A working chimney takes a lot of abuse throughout the year. The summertime heat takes its toll on the masonry and the brutal winter snows do their part in damaging the exterior of the chimney while you continue to burn wood and build up creosote. We aren’t trying to suggest that you stop using your chimney; we’re only making the point that regular use does damage the chimney. We recommend that you have your chimney inspected at least once per year. The CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) recommends a twice-yearly inspections for chimneys that are regularly used to keep track of the amount of creosote buildup and clean as needed.
You may consider performing a chimney inspection on your own between professional inspections if you want to keep a close eye on things. Here is a list of things you can do with your working chimney to inspect it on your own:
- Check for Cracks: An exterior visual inspection will reveal any cracks or problems with the mortar.
- Check for Integrity: Use a tool such as a screwdriver to probe the mortar joints. If it flakes away easily or begins to crumble it needs to be repaired as soon as possible. Porous mortar allows water to enter the chimney structure. That water freezes and expands over the winter, creating cracks and weakening the structure of the chimney.
- Look at the Flue: Use a very bright flashlight and shine it up the chimney from the firebox. You should be able to see all the way through to the chimney cap at the top. Examine the interior walls to make sure there is no cracking or peeling.
- Check Creosote Buildup: The CSIA recommends that a chimney be swept if it has more than 1/8 of an inch of creosote buildup. Creosote is extremely flammable and may lead to a house fire if it is allowed to get out of hand.
- Look at the Flashing: The chimney flashing is the (usually metal) tent-like structure that connects the chimney to the roof. It should be 100% waterproof and none of the tar or caulk should be flaking. If you see dents or damage, give us a call to repair it.
- Look at the Cap: The chimney cap is at the very top of the chimney. It is usually a small metal topper of sorts for the chimney. It is designed to keep water and small animals from entering the chimney through the flue.
- Look at the Crown: The chimney crown is specifically designed with a gentle slope that leads away from the flue. It forces water to drain away from the flue while protecting the exterior of the chimney from excessive water runoff.
- Check the Ash Pit: Empty the ashes if the ash pit is too full.
Lou Curley’s Chimney Service is available to all homeowners along Philadelphia’s Main Line. We regularly work with homeowners in Delaware County and the surrounding areas. Call us to schedule an appointment with one of our technicians.