What Causes Chimney Fires?

If you’ve ever noticed any gummy-looking black stuff in your chimney, chances are it’s creosote. This dark residue is a byproduct of burning wood and it sticks to the inner walls of chimneys. It can be either flaky, shiny, or sticky.

And since creosote forms through burning wood, it is naturally prone to catching on fire. As such, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) highlights its high combustibility as a primary safety concern.

Does Creosote Increase the Risk of a Chimney Fire?

Yes! Creosote is a combustible byproduct that can easily catch fire. And once it ignites, it can quickly spread through the chimney, causing the liner to break down and the masonry to crumble and crack. This means any future fires you light will be more prone to escape the chimney walls and enter your home.

an up-close shot of black gooey creosoteCreosote can also accumulate until it clogs the flue. This blocks the free flow of gases and smoke causing problems with drafting and airflow to develop. This hinders efficiency levels, and it puts you more at risk of being exposed to hazardous fumes, like smoke from your fires or even carbon monoxide – a deadly and extremely hard-to-detect gas.

Considering the health and safety hazards that creosote poses, regular chimney sweepings become a critical obligation. Professional chimney sweeps have the right equipment to assess any chimney’s condition and address creosote buildup before it becomes a problem. 

How To Prevent Creosote Buildup

While creosote isn’t unavoidable, there are ways to effectively reduce accumulation in your flue: 

  • Schedule Annual Chimney Inspections: It’s important to have a CSIA certified chimney sweep inspect your chimney once per year – before the fall burning season. This is where buildup can be spotted, along with any damages that need to be repaired. Your sweep can also note whether you’ve already experienced a chimney fire.
  • Don’t Neglect Sweepings: Regular service is the best way to prevent creosote buildup. If your sweep notes excess creosote deposits during their inspection, be sure to get a follow-up sweeping scheduled as soon as possible. Experts have the proper tools and can remove any buildup in your chimney walls or flue that boosts the chances of experiencing a chimney fire.
  • Burn Dry & Well-Seasoned Firewood: Be sure to only burn the correct type of wood in your system. Consider sourcing properly seasoned firewood and make sure it is sufficiently dried out before you toss it in the fireplace. If you put wet, unseasoned wood in your fireplace, you risk producing more residue that will eventually stick to chimney walls, greatly increasing your risk of experiencing a chimney fire.
  • Maintain Your Chimney Liner: Ensure that your chimney liner is in good shape and that the chimney is lined correctly. Properly installing a chimney liner improves its performance, but if the liner has been installed incorrectly, it will malfunction and even cause a bigger creosote problem. It can be confusing to determine whether your chimney liner is working correctly, so you it’s always best to rely on the eyes and knowledge of a pro.
  • Ensure Proper Chimney Airflow: Whenever you use your fireplace and chimney, be sure the structure gets enough air. Good draft helps fires burn at hotter temperatures, minimizing creosote production in the process. Be sure your damper is open wide enough, took, and get your inspection booked to ensure no blockages are present.

What Are the Signs of a Chimney Fire?

Most chimney fires move slowly and don’t produce a lot of noise, which means you may have had one without noticing. The CSIA identifies the following signs that your chimney could have survived fire before:

  • house burned to the ground with only the damaged chimney and fireplace standing, smoke is in the airBlack or dark-brown byproducts in chimney walls or fireplace
  • Honeycombed or puffy creosote
  • Exterior masonry cracks
  • Discoloration in the chimney cap
  • Damage to the roofing material due to hot byproducts
  • Warped damper metal
  • Heat-damaged TV antenna
  • Smoke escaping in areas other than the chimney, particularly through tile liners
  • Cracked and missing flue tiles

If you do notice that a chimney fire is currently occurring, exit the home immediately and get in touch with your local fire department as soon as possible. In addition, as you are leaving your home, the CSIA suggests closing the door behind you if you can. The goal is to prevent any more air from feeding the flames until the fire department arrives.

Invest in Professional Sweeping Services With Us Today

Even if you believe that your chimney is functioning correctly, there could be hazards hiding away, ready to cause issues. Scheduling a chimney inspection is one way to gain peace of mind, during which we can determine if you need a sweeping.

