Ensure Your Chimney is Ready for Cold Weather
With evening temperatures dipping near the freezing mark in Needham and throughout the Norfolk County, MA area, many homeowners are already starting to light the fireplace to stay warm. Since winter weather conditions can be brutal for chimneys, these ten tips will help ensure your chimney is ready for cold weather.
Tip #1: Schedule a Chimney Inspection and Cleaning
The most important thing you can do to prepare your chimney for cold weather is to schedule a professional chimney inspection and cleaning. Even if you sweep the chimney yourself, annual chimney inspections are still necessary to ensure your chimney and fireplace are not a fire or health hazard. The last thing you want is for smoke and carbon monoxide fumes to start pouring out of the fireplace, or worse, while you’re enjoying the winter holidays. A Certified Chimney Sweep® conducts a multi-point visual inspection to check for signs of creosote build-up, moisture intrusion, masonry damage, flue obstructions, structural issues, and other abnormalities that could affect its performance and safety. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends all homeowners that use gas or wood-burning heating appliances have annual inspections. Your homeowner’s insurance policy or local community regulations may also require yearly chimney and fireplace inspections.
Tip #2: Ensure Your Chimney Cap is Secure
The chimney cap is a simple but effective device that protects the flue from moisture, wind, small animals, and debris that can damage the interior masonry or clog the flue vent that could cause a dangerous downdraft. Since weather and normal wear and tear can cause damage, it is essential to ensure your chimney cap is secure. Replace a missing or defective chimney cap right away with the correct size that fits your chimney.
Tip #3: Repair Masonry Damage
Carefully examine the exterior masonry for cracked, chipped, or missing bricks and decaying mortar. These are signs of water damage that need immediate repair. Masonry damage worsens over time, especially during cold weather, and is a common source of chimney leaks that can cause extensive damage to the chimney. A chimney mason will typically use tuckpointing to repair minor masonry damage. However, when the damage is more severe, entire sections of the chimney may need to be rebuilt to prevent a structural collapse.
Tip #4: Waterproof the Chimney
After making the necessary masonry repairs, apply a water-based waterproof sealant specially formulated for chimneys to protect against future water damage. The water repellent will need to be reapplied every 5 to 7 years to remain effective.
Tip #5: Check the Blower Motor
If you are using a gas fireplace this winter, be sure to clear away any dust, dirt, and debris that may be trapped in the blower. It will increase the heating efficiency of your fireplace and prolong the motor’s lifespan.
Tip #6: Inspect the Damper
Test the damper to ensure that it opens fully and creates an airtight seal when closed. If it is hard to operate, makes unusual noises, or has any gaps or other signs of damage, have it inspected by a professional chimney technician before you start using the fireplace.
Tip #7: Clean the Ash Dump
Your fireplace may have an ash dump in the middle of the firebox that collects ashes from the logs. Simply open the ash dump door and sweep the ashes into a metal container. Also, sweep any ashes on the floor of the firebox floor into a metal container. However, reserve enough ash to spread a 1-inch layer in the firebox to help start the fire and keep it burning.
Tip #8: Source Seasoned Hardwoods
Only burn seasoned hardwoods in your fireplace. Dense woods that have been seasoned or dried for at least six months will burn cleaner, hotter, and last longer with less smoke and creosote.
Tip #9: Make Sure Your Homeowner’s Policy is Up to Date
The homeowner’s insurance policy covering your home also provides coverage for chimney damage caused by a covered event, such as a fire or lightning. So, now is an excellent time to ensure your policy is up to date to avoid any lapse in coverage. Remember that your homeowners’ policy will not reimburse for home or chimney damage due to neglecting maintenance, such as excessive creosote. So, be sure to have your chimney inspected and professionally cleaned every year.
Tip #10: Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors
Whether you have a gas or wood-burning fireplace or heating stove, don’t forget to test your smoke and CO detectors before lighting your fireplace for the first time this season. Be sure to test them monthly, replace the batteries every six months, and practice a fire escape plan with your family.
If you reside in the South Shore or along the I-95 corridor in Norfolk County, MA, contact the fully trained and certified technicians at Above & Beyond Chimney Service to schedule your chimney inspection today so that your chimney will be ready for the cold winter season.