Even in Florida, we see a few chimneys fired up on a cool night. Although they're not used as often as up in snow country, they still need to be inspected occasionally. Here are some tips on what needs to be done. Scripps Howard News Service
• When hiring a chimney sweep, look for one associated with the Chimney Safety Institute of America or the National Chimney Sweep Guild. As a matter of safety, you should always hire a professional when working on any part of the roof. While the chimney sweep is there, have him or her inspect the flue liner for signs of creosote buildup, cracks or for anything that might block the flue gases from escaping the home. If you decide to inspect and clean the flue yourself, here is a checklist of some important items to look for:
• Make sure that all of the clay tile liners are tightly sealed at their joints. Liners that are offset or have gaps between the tiles need to be repaired.
• A dirty flue liner with a shiny coating of creosote is a fire hazard and should be cleaned by a professional chimney sweep before the fireplace or wood-burning stove is used. This type of creosote is both hard to remove and flammable, often leading to a chimney fire.
• If the chimney is brick-lined or does not have a clay tile or metal liner, it needs to be checked for blockages at the damper to the fireplace or at the chimney-cleanout opening. Over the years, the interior brick lining can fail when pieces of the brick fall to the bottom of the chimney. Over time, the debris can build up to the point where it blocks the damper, or in the case of a connected flue pipe, the pipe itself can be blocked.
This is a serious situation that requires immediate repairs. Carbon monoxide poisoning caused by damaged or blocked flues is partly responsible for the more than 500 CO-related deaths reported in the United States each year. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless toxic gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Carbon monoxide can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and confusion and, if left undetected, overexposure to even small amounts of CO can be fatal. All homes — even total electric homes with attached garages — should have at least one CO detector installed.
• Stand-alone wood-burning stoves need to be inspected for proper and safe clearances to combustible materials.
• The chimney cap not only protects the flue from pests, but the screening helps to control the emission of hot embers that can be a fire hazard to the roof or to other nearby combustible materials.
• Be sure to use dry and seasoned woods in any wood-burning appliance.