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!

Fire Safety & Maintenance

Keeping the focus on safety

Our clients’ safety is important to us, and at Lords Chimney, we want to do everything we can to help you minimize the possibility of fire hazards in or around your chimney system, from regular chimney maintenance to necessary repairs. That also includes helping you develop short-term and long-term fire safety plans that add up to a cleaner and better-performing system.

Maintenance Sets The Stage

peace of mind

This list of smart practices will help you continue using your heating appliance as safely as possible.

Every Time You Use Your Fireplace

Use the right fuel

Wet or green wood results in an increase in creosote in your flue, and more creosote means a bigger chance of creosote ignition. Use kiln-dried or seasoned firewood (or make sure you dry your own wood for at least a year before using it) — that helps you achieve the optimum small, hot fire, creating the lowest levels of creosote. Stay away from burning trash, Christmas trees, cardboard boxes or anything else that isn’t seasoned firewood, too — and never ever try to speed up lighting your fire by using any kind of flammable liquid.

Don’t leave your fire unattended

If you’re burning wood, it takes a while for the fire to thoroughly extinguish. Don’t leave a smoldering fire alone — if sparks or embers get out of the firebox or another problem arises, you need to be there to handle it.

Use a spark screen

Fireplace screens are affordable and useful — placed in front of the fire, they can create a barrier between flames/embers and your living area and the people and pets in it.

Keep things clean

Make sure you clean wood ash regularly, in the right way: Deposit ash in a metal bucket, and allow it to cool completely before disposing of it a safe distance away from your home. Whatever fuel you’re burning, keep the area around your fireplace or stove clean — keep a good distance between the appliance and anything flammable, from furniture and window coverings to decorative items.

new-year-chimney-sweeping-houston-tx-lords-chimney

Things You Should Schedule Annually

Chimney sweeping

Creosote will build up as you use your wood fireplace or stove, and it needs to be regularly removed from your flue for both safety and performance reasons. A cleaner flue is a safer and a more efficiently venting flue, and Lords Chimney can help.

Chimney inspections

If something goes wrong in your chimney system, you want to know about it — damaged parts and components can lead to leaks and water damage, dangerous carbon monoxide leaks and fire hazards. So keeping up with your recommended annual chimney inspection is important. 

If a cracked flue liner, third stage creosote or any other issue is limiting your chimney’s safety and efficiency, Lords Chimney can find the problem and suggest and complete the work necessary to fix it.

Don’t Forget About Your Dryer Vents!

We talk a lot about fire safety associated with fireplaces, stoves and chimneys, but your dryer vent needs your attention too. Lint-clogged dryer vents can become a serious fire hazard — according to estimates from the National Fire Protection Association, dryers or washing machines were involved in nearly 17,000 home fires in 2010, and the most prominent cause of those fires was a failure to clean.

As you use your dryer, lint slowly builds up along the ducts, and over time, that build-up can begin to constrict the vent. That blockage allows heat to build up, and since lint is extremely flammable, that heat can cause it to ignite.

Dryer Vent Cleaning - Before

Keeping your dryer vents clean limits that possibility — and Lords Chimney can help with dryer vent cleaning services.

If you have any questions about safer fireplace, stove and chimney practices – or dryer vents – Lords Chimney is always here to help. Just give us a call!

Diagnosing Chimney Odors

Chimney Odors Image - Houston TX - Lords ChimneyA chimney odor is far more than an inconvenience; these smells often indicate a far bigger chimney problem. While it may be tempting to spray some air freshener and hope the problem goes away, chimney odors should be addressed by a chimney professional as soon as possible. By having chimney odors diagnosed and repaired your family can begin enjoying using your fireplace again.

What causes chimney odors?

Whether it’s barely noticeable or overwhelming strong, chimney odors can affect your ability to live in your home. Unfortunately, there is no one single cause of chimney odors; chimneys odors are often the symptom of a bigger chimney problem. Because of this, a professional chimney inspection is often needed in order to uncover the cause of the smell. The following are three common causes of chimney odors.

  • Animal entry: Animals not only cause sharp, strong, rotting smells; wild animals from the smallest birds to the largest raccoons can all damage your chimney. If you hear scurrying, scratching, or crying coming from within your chimney, it is important to call a wildlife removal specialist or experienced chimney sweep as soon as possible. Nesting materials, food, droppings, or the bodies of dead animals can all cause extremely unpleasant odors, as well as the risk of exposure to bacteria and pests carried by the animals.

Many animals enter the chimney only to become trapped; removing them as soon as possible can reduce damage to the chimney, minimize the chance of chimney odors developing, and give the animal the best chance for survival. Homeowners should never attempt to smoke out trapped animals by starting a fire; not only does opening the damper give the animal access to your home, but the smoke and heat will kill most animals before they have the chance to escape.

  • Creosote: An excessive buildup of creosote in the flue causes sharp, smoky odors. These smells are often most noticeable during the hot and humid months of summer as well as when the air conditioning is being used. Getting rid of creosote odor is as easy as getting rid of the creosote; an annual chimney sweeping can remove creosote and make your chimney safer – and less smelly.
  • Water entry: A chimney leak can damage your interior and exterior masonry and fireplace components – as well as cause a dank, musty, damp odor. These odors are often caused when water from an unrepaired or undetected chimney leak is not removed. The cool, dark confines of the chimney create ideal conditions for the growth of mold and mildew; not only can this cause unbearable odors, but it can also negatively affect your home’s air quality. Children, the elderly, and those with breathing problems such as allergies and asthma are particularly affected by mold growth in the chimney.

