FIREPLACE AND WOODSTOVE SAFETY
Wood smoke occurs because not all the chemicals in wood can be burned by your fireplace or wood stove. Smoke contains tiny, unburned but flammable solid particles which adhere to the walls of your chimney which are called creosote. As these deposits accumulate, a stray spark from your fire can ignite them causing a chimney fire. Accumulated creosote can also cause chimney blockages or draft restrictions that don't allow the chimney to properly do its job of removing smoke, fumes and carbon monoxide from your home. Sweeping the chimney brushes away these flammable deposits to help improve draft, making the fire easier to light and helping to improve efficiency.
Chimneys and connector pipes (such as the black pipe connecting a wood stove to the chimney) are designed as a passageway for smoke which passes through at relatively low temperatures; chimneys are not built to withstand chimney fires, which can burn in excess of 2000 degrees. A chimney fire can destroy the mortar in a masonry chimney which can cause a chimney to collapse or allow the fire to spread to the framing members of your home. Sometimes a first chimney fire will "only" crack the flue tile liners. This situation is dangerous because a subsequent chimney fire now has an easy pathway to the walls of your house, allowing for massively destructive and dangerous house fires. When you have been advised that your flue tiles are cracked, it is time to take action and have the chimney repaired before further use.
Smoke stains above this fireplace indicate a severe draft problem. A thorough inspection of the chimney will usually provide clues about the cause, and your chimney sweep may be able to help you find a remedy for this unsightly and dangerous problem.
A visit from your chimney sweep should also include an inspection of the chimney plus any appliances and connector pipes. Degrees of service vary as do fees charged by chimney sweep companies (see info regarding LEVELS OF INSPECTION). This may be a simple visible inspection, or as thorough as an inspection of the chimney interior and inaccessible areas with a video camera. A more thorough video inspection may be recommended when a home is being bought or sold, following a chimney fire to inspect for damages, following major weather events that could cause damage, or if a visible inspection leads to concern hidden areas require a closer look. Video inspections can also be recorded and left with the homeowner. If you suspect that a video inspection is required then we advise you to notify your chimney sweep so he is fully prepared to be of help; this process will require extra time and usually involves additional fees not included in a standard chimney cleaning service.