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Bought A New Home? Don't Skip Having The Chimney Inspected

A fireplace can be a big selling point for a home; just imagine cozy winter days spent relaxing in front of a warm fire. But if you've recently bought a home with a fireplace, it's important that you get a chimney inspection before firing it up for the first time. After all, you don't know how well the former owners kept up with chimney maintenance, and a poorly-maintained chimney can be a serious safety hazard.

Can You Do A Chimney Inspection Yourself?

Unfortunately, this isn't really possible. First of all, being able to tell whether the chimney is dirty or damaged requires expertise and training. But even if you have this knowledge, there are parts of the chimney that need to be inspected that can't be seen from above or below; most chimney inspectors use a video camera that can be lowered into the chimney to examine these areas. After the inspection, a written report is produced, giving you an official record of any problems that were found.

What Are The Most Serious Maintenance Problems?

The big problems that you want to avoid with a chimney are carbon monoxide staying in the home instead of being properly vented and the possibility of chimney fires. This means that the chimney inspector will be looking for blockages and buildup of ash or creosote within the chimney; this is a common problem if the previous owner of the home didn't have the chimney cleaned regularly. In addition, the inspector will look for damage to the lining or masonry of the chimney, which can compromise the entire system.

What If Blockages Or Buildup Are Found?

Often, it's possible to combine your chimney inspection with a chimney cleaning; if not, you'll want to hire a chimney sweep. While it's possible to clean your chimney yourself if regular maintenance has been kept up with, it's better to rely on a professional if there have been large buildups or blockages due to poor maintenance by the previous owner.

Depending on the severity of the problem, it may be possible for a chimney sweep to use brushes to manually clean the inside of the chimney. For more severe buildup, this can be combined with chemical cleaners to loosen debris. Until the chimney is cleaned, don't use your fireplace or woodstove; a chimney fire could be the result.

What Should Be Done If Structural Damage Is Found?

As soon as possible, you should hire a chimney repair contractor to come out and fix any structural problems with your chimney. Furnishing them with a copy of your chimney inspection can help them quickly understand what's wrong. Just as with a dangerously dirty chimney, you should not use your fireplace or woodstove if structural damage is found within the chimney.

Cracks and damage in liners or shifting masonry can expose non-fire-safe materials to the heat within the chimney, leading to chimney fires. In addition, some masonry problems can even change the shape of the interior of the chimney, preventing carbon monoxide from being properly vented. Even though you are having your chimney repaired, you should also buy and install carbon monoxide detectors if you do not already have them.

For more information about chimney maintenance, contact Steve's Masonry Service or a similar company.