The cooler weather is on its way as fall arrives. It’s time to gather at your fireplace feeling safe and relaxed. The best way to do so is by avoiding safety issues with your old chimney. Excessive heat breaks down the chimney over time, and it’s important to keep your family safe and warm around the fireplace. If you own an old chimney, let’s take a look at six safety issues to avoid with your C – H – I – M – N – E – Y.    

old chimney safety issue infographic

C – Cracks in the Cap, Crown, or Flue of Your Old Chimney

Most old chimneys have cement crowns to keep out moisture, rain, and wildlife. This cement barrier easily cracks and deteriorates over time from environmental pressures like rain, sun, and temperature changes. Newer chimneys have caps instead of crowns because they are more efficient at deterring animals, leaves, debris, moisture, and anything else you don’t want in your chimney.

H – Hindrance Obstructing Old Chimney

Old chimneys, especially if not properly maintained, are at an elevated risk of chimney obstructions. Creosote, debris, and even animals can create obstructions and hinder proper ventilation. The blockages reduce airflow and cause multiple safety concerns. Creosote build-up is another common chimney obstruction in older homes. If not properly cleaned and inspected over time, the creosote builds up and leads to chimney fires.    

I – Incineration of Build-up in Old Chimney

Pyrolysis is one of the most common issues in old homes. When the chimney is exposed to high temperatures over a long period of time, the wood behind it dries out and incinerates. Materials can spontaneously burst into flames due to the pressure and dryness without being directly exposed to flames! The chimney liner helps with build-up and minimizes the risk of pyrolysis.  

M – Masonry & Mortar Damage to Old Chimney

Great news! In an old chimney, your bricks might actually be of higher quality than those manufactured today. However, those old, high-quality bricks are still susceptible to mortar damage and deterioration. Southern Chimneys uses a process called tuckpointing to remove and replace damaged mortar, extending the life of your chimney and those beautiful old bricks. Block chimneys are also common in older homes and are less ideal because they tend to leak, crack, and lean more than brick chimneys. Surrounding all four sides of your block chimney with brick is a way to make the chimney safer and also more beautiful.   

N- No Liner in the Old Chimney

Chimney liners are now standard in homes but were not deemed necessary by housing code until the 1940s. This means most homes built earlier lack what is arguably the most important chimney component. The lack of a chimney liner causes pyrolysis, flue damage, and carbon monoxide leaks. If you have an older home, you should schedule a chimney inspection to ensure your liner is installed and intact before you use your chimney.   

E – Exhaust Vent Back Up in Old Chimney 

Inadequate venting is one of the most common causes of chimney fires in old homes. If the fireplace does not have proper ventilation, the exhaust vents backup and dangerous gasses and fumes come back into the home. The exhaust backup can also cause damage to the structural integrity of the chimney and cause the liner to fail or creosote to build up.   

Y – Yearly Old Chimney Inspections  

An annual chimney inspection performed by a professional is the best way to avoid these common problems in old chimneys. Let us help keep your beautiful old chimney safe and in service to you! Give us a call today to schedule a visit from one of our professionals.