Summer Maintenance for Chimneys
If you haven’t had a stack column inspection done recently, there might be some odds and ends clogging up your chimney or smokestack. For industrial chimneys, it is important to have stack column inspections done on the regular. Doing these types of inspections on your own could be dangerous if you don’t know what health hazards are out there. For example, of Atmospheric oxygen concentration is not between 19.5 and 23.5 percent, it is dangerous and sometimes fatal.
There are different types of inspections that need to be done on smokestacks throughout the year. For example, a binocular stack column inspection should be done at least once per year, while a full height interior and exterior inspection should be done every three years. This will ensure proper safety and airflow of the smokestack.
Because we are just getting into summer, it is important to know what the traditional summer tips are for smokestack and industrial chimney maintenance. Having regular maintenance done will help avoid costly industrial chimney repairs down the road.
First, Schedule a Chimney or Smoke Stack Inspection: Depending on how long it has been, schedule either a binocular inspection or a full height interior and exterior inspection. Have a professional chimney sweep check the chimney or smokestack, looking for signs of wear, damage, leaks, blockages, and cracks. Without the help of a professional, it can be very difficult to detect these deficiencies that can develop in a chimney, and if left untreated, small cracks and blockages can lead to huge problems down the road. Failing to detect and fix small cracks in the chimney lining increases the likelihood of a fire in the building because the intense heat of the smokestack or chimney will be able to reach more combustible parts of the building. When in doubt, have an inspection done and get the cracks fixed. Blockages are another large problem for chimneys. If blockages aren’t properly swept out, they can continue to build up over time, reducing air flow. The reduced air flow can create an environment in the building where there are lots of smoke particles and ash particles in the air and increase the likelihood of a building fire.
Get the Chimney Cleaned: Once you have finished a stack column inspection, the next step is to schedule a full on chimney cleaning. This should only be done when necessary, however, as sometimes you will find that the stack column inspection reports no cleaning is necessary. Cleaning should occur every 6 to 24 months, depending on how often the chimney is used. For chimneys that host a fireplace that frequently burns logs, cleaning regularly is a must. The flue will have deposited on it a sooty, tar-like substance from the burning of the logs. This substance is highly flammable and presents a high fire risk for a building. Additionally, if the building of creosote gets too thick, it can obstruct the draft and air flow of the chimney, allowing smoke and toxic fumes to enter the building.
Close the Damper During the Summer: For wood burning fireplaces, close the damper when the fireplace is not in use, which it shouldn’t be in the summer. The damper is used to seal off the air flow between the chimney and the home, and when it doesn’t seal properly, it’s like having a window open. Leaving the damper open in the summer can allow the cool air to escape from the home, resulting in significantly higher energy bills for the building. Additionally, critters can gain access to a building through the chimney, so keeping the damper closed keeps the critters out. For gas fireplaces, it is recommended to ALWAYS keep the damper OPEN. This is so there isn’t a chance of a gas buildup in event of a gas leak in the home.
Chimney Cap Installation: There are very few exceptions to this rule. Most chimneys should be sporting a chimney cap. Chimney caps are used to keep moisture and animals (especially birds) out and prevent debris from entering the chimney. Additionally, a chimney cap will act as a spark guard to stop hot embers from landing on the roof and catching other combustible materials on fire.