Frequently Asked Questions
Our customers often have questions about chimney and fireplace care and repair. This is partially because there’s not a lot of information out there for homeowners—although most people are at least somewhat aware of the dangers that can lurk in and around a fireplace—but also because the majority of a chimney is hidden from view. That means there’s a lot about the structure that is not understood. With nearly 35 years of chimney experience under our belts, Hudson Chimney is more than happy to answer any of your chimney or fireplace questions personally, but we also invite you to refer to our list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Q. How often should I have my chimney cleaned?
The National Fire Protection Association, and most other top fire and safety organizations in the United States recommend that chimneys, fireplaces and vents be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits and correct clearances. It is then recommended that you have any cleaning, maintenance and repairs done that are deemed necessary. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the American Lung Association also encourage the regular maintenance of home heating systems and their chimneys in order to keep carbon monoxide, “the silent killer,” at bay.
Q. I don’t use my chimney very often. Do I still need to have it cleaned?
Yes. Even if you don’t use your chimney much, you may find that animals have taken up residence in your chimney flue. Other types of deterioration—water damage or crumbling masonry—may also be making your chimney unsafe. Plus an inspection will reassure you that your family is protected from carbon monoxide poisoning. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces be cleaned when sooty buildup reaches 1/8”—sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. Likewise, factory-built fireplaces should be cleaned often so that fuel buildup does not cause a chimney fire that could damage the chimney or spread to the home.
Q. There’s smoke coming from my fireplace. Is this normal?
There are a multitude of reasons for smoky fireplaces. Your flue may be closed, which means smoke cannot escape up the flue and instead comes billowing into your living area. Opening the damper is a simple fix. Your chimney may be clogged, or there may be a design error at root (for instance, a too-small flue or a too-short chimney). Whatever the cause, it’s best to have a certified chimney professional inspect your chimney to determine the best course of action.
Q. My fireplace has an unpleasant smell, especially during the hottest months of the year. What does this mean?
The smell comes from deposits of creosote which is a natural (and potentially-dangerous) byproduct of wood burning. Humidity makes this odor worse. The fireplace smell may also be exacerbated by pressure problems in your chimney. A tight-sealing, top-mounted damper can reduce this airflow. A professional chimney cleaning will go a long way to fix chimney odor, but your chimney professional may also recommend a commercial chimney deodorant to knock out the smell. A DIY approach: some homeowners have tried putting baking soda or even cat litter in their fireplace with good results.
Q. I have a gas fireplace. Does this chimney need to be inspected or cleaned, too?
Yes, definitely. In spite of gas being a clean-burning fuel, there are other potential problems with these chimneys, including a build up of birds nest or other debris. We find, too, that many modern furnaces are matched incorrectly with flues designed to vent an older generation of furnaces. A certified chimney professional can help you to rest easy knowing that you and your family are protected from gas and carbon monoxide.
Have more questions? Contact Hudson Chimney today.