We like to encourage people to get a chimney inspection once a year, just to make sure you can use your fireplace without worrying. But let’s be honest, everyone’s tightening their budget a little these days, and some people skip their chimney services altogether. So for those people, we’ve written a handy little blog about easy-to-spot chimney warning signs. This will help you know when you need to get a professional chimney technician to come and inspect or repair your chimney system.
Check Your Fireplace For Signs You Need Chimney Repair
What we’re looking for in your fireplace are cracks, leaks, rusting, and “how-did-that-get-there” debris.
A little cracking in the stone or the brickwork of your fireplace may seem like it adds character. What it actually means is that there’s some level of structural deterioration in your chimney. Check the face of the hearth itself and the brickwork in your firebox, and make sure there are no visible breaks or buckling.
Leaks and rusting are obvious signs of water getting where it isn’t welcome. Bricks are porous, and letting them spend too much time with water leads to moss, mildew, and weakening masonry. Check around your fireplace for signs of moisture, and check the damper for signs of rust. A leak can be fixed, but catching it early saves trouble.
Sometimes you’ll find strange debris on the floor of your fireplace and wonder where it came from. If it looks like twigs or leaves, then you want a chimney sweep to make sure there aren’t flammable bits or nesting animals in your flue. If it looks like broken ceramic or plastic, this is probably what we call “shaling.” Those are pieces of your flue lining that have fallen off and landed in your house. It’s a good idea to get that lining replaced before you use your chimney again.
Signs Of Chimney Damage In Your Walls And Ceiling
Your home will tell you if it has problems. It sounds crazy, but your house might even act like it’s haunted if your chimney is damaged. If pictures are falling off the walls when the fire’s going, or the paint is bubbling, it means the heat is getting into your home’s drywall, and that your chimney is having major trouble.
Not all signs are that dramatic, of course. Wallpaper near the fireplace will warp and start peeling off if there’s moisture on it, and paint will flake. This can mean there’s a leak in the chimney that’s letting water into your walls. Check beside your fireplace and in nearby rooms. Also, check the ceiling for suspicious moisture or discoloration.
You might find chalky white powder on the bricks of your chimney, inside or outside. We call this efflorescence, and it’s actually leftover salt crystals that the water has pushed out of the masonry and left behind after evaporating. It’s another good sign of too much water seeping into the brickwork.
Lastly, be mindful of unusually smokey or musty odors. Smells like that usually means there’s some kind of chimney buildup, like a creosote deposit or some mildew, which will create problems later.
Chimney Fires – How To Know and What To Do
Chimney Fires are the worst-case scenario. Your chimney’s supposed to funnel smoke safely from your home, but it’s not built to burn. Thermal shock can still happen, which opens cracks in the masonry and allows the heat to get into combustible parts of your house. And the last thing anybody wants is a house fire in the middle of the winter.
You might notice loud cracking and popping from the chimney when the fire’s going. You’ll know it when you hear it – some people even describe it like a low-flying plane. If this noise comes with extra smoke or a stronger smell, you might have a chimney fire. Squelch your fire, get your family out of there and call 911. Remember: always use a fire extinguisher in your fireplace and not water.
The biggest cause of chimney fires are creosote deposits. These are deposits of unburned wood that have risen up with the smoke and gotten lodged in your flue, and they’re very flammable. Luckily, a chimney sweep service can easily clear them out for you, so long as you remember to call them.
What To Do If I Find Signs Of Chimney Damage
All of the signs we’ve described are parts of worsening problems. If you notice more than one of them, you want to prioritize calling trained chimney cleaners and inspectors to come and have a look. If you’re in Winston Salem, A Cleaner Chimney is all about making sure you have the very best chimney and fireplace services available, and can help you with any level of damage or inspection.