With the autumnal equinox coming at the end of this week, summer officially draws to a close, and the pressure is on to complete fall tasks to ready your home and garden for the coming autumn and winter months. One of the most important tasks for fall is one easily overlooked, and easily under-estimated in terms of its importance: cleaning and inspecting your chimney.

If you are lucky enough to enjoy a warm, crackling fire in the cold winter months, then the beginning of fall is a great time to have your fireplace cleaned and inspected, to ensure that it’s in tip-top shape for use. Having your fireplace professionally cleaned and inspected is vitally important, and can mean the difference between life and death for your home’s residents. Here’s why:

  • In woodburning fireplaces, smoke and moisture from burned wood deposits itself along the walls of the chimney, in the form of a sticky black substance called creosote.
  • Creosote isn’t just ghastly looking—it’s also highly combustible, and can cause fires in your chimney if allowed to build up.
  • Chimney fires can move into attic spaces and areas under the roof, causing large fires and major damage to your home, often before you’re even aware that there’s a problem.
  • Inspections are also important, as professionals can identify any problems in your chimney that may affect the chimney’s ability to vent properly.
  • Venting is important not only for fires, but also for gases created by some of your household appliances, such as gas stoves, water heaters, etc., which may use your home’s chimney to vent.
  • If not venting properly, gases such as carbon monoxide can be funneled back into your home, where they can have dangerous (and potentially fatal) effects upon residents.
  • Inspections can also inform you about other problems or blockages in your chimney, such as loose or broken masonry, bird nests, or animal debris, that may affect the efficacy of your chimney’s ability to vent.

To avoid running into any of these problems, homeowners and renters can call upon a chimney sweep, most of whom can complete a sweep and inspection for between $75-200 dollars. The sweeps will typically go up onto the roof, check the flashing and mortar, sweep the chimney from above, and use a high-powered vacuum to remove the dust and debris. You can find quality chimney sweeps through the National Chimney Sweep Guild.

For more information on chimneys, fireplaces, and fireplace safety, you can visit the website of the Chimney Safety Institute of America.