There’s nothing as serene as a warm, crackling fire on a cold, winter night. There’s also nothing more dangerous if your chimney is damaged.
Broken or cracked chimneys can let heat, smoke and toxic gasses, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Your home could even catch fire. Chimney damage is often obvious, but sometimes it can be hidden. Use the following checklist, provided by Ready Virginia!, to help ensure that you can enjoy your fireplace and avoid problems—or even a disaster:
Check to see if bricks have fallen or the chimney is leaning.
Look for shiny areas on your exterior metal chimney pipe. This could mean the chimney has shifted—during the recent East Coast earthquake, for instance.
Look for cracks at joints where the chimney connects to the firebox, at the roofline and in the attic.
Check for debris that may have fallen into the fireplace.
Use a screwdriver to check the mortar between the bricks or stones. If it crumbles when you pick at it, the chimney may be a hazard and probably needs work.
When in doubt, consult a licensed engineer or contractor. For the name of an inspector, call your insurance or mortgage company.
Remember, disasters can happen even in the best of homes. That’s why every home should be equipped with carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Here are a few tips:
Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in sleeping areas and on every level of your home and away from air vents. Interconnected smoke alarms are best, because if one sounds, they all sound.
Test smoke alarms monthly, and change alkaline batteries at least once a year. Use a familiar date, such as your birthday or when you change your clocks, as a reminder.
Prepare and practice a fire escape route with everyone in your home, including children.
For more information, visit www.usfa.dhs.gov/smokealarms