Several items to be aware off when using a fireplace.
The condition of the chimney is an important factor in safe fireplace use. The Chimney Safety Institute of America says a faulty chimney can cause something worse than smoke in the living room. They recommend that a chimney be examined by a professional once a year. The chimney not only gets dirty from use, but bricks can become loose with age. Flues may crack or become blocked. A pro can recognize problems, quickly evaluate them, and offer recommendations for safer use.
Creosote builds up as the cozy fires burn. It reduces the flue’s ability to draw off smoke and can cause odors. More importantly, it can ignite a chimney fire. A buildup of only 1/8 inch of creosote means it’s time to clean. A number of other things can cause chimneys to malfunction and/or become dangerous:
There must be sufficient air reaching the fire, and there must be a good draw to pull the smoke up the chimney.
A back draft may be caused by lack of air reaching the fire in an airtight house, or a mal-functioning flue. The flue may be constricted by creosote or for example a bird nests. The chimney also, may not be tall enough, or it may be constricted by trees.
In older homes, the flue may need to be relined. Homes more than 50 years old probably don’t have flue linings at all.
Commercial fire additives that claim to prevent creosote buildup usually don’t work.
To find a professional chimney sweep, contact the Institute at (800) 536-0118 or www.csia.org.
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