Chimneys bring to mind beloved images such as Mary Poppins flying over London singing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious or Santa and his load of gifts for the good little children. While these whimsical examples are wonderful to imagine, the reality is chimneys can be quite dangerous; in fact, each year thousands of home fires are caused by improperly maintained chimneys. These fires can be catastrophic and have been known to cost victims their homes and even their lives. Luckily, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your family from chimney fires

Use the Correct Fuel

You should only burn seasoned or dried out wood. Hit two pieces of wood together to make sure that wood is dry. The sound they make should be hollow if it is ready to burn. Never start fires with newspaper or cardboard boxes, always use kindling instead. Never use any kind of unapproved accelerant such as gasoline or kerosene.

Watch out for Creosote

When wood burns, it produces smoke, gasses, wood particles, and tar. Although much of this dissipates, some of it stays behind and coats the sides of your chimney. When they combine, they are known as creosote and make up one of the most likely causes of chimney fires. Creosote is black or brown with a consistency from crusty to tar-like, depending upon which wood you are burning. Check for signs of creosote in your chimney, and if you find a large buildup, call us to remove it. You can remove creosote as a DIY project, but trust us when we say it’s dirty business!

Monitor the Temperature

After a few fires, it’s inevitable that some creosote will build up. This usually isn’t a problem because creosote is usually only dangerous in large quantities. The CSIA recommends that creosote never be thicker than 1/4 of an inch. If the flue gets extremely hot, however, even a small amount of creosote can cause a fire. Make sure to install stovepipe thermometers so you know when to stop adding wood to your fire.

Get Regular Maintenance

The CSIA recommends that you should have your chimney inspected for faulty parts or unsafe buildups at least once a year. Your inspection should also be accompanied by a cleaning as well as any other maintenance suggestions you receive. Always hire a CISA Certified Chimney Sweep, as we are specifically trained and frequently tested on the quality of our work and held to higher standards than those who are not certified.

Install a Chimney Cap

A chimney cap is simply a piece of vented metal that covers the top of your chimney. This keeps out debris such as branches or pine needles that may fall into the chimney and combust due to the heat generated by a fire. Remember, your fireplace was designed to burn wood, and anything else can cause a fire or create other problems with your fireplace.

Scheduling a Chimney Inspection

Keep in mind that the chimney business really ramps up during the cooler months because everyone remembers to schedule their appointment when they want to use their chimney. We always recommend scheduling your chimney inspection and cleaning early to prevent scheduling delays. Call the guys at Lou Curley’s Chimney Service at 610-626-2439 if you’d like to schedule an appointment with one of our CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps.