Safe Chimney

How Do You Know If Your Chimney is Safe To Use?

SafeChimney-MasterCraftRoofingThe previous 2 articles have been about the subject of chimneys: Is My Chimney Is On Fire, What Should I Do? and What is So Risky About Creosote Buildup? Here is yet another article about chimneys…I’m writing about this subject because the integrity of your chimney is integral to the integrity of your roof, in fact, your whole house. If you’re a homeowner with a wood burning fireplace or stove, you should know what the signs are that your chimney is damaged and needs repair. (By the way, there are some repairs that you can probably handle yourself, but there are others you need to hire a professional for.)

What should you look for?

As with most things, “keep your eyes open for problems” and once you have detected a problem, get it resolved as soon as possible. Deferred maintenance has been the cause of many major household problems, including chimney fires.

Checking from the inside of your home:

  • Know when it’s time to have your chimney cleaned or “swept”
    • For a fireplace chimney, using a bright light, look carefully from the top to the bottom. If there is 1/4 inch or more of soot,  it needs to be cleaned. Don’t be fooled if the top appears clean and the bottom is dirty…it still needs to be cleaned, it may only require sweeping, but leave that to a professional to decide..
    • WoodburningStove-MasterCraftRoofingpngIf you have a woodburning stove or insert, if you are able to look up the chimney the same as you would for a regular fireplace, check the same way. But if you are using it on a regular basis, it’s almost a given that it will need to be swept at least once a year. If you happen to see a “shiny” substance on the walls of the chimney, that is creosote – it will need to be cleaned not swept.
  • Check the damper to make sure it seals well when it’s closed. A poorly sealed damper isn’t a danger, but it can result in a large amount of heat loss when the fireplace isn’t being used.
  • Check the firebox, the hearth and the fireplace surround for cracks in the brick or for places in the brick where the mortar is missing. This can be a serious hazard.
  • Check for bits of flue tiles that begin to build up on the floor of the fireplace, this is a sign that the flue is damaged and no longer in tact – a real fire hazard.
  • Be aware of strange odors coming from your fireplace, this is a pretty sure sign of creosote buildup.

Taking a look from the outside of our home: Going up on the roof can be a bit hazardous, so if you’re doing this, use extreme caution.

  • Check for bird’s nest or nest building materials that will block ventilation.
  • If you have a brick chimney, check for damaged, cracked or crumbling bricks and missing or cracked mortar.
    • Also for brick chimneys, check the chimney crown which is typically made of cement, to make sure it isn’t cracked or broken.
  • Check to see that the chimney is standing straight and not leaning to one side or another.
  • Check the flashing to make sure it is seated tight against the chimney.
  • Check the flue for rusting, which compromises the integrity of the chimney and can allow too much heat near flammable areas and can result in a fire.

A poorly maintained chimney can cause:

  1. Chimney fires
  2. Carbon monoxide poisoning
  3. Fireplace and chimney failure

When in doubt, hire a professional to check it out!

Remember, if your chimney has a problem, your roof has a potential problem.

Enjoy this brief video demonstrating some of the things we’ve talked about.


MasterCraft Roofing Services is the Seattle Area’s Best Roofing Company.

During the Project: We employ OSHA standards for safety, we use the highest quality tools and materials because there is more than just shingles. Along with a quality roof, we intend to leave your property in better shape than when we found it. We police our nails and debris with military discipline.

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