I love that scene in “Mary Poppins” where Dick Van Dyke sings “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Other than this memory, many folks don’t think much about their chimneys. For those of us who have them, we see and care for the looks and function of our fireplaces, but the chimneys are out of sight, out of mind. Since the weather has finally gotten seriously cold, I thought I’d look into chimney care.

Did you know there is a Chimney Safety Institute of America? What better resource is there to get information about caring for our chimneys? Why is chimney care important? Because it is the structure that ventilates our homes from gases and smoke, keeping the air inside clean and without harmful toxins, such as carbon monoxide, which could make us sick or worse.

Whether you have a masonry fireplace or a factory-built fireplace, both types and their chimneys need to be inspected regularly for defects. Unless you were present when your fireplace and chimney was built or installed, it’s always a good idea to have a professional look it over to make sure it was done properly and the specific guidelines were followed. The CSIA reports that over one-half of chimneys inspected are improperly installed. That’s a scary statistic.

Chimney materials need to be inspected for signs of damage from the effects of weathering. A chimney cover, crown or cap needs to be in good repair and able to keep rain and other elements from entering the flue.

There are a couple of situations that can create problems for the health of a chimney. Because we live in Central Texas, the need for a fireplace tends to be more for decorative purposes and/or for improved ambience. Building too large a fire in a fireplace that was installed for decorative purposes only can cause damage to both the firebox and inside the chimney. Regular inspections can determine whether this is the case in your chimney.

If birds are able to enter and build nests inside the chimney, it can cause diminished ventilation and overheating, and the nesting materials could catch fire. Chimney sweeps can usually find this and clear out the debris, which is definitely better than risking a house fire.

You can easily see the fire in your fireplace, so how would you know if you have a chimney fire? Some common signs may be a strong smell, more heat than is normal, and loud popping and/or cracking sounds that aren’t coming from your wood. Sometimes, you may not realize you have had a chimney fire. This is why professional inspections are important.

Another possibility to consider? Some things just wear out. Fireplaces and their chimneys are no exception. If you have an older home, regular inspections are definitely an important consideration. The safety of your home and family is a greater priority than a pretty fire to sit and snuggle by, right? For more information including what kind of firewood is best, where to find a professional chimney sweep, etc., go to www.csia.org.

Stay warm, my friends, and Merry Christmas to you all!

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