By Nina Josko
If you’re anything like me, being told that I should do something is never a sufficient enticement for me to actually do it. Barring moral obligation, a chore needs to have a fact-based necessity or provide entertainment to be considered. As homeowners, we are tasked with a litany of annual maintenance projects that we are supposed to do – cleaning the chimney is the least sexy of all of them.
I had the good fortune of buying my first home shortly after college. Maybe it was because I was young or just that humans love to advise, but the peanut gallery was continuously a flurry of advice: “You should seal your driveway, clean your furnace, vacuum your laundry vents, have your house checked for drafts, aerate your lawn, blow out the irrigation before winter, clean your chimney, don’t leave the inflatable Christmas lawn ornaments up year-round…” The list was paralyzing. I had wished I lived in the world of Mary Poppins where a colorful scamp would tap-dance and sing while performing chores for a sixpence. As that wasn’t the case, I gave the appearance of acquiescing to said advisors to avoid further suggestions, while secretly tucking their ideas away in the black hole of my mind.
I decided that of all the items on the list, maybe I could tackle the chimney myself. I set about the annual task of “cleaning” my chimney. I’d stick my head in the hearth and look up the flue for animals, waggle my vacuum hose around the smoke chamber then wash the fireplace doors. In my mind, the job was complete.
One evening I lit a fire just as I had many times. Instead of a charming flicker, a flame consumed the hearth and shot up the chimney. I doused the blaze and as the soggy logs smoldered, I decided to investigate if there was a legitimate reason to have a chimney cleaned.
Turns out there is.
I hope you like science.
Reason 1 to have the chimney cleaned: INFERNO
When combustion happens creating fire, various byproducts remain, (carbon monoxide, creosote, etc.) which a chimney flue vents to the outside. The flue liner creates a draft that pushes hot dirty air out and pulls cold fresh air in.
Still with me?
Creosote from wood might smell enticing, like smoked meat, but in reality it is actually an oily tar. In the heat of the fire, creosote is in a gaseous state but as it goes up the chimney, the temperature cools and the tar begins to solidify, attaching itself to the flue liner. The higher up the chimney you go, the colder it gets and increasing amounts of creosote are deposited. If the flue liner gets coated in tar, it is no longer able to perform its function of drawing the chemicals up and out.
Creosote is combustible, if left uncleaned, a funnel of flammable material loiters over your fire. This is what leads to chimney fires and house fires.
And reason 2 to have the chimney cleaned: CARBON MONOXIDE
CO, the poisonous gas, if not drawn up the chimney, flows into your house. Carbon monoxide has no color or odor so you have no way of knowing if (or how much) has entered your home.
While I may not do something because I should, I will always do something that has a threat of certain death. Having the chimney cleaned has been pulled out of the black hole and is on the annual to-do list.
I recently started working for the insurance company Daigle & Travers. I have been delighted to find that they truly care about their clients, even beyond insurance needs. They asked me to post a cautionary note because we’ve had clients with chimney fires the last four years and we want to end that streak.
Please be safe. Get your chimney cleaned by a professional.
As an aside, if your chimney sweep refuses to sing a ditty, call Tom or Eli – they know all the words to “Chim-Chim-Cheree”.
Daigle & Travers Insurance values its clients and their safety. Give us a call today at (203)-655-6974.