Annual Safety Inspections for Your Chimney
An annual safety inspection should be performed on every fireplace before its first fire of the year. Call a trained chimney professional who knows all the components of a chimney and fireplace to perform a visual inspection.
A visual inspection will look for any deterioration that has happened since last burning a fire. Noticeable cracking of the mortar joints in the firebox, chimney, and flue should be corrected. Any water penetration should be prevented from entering the chimney flue by a good chimney cap. Any fireplace components that are malfunctioning should be repaired or replaced.
The components of a safety inspection that should be inspected include...
Firebox for cracks and fire integrity. For metal fireboxes, the refractory panels that line the firebox should be in good condition. Replace each panel that has a crack splitting the panel into two separate panels.
Damper for proper open and close positions and no rust.
Lintel for proper seal in between firebox and hearth.
Smoke Shelf for no water deterioration, for any nuisance birds and/or critters and their nesting debris.
Flue integrity from any cracks and separation of the flue tiles.
Mortar crowns for cracking to keep out moisture in the chimney chase.
Chimney cap should be present to keep out water damage, birds, and critters. It should protect the mortar crown and the first row of the chimney. Chimney caps also prevent sparks from roof and siding fires.
Chimney from cracks and moisture damage. Water proofing should be applied every 10 years to prevent brick spalling and water penetration.
Chimney Flashing should be sealed and without rust.
Some questions should be asked to the homeowner to ensure a safe fire. What kind of wood do you burn? Seasoned oak is the best performing wood in an inside fireplace. Do you cover your wood outside? Keeping your wood dry limits the amount of smoke created during fire. How often do you do you burn? A chimney sweep is recommended every 1.5 to 2 cords of wood to ensure a smooth exit of smoke and for creosote build up.
A camera inspection should be performed if the chimney cannot be visually inspected in the flue.
Chad Murray with MastersServices in Dallas, Texas says most people call only when there has been a fire that has smoked out their living room. He says almost every smoke problem can be identified before the first fire if an annual inspection is performed. A chimney sweep may be needed after each chimney inspection for safety.