We all live busy lives and have one hundred and one different things to worry about, so it is easy to pay little or no attention to your chimney. Reliable and faithful, most chimneys will keep working flawlessly for long periods of time, but that does not mean they do not require maintenance from time to time. But many people have no real idea when their chimney needs to be swept, or leave it until the situation becomes so bad it is dangerous. This post aims to provide our customers with some basic knowledge of the symptoms of a dirty chimney so that you can be proactive rather than reactive and ensure that your chimney is performing at its best and safest.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Badly Burning Chimney?

Once you know what to look for, it is relatively easy to identify when your chimney needs to be swept. As you might expect, a dirty or blocked chimney will become much less effective over time, and could even become a danger. Here are some of the signs your chimney needs cleaning:

  • Smoke Blowing Back into the Room – The most obvious symptom is when smoke is blown back into the room. While this can tend to happen because your chimney has a particularly bad downdraft, it is an especially cold day outside, or you are not building your fires well. If you are smoking yourself out regularly with your fires, you need to get your chimney checked.
  • Visible Signs of Tar – If you notice black, sticky deposits of creosote, which are visible to the human eye, then you should call a chimney sweep immediately. This kind of creosote is most likely to be responsible for chimney fires.
  • Soot Dropping Down Your Fireplace – When the chimney is dirty and starting to become blocked, you will often notice that the excess soot no longer sticks inside the chimney but instead starts to drop back down into the fireplace. This is a symptom of a dirty chimney that needs to be swept. If you don’t have a fireplace but a wood stove instead, make sure you take some time to listen for this.
  • A Poorly Burning Fire – A good fire requires three elements to ensure that it burns well – heat, fuel, and oxygen. When a chimney needs to be cleaned, it will become increasingly difficult to light a fire, and it often will not continue to burn well. More and more air will be required to keep the burn going. This may be because there is an insufficient oxygen flow caused by a dirty or blocked chimney.
  • Signs or Sounds of Animals – When you are not using your fireplace, many birds and small animals are attracted to a chimney due to the warmth and protection from the elements. Sometimes if you listen carefully, you will hear birds in your chimney or notice numerous dropped twigs where they are trying to build a nest. In the worst-case scenario, a large nest could block the entire flue, meaning that dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide are forced back inside your home. This is one great reason to make sure you have a cap on your chimney.

Our hope when creating this article was to inform people of some of the easy-to-spot signs and symptoms that would identify a dirty chimney. If you have any questions or concerns about your chimney cleaning requirements, then contact us at our Portland, Vancouver or Salem offices. We will be glad to answer any questions you might have.

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