If you have a chimney in your home, ensuring it’s in good working order is essential. An unchecked chimney can lead to various issues, including structural damage, health hazards, and even house fires.  

Fortunately, you can take some simple chimney maintenance steps to ensure your chimney is functioning correctly. And in this blog, we’ll take you through 5 steps that’ll help make sure that your chimney is working at its maximum efficiency. 

Chimney Maintenance Step 1: Check for Visual Signs 

chimney maintenance - inspect the chimney exterior

Inspect the Exterior of the Chimney 

Take a walk around your home and inspect the exterior of the chimney. Check for cracks, missing bricks, or mortar joints in poor condition. If you notice any of these issues, it is essential to have them repaired as soon as possible. Moisture can seep into the chimney, causing more damage. 

Examine the Chimney Cap 

While you’re up on the roof, take a look at the chimney cap and make sure it’s in working order. The chimney cap is a metal or concrete cover that sits on top of the chimney. It prevents rainwater, debris, and animals from entering the chimney. Over time, the chimney cap can become damaged or rusted, allowing water and debris to enter the chimney. Therefore, examining the chimney cap for any signs of damage is essential.  

If you notice any issues, it is best to have it repaired or replaced as soon as possible. 

Chimney Maintenance Step 2: Clear Obstructions 

Before you light your first fire of the season, it’s essential to make sure your chimney is free of any obstructions. Here are a few things you should do to clear any debris from your chimney. 

Remove Branches, Leaves, or Any Other Debris 

Check the area around your chimney for branches, leaves, or other debris that may have fallen onto your roof. Use a broom or brush to sweep away any debris that you find. If you leave debris on your roof, it can easily find its way into your chimney, causing a blockage that can be difficult to remove. 

Look for Bird Nests or Signs of Animal Activity 

Birds and small animals often make their homes in chimneys during the warmer months. Check your chimney for any signs of bird nests or animal activity. If you see any, you’ll need to remove them before you can use your fireplace safely. 

If you don’t clear obstructions from your chimney, you risk starting a fire in your home.  

Chimney Maintenance Step 3: Evaluate Soot and Creosote Buildup 

It’s important to regularly evaluate the amount of soot and creosote buildup in your chimney. These substances can cause blockages, increase chimney fire risks, and reduce efficiency. 

Signs of buildup include: 

  • A strong odor coming from your chimney 
  • A buildup of black soot, or  
  • A buildup of a shiny, tar-like substance 

If you notice a significant amount of soot or creosote buildup in your chimney, it’s essential to schedule a cleaning as soon as possible. Ignoring the buildup can increase the risk of a chimney fire and cause damage to your chimney.  

Chimney Maintenance Step 4: Assess Flue Functionality 

The damper or flue controls the flow of air and smoke through the chimney. If the damper or flue is closed, it can cause smoke and soot to enter your home, leading to health hazards and damage to your property. 

After opening the damper or flue, use a flashlight to inspect the flue. The flue is the interior part of the chimney that carries smoke and gases out of your home. Obstructions can prevent smoke and gas from exiting the chimney, leading to a buildup of carbon monoxide in your home. 

Also, check for any signs of damage, such as cracks or holes. Damage to the flue can also cause smoke and gases to enter your home, leading to health hazards and property damage. If you notice any damage, call a professional chimney sweep to repair it. 

Chimney Maintenance Step 5: Ensure Safety Devices Work

To ensure your chimney is safe, you must confirm that all safety devices are in working order. Here are some tips to help you confirm that these safety devices are working properly. 

Confirm the Chimney Cap is Secure and Undamaged 

The chimney cap prevents debris, animals, and rainwater from entering. A damaged or missing chimney cap can lead to water damage, blockages, and even fire hazards. Make sure that the chimney cap is not damaged. 

Test the Chimney Damper 

The chimney damper is a metal plate that helps to regulate the temperature and prevent downdrafts. To test the chimney damper, follow these steps: 

  1. Open the damper entirely and look into the chimney to ensure it is open. 
  1. Close the damper and ensure that it is fully closed. 
  1. Light a match and hold it up to the damper. If the smoke goes up the chimney, the damper is open. If the smoke stays in the room, the damper is closed. 

It is dangerous to have a malfunctioning damper since it can allow smoke and carbon monoxide to enter your home. In addition, your fireplace will be less efficient, resulting in rising energy costs. 

Inspect and Clean the Spark Arrestor Screen 

The spark arrestor screen is present at the top of the chimney, preventing sparks and embers from escaping and causing a fire. To inspect and clean the spark arrestor screen, use a ladder and climb to the roof to check for any signs of damage or blockages, such as rust or debris. 

A damaged or blocked spark arrestor screen can cause sparks and embers to escape, leading to a fire hazard. Inspecting and cleaning the screen regularly is important to ensure it works properly. 

If you don’t have the time or resources to do a full chimney sweep, you can hire a professional chimney inspection team to do it for you. It’s recommended to have your chimney cleaned at least once a year, but if you use your fireplace frequently, you may need to have it cleaned more often. 

With fireplace season around the corner, be sure to take advantage of Southern Chimney’s special offer: Chimney and Fireplace Cleaning with Camera Scope Inspection for $225! It’s an amazing deal that will help ensure your cozy season is safe and memorable. Contact us to schedule your inspection today!