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September 1, 2015

For those who are fortunate enough to have a working fireplace, we know the warmth and energy saving it provides during the cold winter days. Fireplaces use only about 10 percent of the energy in fuel to provide heat to occupants.

A question that is asked so many times is, “When do I need a chimney inspection?” The best time is before you start regular usage, the beginning/mid-Fall is a great time. This also applies to furnaces.

“How often should I get my chimney cleaned?” is another frequently asked question.  The National Fire Protection Association says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.”

The CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) says that fireplaces should be cleaned when 1/8″ of sooty buildup is evident inside the chimney and flue system. If any glaze is appearing in the flue, cleaning should be done even if there is less than 1/8″ of buildup. A chimney fire can be fueled anytime when enough accumulation of soot and creosote occurs and even spread to the roof and home. Furnace flue systems also require cleaning, so don’t avoid regular cleaning of the venting systems. Another important time to get your venting systems inspected is when you have upgraded or changed heating systems or added a stove or insert. An inspection will make sure that your chimney, lining and venting systems are adequate and in working order to handle the new changes.

Even if you don’t use your chimney much, Birds, Squirrels, Raccoons and other critters may have been using your chimney, making it unsafe to use without clearing out the accumulated debris from nesting activity. The best way to prevent such problem would be to install a critter guard.

A visual walk-through on the outside is also recommended, paying close attention to the chimney structure, whether the material is siding, brick, block or metal.


All masonry chimneys need repair at some point.  The mortar joints become damaged due to harsh weather conditions, particularly excessive amounts of water.  Moisture can even damage rock masonry, when water gets in due to weakened mortar joints, and destroy the clay liner.  While bricks on a chimney last about a century, mortar has a much shorter lifespan.  Depending on how exposed the masonry is to excess water and other harsh conditions, mortar lasts about 25 years. The layout of the roof and the position of the chimney affect how much or little water drainage contributes to erosion of the mortar joints.

When mortar joints become damaged, the most cost-effective action that a homeowner can take is to repair affected areas via tuck-pointing.  The alternative is to allow the mortar joints to deteriorate to the point that the chimney collapses, which makes a complete rebuild necessary–of course, the cost of a rebuild is far greater than the cost for repairs.

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