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Check your chimney before you use your fireplace this season

Proper maintenance can prevent a chimney fire
Posted at 11:35 AM, Nov 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-03 12:46:47-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, homeowners light their fireplaces -- and call Jeremy Biswell. 

“We probably get about 50 calls a day this time of year,” explained Biswell.

As the owner of Fluesbrothers Chimney Service, Biswell said his business explodes before people turn on their fireplaces. 

The Chimney Safety Institute of America reports, on average, chimneys cause more than 20,000 house fires every year in the United States. Biswell stressed maintenance is the most important thing to preventing a fire in your chimney or flue. 

“It looks fine on the outside, seems to work, so why have it checked?” he said. “It’s just like your furnace, plumbing, or termites: You want to have it checked because there may be things you can’t see. That's what we worry about.”

Biswell said it is best to have a professional chimney sweeper inspect your chimney before using it for the season, but he did offer these tips for homeowners:

  • Inspect your chimney with a flashlight. Look for white streaks, loose bricks, and deposit buildup.
  • Know how to properly use your damper. This video explains how to open and close several types.
  • Burn dry wood.
  • Don’t put anything other than wood in the fire.
  • Cap your chimney.

Biswell said heat from fire can collect in weak areas of your chimney and start a fire inside your home. He said these rules apply to gas and wood fireplaces. 

“You don't want carbon monoxide coming out into your room,” Biswell explained. “Those gas logs emit heat, so you want your chimney in full-functioning [venting] order. It will eliminate issues that can lead to a house fire.”

Lastly, Biswell suggests having a company clean your chimney in the spring, once you’re done using your fireplace. That will remove creosote and other buildup that can eat away at your chimney over the summer.