Fireplace Safety

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fireplaceMaintaining fireplaces and chimneys is important. Poorly maintained fireplaces can lead to problems. Some of these problems can be fatal.

According to NC State University experts, the top three problems caused by poorly maintained fireplaces and chimneys are carbon monoxide poisoning, chimney fires, and premature failure of the fireplace and chimney.

Carbon monoxide poisoning claims about 4,000 lives a year in the US. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of combustion and needs a place to be safely ventilated. Cue, the chimney. Chimneys that aren’t correctly maintained can fail to properly dispose of carbon monoxide. To make sure you’re never exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, install a carbon monoxide detector if you don’t already have one and make sure it’s working properly. Carbon monoxide detectors save thousands of lives every year.

Chimney fires are also a result of poorly kept chimneys. When the smoke from fire comes in contact with creosote (a black or brown gummy residue that builds up in the flue of the chimney) it could catch fire. If a noise emits from your chimney that sounds like a low-flying jet, odds are it’s a chimney fire. By routinely cleaning creosote out of your chimney you reduce the chances of a chimney fire significantly.

Failure of the basic structure of the chimney is possible too. Premature chimney failure is mostly caused by frequent chimney fires which threaten the integrity of its motor joints and cause cracking. The estimated average cost of fixing cracks in a chimney is $175, to rebuild a chimney from the roofline down—$1,000 to $3,000.

There are ways to prevent costly damages to your fireplace and chimney. All these fireplace hazards are almost entirely preventable; if you use your fireplace 3 times a year or more it should be cleaned yearly. Learn more from the Chimney Safety Institute of America about how to hire a professional chimney sweep.

Originally posted by Shelby Kimes.

Written By

Steve Pettis, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionSteve Pettis, Jr.Extension Agent, Agriculture - Consumer and Commercial Horticulture Call Steve Email Steve N.C. Cooperative Extension, Henderson County Center
Updated on Nov 15, 2021
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