Chimneys and fireplaces are traditional installations that add grace and comfort to many houses. Many consider chimneys a necessary final touch to complete the look of a roof on a home. However, many homeowners forget that, left unchecked, chimneys can be a serious hazard to the lives of those who inhabit the home.

Annual Inspection and Cleaning

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that all chimneys be inspected and swept at least once every year, regardless of the frequency of use. Even if you never use your chimney, time and weather conditions can and will deteriorate the condition of the chimney; additionally, animals often crawl in and build nests. If you’re not thinking about these hazards and decide, one night, it might be a fun time to try out the fireplace, the consequences can be disastrous. If you do use your chimney, wood burning byproducts causes creosote deposits on the walls of your chimney. When creosote builds up to uncontrolled levels, it can stink up your home and become a fire hazard. Abundant levels of creosote become dangerously flammable, and the high temperatures of a chimney in use are often enough to light it.

Chimney Fires

When the creosote deposits catch fire, a variety of consequences can result. Chimney fires can be explosive and violent, cracking loudly and shooting flames out of the top of the chimney. This intense fire can melt mortar, crack tiles, and damage structures. In extreme cases, the fire can spread to the rest of the house and burn it down, especially in masonry chimneys. However, some chimney fires can be much less noticeable. Slow-burning chimney fires are less visible and dramatic but are still able to cause significant damage to chimney structures.

Here are some signs that there has been a chimney fire:

  • The creosote deposits in your chimney look puffy or honey-combed
  • You can see cracks on the outside of your chimney
  • The metal of the damper is warped
  • Creosote flakes found on the roof or the ground

After a chimney fire, chimneys need to be replaced to avoid further fires.

Chimney fires and other hazards are entirely preventable. On top of scheduling an annual inspection and sweeping, here are some other good practices to keeping your home safe and fire-free around your chimney.

Chimney Tops

It’s a good idea to install a cap to keep animals and other debris out of your chimney. This prevents animals from falling in or building nests.

If you have large trees growing near your home, make sure to keep branches trimmed and away from the chimney. You wouldn’t want those to catch on fire from a stray spark that rides out of the chimney. Similarly, plants that climb up your walls need to be kept away from the chimney if they start to climb high enough.

Burning logs

When cooking up a toasty fire, make sure you are using well seasoned logs that have been split between six months and a year ago. These logs will burn easier and hotter, reducing the amount of creosote that builds up. Also, build small and hot fires that warm the room quickly; don’t burn cool, smoky fires for long periods of time. They cause fast buildups of creosote deposits.

Don’t burn wood from your christmas tree (pine is simply far from ideal in terms of fire wood), and never throw wrapping paper or any kind of paper or miscellaneous litter into the fire.


It can be tempting to put many decorations around the fireplace (especially around holiday seasons), but it is imperative to remove all flammable items from the vicinity of the fireplace. They are a fire hazard. Also, always remember to use the glass or wire mesh screen when the fire is burning to protect children and loved ones from stray sparks that could burn them to light their clothes on fire.

Fire and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Having all these preventative measures in place is the first step. However, to plan for the unexpected, it is always important to have monitored fire and carbon monoxide alarms. This way, you can rest assured that your home will always have back-up.

Protect America offers affordable and reliable monitoring and alarm systems; call 1-888-951-5136 or chat online today.