Chimney odors can affect your ability to enjoy your fireplace. By having the smells diagnosed and the cause repaired, you can get back to enjoying your fireplace faster. For more information on diagnosing chimney odors or to schedule a chimney inspection, contact Lords Chimney today.

The Advantages of Forward Scheduling Your Sweeping Appointment

The Advantages of Forward Scheduling Your Sweeping Appointment Image - Houston TX - Lords ChimneyIn the hustle and bustle of our day to day lives, it can be easy to let minor home maintenance go by the wayside. No matter how frequently or infrequently your use your fireplace, however, it is important to have it swept and inspected at least once per year. Because of this, many customers find it easiest to forward schedule their future chimney sweeping appointments.

What is forward scheduling?

Forward scheduling is as easy as setting your next appointment at the time of your current appointment. While most of us are used to doing this for annual physicals or dental checkups, it can also be done for your chimney services! Forward scheduling your chimney sweeping allows you to pick the date and time for you next services and “set it and forget it!”

Advantages of forward scheduling your chimney services

Although it may seem odd to schedule chimney maintenance six months – or more – in advance, there are a number of advantages to forward scheduling your sweeping appointment.

  • Pick the most convenient appointment time. Scheduling several months in advance gives you the advance when choosing days and times for appointments. With schedules that are typically wide open, you can find the day and time that best work with your schedule instead of being at the mercy of the next available opening.
  • Make the appointment when it’s fresh in your mind. In the weeks and months after your chimney has been swept, scheduling your next appointment can become an afterthought. By forward scheduling, you can set up your next appointment at the time of your current sweeping, guaranteeing important annual maintenance will be done year after year.
  • Less stress and worry. Once your appointment has been schedule for the next year you can sit back, relax, and rest assured that your fireplace maintenance will be taken care of.

 

Benefits of annual chimney sweeping and maintenance

Regular yearly chimney sweepings and inspections are the best way to keep your fireplace and chimney burning safely and efficiently. Chimney sweepings remove soot, ash, debris, blockages, and the harmful and flammable byproduct of combustion creosote from the flue. Sweepings also help you get the most out of your fireplace by extending its lifespan. Likewise, chimney inspections can be used to help evaluate efficiency, look for signs of damage or deterioration, and uncover the cause of long-term chimney problems such as draft issues or leaks.

“A chimney inspection is like an annual dental check-up,” says Chimney Safety Institute of America Director of Education Ashley Eldridge. “It’s preventative maintenance that helps minimize potential hazards.”

With family, friends, jobs, kids, school, and more, it can be easy to forget to schedule your annual chimney sweeping. By forward scheduling your future appointments you can rest assured your chimney will be professionally maintained year after year. For more information on forward scheduling or to schedule your next chimney sweeping, contact Lords Chimney today.

Causes Of A Stinky Chimney

Causes Of A Stinky Chimney Image - Houston TX - Lords ChimneyWhether it suddenly appears or starts small and builds, a stinky chimney can make your home unlivable. While air fresheners may mask the odor, they cannot completely eliminate it; chimney odors are often the symptom of a more serious chimney problem. A chimney inspection is often needed to help identify the cause of a stinky chimney.

What causes stinky chimneys?

There is no one cause of chimney odors; different kinds of smells have different causes, and identifying the kind of odor your chimney has can help pinpoint exactly what is causing it. While a chimney inspection is the best tool to find the source of your home’s chimney odor, the following are four of the most common causes of stinky chimneys.

  • Animals: Sudden, sharp, rotting smells coming from the chimney often indicate the presence of a trapped animal. Birds, raccoons, squirrels, roof rats, and other small animals can find their way into chimneys through damaged chimney caps or other gaps around the flue; unfortunately, once they get in many animals are unable to get back out, leaving them trapped inside.

While live animals can cause odors from their food, feces, or nesting materials, a dead animal in the chimney can cause an overwhelming odor in the home – as well as effect the air quality. To avoid exposure to bacteria or microorganisms carried by wild animals, it is important to have them removed as soon as their presence is detected.

  • Creosote: Creosote is a naturally occurring byproduct of all fuel burning fires, but buildup of creosote is most commonly seen with wood burning fireplaces. A smoky or dirty smell can be the result of excessive creosote buildup; creosote caused odors are often most noticeable in hot or humid weather.
  • Drafting: If your chimney doesn’t draft properly, smoke and gas – as well as chimney odors – can blow back into and linger in your home. Smoky odors from drafting are often present long after the fireplace has been used, especially on hot or windy days. Drafting issues are commonly caused by an improperly sized flue; if you have installed a new fireplace or changed fuel sources, the flue may need to be resized in order to prevent drafting issues.
  • Water: While the exterior masonry of your chimney is built to withstand the elements, delicate interior chimney components are not designed to be exposed to water. Because of this, water can cause serious damage to your chimney components – as well as chimney odors. Dank or damp smells coming from the chimney may indicate the presence of an undetected chimney leak; it is important to repair leaks as soon as possible to minimize water damage to the fireplace and chimney.

Chimney odors do not go away on their own and are often the symptom of a bigger chimney problem. If you have a stinky chimney, contact Lords Chimney today to uncover – and repair – the cause of your chimney odor.