home heating appliance or changed the type of fuel being burned, the chimney requires a Level 2 inspection. This inspection level may also be required after the sale of a property or an event that is likely to have caused damage to the chimney. This inspection includes the Level 1 inspection plus the inspection of accessible portions of the attics, crawl spaces and basements. It may also include a performance test, such as a smoke or a pressure test, and an interior chimney video inspection if recommended.
Inspection 3: When a Level 1 or Level 2 inspection suggests a hidden hazard and the evaluation cannot be performed without access to concealed areas, a Level 3 inspection is recommended. This type of inspection confirms the proper construction and condition of concealed portions of the chimney structure and the flue. Level 3 inspections are also necessary when investigating an incident that caused damage to a chimney or building.
In addition to you annual inspections, you may also want to consider a metal chimney liner. They protect the chimney from corrosion as a result of the byproducts released during combustion. Liners are made from stainless steel or aluminum and can be used to repair existing chimneys. They are U.L. tested, and if properly installed and maintained, they are safe and durable. Stainless steel is used in chimneys for wood burning, gas, or oil applications. Aluminum is only used for certain medium efficiency gas applications. High temperature insulation is required to be used in conjunction with the liners to ensure safety.