As fall colors deepen in Northern Virginia, fireplaces roar back into life with the end of warm days and the beginning of chilly evenings. At this time, homeowners may find problems getting their fires to burn cleanly or notice that smoke and odors are not drawn effectively out of the room through the chimney. As the Chimney Safety Institute of America says, maintenance of your chimney should be done every year. Here are five signs that your home is overdue for an inspection by professional chimney sweepers.
1. Difficulty Starting or Keeping a Fire Burning
For a fire to light and burn properly, heat, fuel, and oxygen in the right proportions are essential. Your chimney stack works by creating a draft, drawing combustion air into the firebox, and exhausting combustion gases to the outside. Blockages within the chimney affect the draft and the burning process, as less oxygen gets through to the fire.
If your kindling is dry and wood seasoned, but you’re still having trouble lighting and keeping the fire burning, that’s a strong indicator of blockage in the stack or at the cap. The cause could be debris such as fallen leaves, small animals getting in, or a severe buildup of grime.
2. Smoke in the Room
Smoky rooms can happen for several reasons. High winds may enter the chimney cavity, causing backdrafts. Damp wood in the firebox can cause excessive smoke. Exhaust fans in use throughout the home can cause downdrafts through the chimney. However, if none of these factors apply, and smoke is a recurring problem, chimney blockage is a likely cause. This situation is one you can’t tolerate for long.
Calling in a Northern Virginia chimney cleaning service will soon identify and remedy the problem. Firstly, any birds or rodents found will be removed. Then rods and brushes used by the chimney sweepers will clear remaining obstructions and grime buildup. Finally, a chimney-vac gets rid of the dislodged soot and other debris from the sweeping.
3. Strong Burning Odors
Every time you light a fire, by-products occur. Noxious gases are released and vented to the outside, and creosote and soot form. Soot is a black powdery substance that coats the chimney’s inner sides. At the same time, creosote, an oily tar, similarly adheres to fireplace and chimney walls. Both these substances contain toxins harmful to humans.
As soot and creosote build over time, you may notice a strong acrid smell as your fire burns. The stronger the odor, the higher the concentration of toxins in the air. A strong odor can also indicate that the highly flammable creosote may be building to a level where a chimney fire can occur. It’s time to call in the chimney sweepers!
4. Signs of Small Animals and Birds
If you hear cheeps, squeaking, or rustling noises through the fireplace, you may have uninvited guests. Birds and rodents often find chimneys irresistible nesting spots as they provide a sturdy buffer from wind and rain. So, keep an eye out for the comings and goings of birds on your roof and signs of nests in chimney tops. You might hope to discourage the pests from staying by smoking them out, but this could be dangerous. Restricted airflow from blocking nests could cause smoke to flood your house, or worse, a buildup of fatal carbon monoxide could occur.
5. Debris and Grime are Dropping into the Fireplace
Another clear indicator that you’re overdue for a chimney sweeper’s visit is when you’re able to see debris and grime have dropped down through the chimney to the fireplace. Debris such as crumbling masonry, leaves, twigs, or feathers means you could have animals nesting, blown-in vegetation, or damage to the chimney’s structure. Any of these could cause an obstruction affecting your air quality.
Worse, if you see soot flakes and creosote tar-like drips down the walls and around the fireplace, you may not be far from a potential chimney fire. At this level of visible grime, the concentration of noxious gases breathed in is a genuine concern.
Northern Virginia Chimney Cleaning Service
Chimney obstructions and the buildup of soot and creosote are the key causes of most fireplace-related problems. Regular chimney cleaning will prevent serious air quality issues and reduce the risk of chimney-related fires.
At Sixpenny Chimney Services, we’ve seen and dealt with every issue you’re ever likely to encounter with your fireplace and chimneys. Based in North Virginia, we provide affordable, friendly, and reliable chimney cleaning services and repairs. We’re always happy to discuss our services and offer free quotes to you. And if you have an emergency, we’re available for after-hours services.