When winter hits and the temperature drops, this is the wrong time to find out that there is a problem with your fireplace or chimney. If you are one of the few homeowners who has not committed to annual inspections, don’t hesitate any longer. These checks will help you find problems that can prevent you from using the fireplace in winter. Here are a few important things to pay attention to so that fireplace will be ready when you need it.

Use a Chimney Cap: A blocked chimney is a common problem for chimneys and fireplaces. Sometimes birds build nests in these cozy spaces. Leaves can also be blown into the chimney. Either situation can create a blockage which will prevent the smoke from escaping. It can also cause the home to be filled with carbon monoxide. Using a chimney cap will prevent this from happening.

Get the Flue Checked: The flue is a sensitive area of the system as it takes the exhaust from the fireplace upwards to the chimney. The lining of the flue can eventually become damaged and this will pose a fire hazard. The flue acts as a vent for the heat and the byproducts of the flame. This section must be cleaned and inspected before winter so that repairs can be done if necessary. Some homeowners try to check their flues with flashlights, but a chimney specialist can provide a more thorough inspection using cameras.

Look at Your Chimney: You can take a quick look at your chimney from the outside to determine if there are any noticeable changes. Are there any loose bricks or other signs of damage? If you see even a slight tilt in the chimney you should call a professional right away. Metal chimneys can sometimes show signs of corrosion so they should be checked as well. There is a lot that you can notice from the ground, but a chimney specialist will always perform a more detailed inspection. No chimney is maintenance-free!

Check for Dampness: Damp areas around the chimney breast are usually easy to spot. The chimney breast is the section just above the fireplace which protrudes from the wall. The dampness may mean that the flue needs to be replaced or more extensive work may be required. Only your chimney care professional will know for sure after checking the system.

Get Creosote Removed: You should not use your fireplace if it has not been cleaned in a while because it most likely will have creosote deposits. This substance is a natural byproduct of wood burning and it is highly combustible. Only a professional can assess the creosote buildup and clean it effectively.

DIY Chimney Cleaning

There’s nothing wrong with getting out the vacuum cleaner and doing a bit of tidying up on your own as long as you have the tools and filters to prevent a huge mess. However, the real work will require the services of a chimney professional. Remember that when winter rolls around your comfort will depend on your ability to get adequate warmth.