A home with a fireplace is usually seen as top of the line. People love the idea of a nice cozy fire; a warming element for cold winter nights. Families gather around the fire to read, relax, and rest. This is a wonderful way to build relationships with family members who seem to be going in different directions all the time in today’s hectic world.

If you have a fireplace, you know how amazing they are. They do come at a cost though – routine maintenance. Many home owners take on an if it’s not broke, don’t fix it attitude and put off maintenance or just assume everything is fine. Unfortunately, this is not always the reality of the situation. Here is how regular maintenance can help you prevent chimney fires.

Avoiding Fire and Damage

One of the most common reasons houses go up in flames is due to the fireplace or a chimney fire. The interior of your chimney can go up in flames fast. The fumes, debris, and combustible elements that sit in the lining of the chimney are extremely dangerous and flammable. Once the fire starts, it can spread very quickly, and cause serious damage or even a full blown house fire within a matter of minutes.

Cleaning is Necessary

There’s no way around it; your chimney has to be cleaned at least once per year. Creosote, soot, carbon, dust, and more can settle along the interior lining of your fireplace. It needs to be cleaned and inspected once or twice throughout the year depending on how often you use the fireplace. There is no hard and fast rule about cleaning the chimney like there is changing oil in your car. The CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) recommends that the chimney be swept and inspected at least once per year with low to mild usage. Moderate to heavy usage chimneys should be inspected at least two to four times per year.

Indications of Chimney Fire

A chimney fire may produce very dense, thick smoke and create a very intense hot smell. Loud cracking or popping within the chimney could be an indication of chimney fire as well. Flames may shoot out of the chimney and the sounds may be heard by neighbors or people passing by your home. Some homeowners say it sounds like a freight train or a low flying airplane.

Schedule a Cleaning and Inspection… When?

How do you know it’s time for a cleaning? Aside from marking your calendar accordingly, there’s no simple rule here. Ask yourself when the last time was that someone cleaned, inspected, or repaired your chimney. If it’s been a while, the answer is immediately. If smoke comes through the fireplace, you see dust settling in your home, walls, or anything that doesn’t seem right. Don’t wait to get help. Always request an inspection before you light the first fire of the fall or winter season to ensure that nothing is currently blocking your chimney.