As the cost of electricity, propane, natural gas, and heating oil continues to rise, many homeowners are looking for alternate ways to help heat their homes. For some, it may be time to consider the possibility of bringing an old chimney back into service so that a fireplace or wood-burning stove could be used.
Before taking that step, however, homeowners will want to have a better understanding of the potential safety issues they may experience and how they might overcome them.
The first thing to do when exploring the possibility of putting an existing chimney back into service is to have it professionally cleaned. When a chimney is unused for a period of years, several things can happen that can be discovered during the chimney cleaning process.
Chimneys that sit idle, even for a short time, can become home to birds, rodents, and other small creatures. The nesting activity of these animals and birds can quickly result in the formation of a blockage inside the chimney. In addition to stopping the chimney's ability to draw air and exhaust smoke and fumes from a fireplace or wood stove, homeowners should know that the nesting materials will likely contain highly flammable materials, like twigs, dried grass, and debris that could easily cause a chimney fire.
The chimney cleaning process will also provide homeowners with a better understanding of the condition of the chimney and whether there is any type of existing damage that will need to be repaired. During the chimney cleaning process, mirrors and cameras are often used to provide a close look at the interior surfaces of the chimney. If damage is found, such as cracked flue tiles, broken flue blocks, or missing mortar in the joints, the homeowner will be advised that the chimney is unsafe to use until necessary repairs are made.
Scheduling a chimney inspection before attempting to utilize a chimney that has sat idle can also help ensure that homeowners are aware of any structural defects that could make the chimney unsafe for use with a fireplace or wood stove. For instance, an existing fireplace may be too small or too short to safely support the use of a modern wood stove or fireplace insert.
If you are thinking about bringing an unused fireplace back into service, do so safely by first discussing your plans with a chimney repair service in your area.