Creosote is a dangerous byproduct that you might fail to notice immediately. This material is combustible and can cause health and fire hazards in your home. To effectively avoid this issue, we suggest getting in touch with one of our CSIA certified chimney sweeping experts to inspect and clean your chimney. Schedule an inspection today!

The Importance of Level 2 Chimney Inspections When Buying/Selling a Home

Buying or selling a home can be an exciting endeavor, but it also comes with a long to-do list. And one of the most important parts of transferring property is scheduling the home inspection.

Home inspections help sellers or buyers find problems that need to be fixed before a property is finally sold. And once your home inspector sees that everything is clear, you’re good to go! …right?

Well, unless the home in question has a chimney. While home inspectors do complete a brief overview of the chimney, it isn’t nearly extensive enough to note everything that could be wrong. Because of this, scheduling a level 2 chimney inspection with a certified sweep is a must.

What Is a Home Inspection?

Home inspections are done by a qualified home inspector who checks both the interior and exterior parts of a home to see if any defects should be addressed. A home inspection is a non-invasive way of examining a residential property to check for any issues before the property is officially purchased. This allows the buyers the opportunity to either request that these issues be addressed before anything is finalized or to lower the price of the home to something more appropriate to its current state.

magnifying glass looking at a home

While this process does include the chimney, it doesn’t actually require an in-depth overview of the system. In fact, there could be some extensive interior damage that’s missed, leaving the new buyers to face some unpleasant surprises long after the sale is complete.

What Is a Chimney Inspection?

Chimney inspections are completed by professional chimney sweeps and are done to assess the condition and suitability for use of the chimney, flue and its connecting appliance. However – unlike home inspections that generally include the interior and exterior parts of the house – a chimney inspection solely focuses on the state of the home’s chimney.

There are three levels of chimney inspections. The first will be the most basic overview, and it’s typically what homeowners need to schedule for their regular annual maintenance.

If any major changes have been made to the appliance or – surprise – if you’re buying or selling a home, a level 2 inspection is a must. And level 3 inspections are left for situations where parts of the home or chimney may need to be removed or demoed to get the root of the problem (these are less common).

Home Inspection vs. Chimney Inspection: What’s the Difference?

Home Inspection

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, home inspectors only inspect visible and readily accessible portions of the chimney. 

  • It’s not a home inspector’s job to check the flue, vent system, or interior system of the chimney and fireplace
  • Home inspectors don’t determine if a chimney needs to be cleaned.
  • Home inspectors won’t perform any tests or dismantle any components.
  • Homeowners aren’t required to ensure the system was properly installed to begin with.

Long story short – home inspectors aren’t chimney professionals. And while they do a necessary and important job in the home buying/selling process, when it comes to the chimney, only a qualified and knowledgeable sweep should be trusted to properly assess it.

Chimney Inspection

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a level 2 chimney inspection is needed for all properties that are for sale.

  • A level 2 chimney inspection includes an examination of both the interior and exterior parts of a chimney or venting system.
  • Professional chimney sweeps will inspect the entire chimney – inside and out – to identify any safety issues or damaged/deteriorated areas of the chimney.
  • Sweeps evaluate performance problems, such as drafting and water leaks.
  • Special cameras will be inserted into your chimney’s flue system to providing digital views of those hard-to-see internal surfaces.

If there’s an issue in the chimney, a level 2 inspection is sure to spot it.

Why Are Chimney Inspections Important?

Inspections are important when buying or selling a home, but they’re something you should schedule annually too.  A chimney inspection gives your chimney company the opportunity to detect and fix issues within your chimney well before they get worse, so that your system can stand strong – and operate safely – for years to come.

You may also be experiencing excess buildup, which can be a fire hazard and will invite drafting and airflow issues. Chimney inspections reduce the risk of carbon monoxide exposure – a toxic gas that can pose a great threat to your whole household – as well as chimney fires.

Book With Us Now

The team here at Lords Chimney specializes in chimney, fireplace, and dryer vent services. For over 17 years, Lords Chimney has been providing the highest quality of service for homes and residents in the whole Houston area, and we would love to prove ourselves to you too. 

We are fully certified, experienced with a range of chimney and fireplace types, and know how to properly check, clean, and fix any chimney issue. If you have any questions, give us a call at 281-497-4000 or book online today.