Chimney Problems

The Most Common Chimney Problems

Chimney problems can range quite a lot in severity depending on what type of fire the chimney accommodates and how long the issue has been left to fester. Some issues can be fairly cheap and easy to fix while others may be very complex and expensive. The best way to save yourself a great deal of time as well as money is to learn how to prevent and detect common chimney problems.

Creosote Buildup

Creosote is a residue that can form in the chimney of a wood burning stove. As the smoke funnels up the chimney, the creosote attaches to the walls of the chimney and cools where it becomes sticky. Over time it will also begin to produce an odor. This type of buildup is more likely to occur in a chimney that attaches to a fireplace or a well insulated wood stove. This is because the temperature in the fireplace or wood stove is much hotter than the chimney, which allows the creosote to cool rapidly as the gases travel up the chimney. If creosote is allowed to build up unhindered it can actually lead to a buildup so thick that the ventilation space becomes more and more narrow. This can be extremely dangerous as the smoke and gasses may be passed back into the home due to the chimney’s blockage. This substance is also flammable and a fire in the chimney can be very dangerous and tricky to put out.

Creosote buildup can be prevented by making sure that the chimney’s temperature is above 250 degrees Fahrenheit any time the fireplace or wood stove is burning. It is always a good idea to clean the chimney at least once a year to ensure that any existing creosote is cleared away.

Poor or Old Chimneys

Many chimney problems occur as a result of poor or quick construction, but also from an outdated design. If a chimney is not constructed with complete accuracy, it is more likely that the chimney will produce cracks that allow cold air to travel down the chimney and into the home. Older chimney designs often centers around larger sizes rather than true efficiency. Perhaps it was believed that a larger chimney would funnel the smoke from the fire more efficiently, however the reality is that large chimneys allow for too much airflow which can result in counterproductive drafts. An unlined chimney is also at a higher risk for allowing drafts through. Old or poorly constructed chimneys should be redesigned for efficiency. It is also worthwhile to consider replacing a wood burning fireplace or stove with a gas burning fire.

Unlined Chimneys

Unlined chimneys can lead to chimney problems of all sorts. The lining used in a chimney is not only designed to keep the chimney warm to reduce creosote buildup, but it is also designed to keep outside air out while there is no fire. Chimney lining is also beneficial in insuring that smoke and toxins are not allowed to become trapped within cracks or blemishes within the chimney’s structure. Allowing a chimney to remain unlined is a very dangerous decision, as harmful toxins could find their way back into the home where household members are likely to breathe them in. If you are unsure whether your chimney has lining or if the lining is still in good shape, it is recommended that you contact a chimney specialist to inspect your chimney for efficiency and safety.

There are a few obvious signs that your chimney is not functioning properly, such as inefficiently funneling smoke and gasses upwards, foul odors emitting from the chimney, and the presence of drafts.