As the season for sitting by the fireplace nears, chimney sweeping finds its way onto the to-do list of many Minnesota homeowners. In the run-up to the holidays, as people prepare their homes for festivities and to receive guests, getting the chimney swept is unfortunately often a last-minute addition to the list of preparations.
Why the rush?
The seasonal nature of chimney sweeping means a flurry of activity during peak months (October through December) and little to none off-season, during warmer weather. Savvy homeowners and early birds will take advantage of this respite to have their chimney cleaned before the rush begins—when prices may increase and appointments are harder to come by.
Some of the reasons for chimney sweeping include the following:
- to avoid level 3 creosote buildup
- to check for a chimney cap
- to clear any blockages
- to look for signs of damage or disrepair, and
- to check the condition of other flues (besides the fireplace) as well.
The above reasons for having your chimney swept become amplified during the colder months. Let's break each of these down.
Removing creosote buildup
Creosote buildup is detrimental to your chimney year-round, even in the warmer months when you're not using it, as it slowly corrodes the walls of your chimney. But the real danger comes during the colder months when you light a fire and risk that combustible buildup igniting and starting a dangerous chimney fire that can quickly spread to the rest of your home. This is the number one reason to have your chimney swept, especially just before the season starts.
Installing a chimney cap
Chimney caps serve many purposes, including to keep rain, snow, and debris from entering your fireplace flue, to keep animals out, and to prevent water from pooling at the seam of the crown and the flue tile, where trapped water freezes and expands, wreaking havoc. Though animals can enter an unprotected chimney year-round, they are more likely to do so when the weather becomes cold. Additionally, you'll definitely want to have a cap in place before the freeze-thaw cycle begins, to avoid cracks due to water pooling around the perimeter of your flue tile.
Any blockages from nesting animals will necessarily be cleared by a chimney sweep. Though these blockages may be a mere nuisance in the warmer months, with animal young (and parents) inhabiting your flue and the cacophony and stench that their presence entails, it is not inherently dangerous until the colder months come around and you light a fire, risking major damage with all of that combustible material inside. Before the season starts, eliminate the risk of a small forest fire in your chimney and have that debris cleared.
Checking for disrepair
Over time the wear and tear on a chimney and exposure to the elements causes slow deterioration of the masonry. Once cracks and chips have begun to form, water finds its way more easily into those weakened areas and into the flue itself. Cracked crowns, spalling bricks, holes in the liner—all of these issues become worse after the freeze-thaw cycle, when water enters compromised areas and expands as temperatures drop, then recedes as temps warm, causing further damage. Pinpointing and addressing these compromised areas with prompt repairs before the snow falls will help your chimney weather the cold months.
Checking the "other" flues
Besides your fireplace flue, there are other flues in your home that need regular checking, such as utility flues—those that vent your furnace and water heater. If these are uncapped and clogged with debris, the dangerous fumes that under normal circumstances exhaust via these channels to the outside of your home can end up backing up into your living space. Before animals begin seeking warmth within, have a technician check that all blockages are cleared and a cap is securely in place.
For all the reasons there are to have your chimney swept and inspected regularly, there are even more to have it done before the onset of winter's cold.
Why not go ahead and schedule your service now? Our office staff are quick to answer the phones, and our online booking widget stands ever-ready to receive your appointment, at your convenience.
Want to learn more? Download our free tipheet: 5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Chimney Cleaning Company.