Inspecting your chimney and its liners

Published: 17th July 2009
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Inspecting Your Chimney And Its Liners
If you have a chimney, when was the last time you replaced your liner? If that question stumps you, then it might be time to investigate the situation a little and probably even consider having your chimney inspected. You may be due for a new liner.

Although chimneys are designed to withstand nearly anything, it would seem, the truth is they aren't quit as indestructible as we might think they are. The liners in particular could easily lose their former stability and be a factor in a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning by permitting the escape of gases and/or burning embers.

If you do, indeed, find that you need to have new liners installed, there are a number of different options open to you. The fireplaces of today are not the fireplaces of old - which is a good thing for homeowners. The fireplaces of today are not necessarily simply made of brick. Many are made of a variety of more supple materials. This allows you to replace the liners without essentially rebuilding the entire chimney.

But first, of course you will need to find out if you actually need a new liner. To do that it is best to have your chimney inspected by someone who knows what they're looking for. And where would you go for such a service? Well, to a chimney sweep. Though many may have the idea that chimney sweeps don't actually exist anymore, the truth is they are as popular as ever. As more and more homeowners are putting fireplaces into their homes, the business of chimney sweeping as become an important element in making sure we keep our homes safe. A chimney sweep will install, clean and maintain your chimney so as to keep it in working order and safe to use.

One of the chimney sweep's main jobs is to look for potential fire hazards, as well as blockages in your chimney. This is especially important for those who have a gas fireplace. If a homeowner with a gas fireplace has blockage in their chimney, the fumes can easily build up inside the home. A chimney sweep may do an initial inspection of your chimney, and then depending on what they find, they may suggest a more in-depth inspection.

Although there are chimney sweeps who do this type of inspection for a living, you should keep in mind in most localities there is no government oversight or industry regulators. In addition to asking friends and neighbors for suggestions of someone they trust, you might also call your local fire department or even the appropriate local government office to see what they recommend

Why Sweep a Chimney
Professional Chimney Sweeps Offer a Range of Safety Services

Many homeowners wonder why a chimney is swept. Chimneys are swept to remove residues in the chimney which can block the flue and prevent proper drafting, and to remove flammable deposits which can cause a chimney fire.

All types of appliances which burn fuel and vent to the outdoors should be inspected annually and swept when needed such as:

-Chimneys that need annual inspection -Fireplaces that burn wood or gas -Chimneys serving wood stoves -Water heater flues & furnace flues -Vented gas hearth products: gas fireplaces, gas freestanding stoves, gas logs & gas inserts WOOD BURNING FIREPLACES & WOOD STOVES

Wood smoke occurs because not all the chemicals in wood can be burned by your fireplace or wood stove. Smoke contains tiny, unburned but flammable solid particles which adhere to the walls of your chimney which are called creosote. As these deposits accumulate, a stray spark from your fire can ignite them causing a chimney fire.

Chimneys and connector pipes (such as the black pipe connecting a wood stove to the chimney) are designed as a passageway for smoke which passes through at relatively low temperatures; they are not built to withstand chimney fires, which can burn in excess of 2000 degrees. A chimney fire can destroy the mortar in a masonry chimney which can cause a chimney to collapse or allow the fire to spread to the framing members of your home. Sometimes a first chimney fire will "only" crack the flue tile liners. This situation is dangerous because a subsequent chimney fire now has an easy pathway to the walls of your house, allowing for massively destructive and dangerous house fires. When you have been advised that your flue tiles are cracked, it is time to take action and have the chimney repaired! PREFABRICATED FIREPLACES

Pre-fab fireplaces are a particular concern to chimney sweeps. Although highly regulated and safety tested in the lab, too often we find hidden dangers due to improper installation. Installation defects such as improper clearances, improperly connected pipe and substitute components combined with overfiring and general deterioration can lead to home fires. A prefabricated fireplace system that has suffered a chimney fire should never be reused and should always be replaced according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Furnaces that use oil or gas also produce dangerous byproducts. First, the fumes that are being vented are generally more dangerous than wood smoke because they contain higher levels of carbon monoxide than wood smoke. Leaky connector pipes, improper flue sizing and other chimney problems such as cracked flue tiles, oversized flues or undersized flues and structural defects or deterioration can all lead to fumes entering your home. Carbon monoxide cannot be seen and cannot be detected by the human nose.

Visible soot in the house is one indication of a problem with your furnace and it's venting system. Visible soot means you need to call your furnace repair company, but also your chimney sweep! Your chimney exists to carry fumes and soot away from the living space, so even a faulty furnace should send soot up the chimney. Sooty walls may indicate a problem with the furnace, but this ALWAYS indicates a problem with the venting!

Oil soot is particularly nasty to deal with. It is harder to remove and we use specialized equipment to deal with it. Soot from gas furnaces and water heaters is less likely, but an annual inspection can help identify problems and correct them before a small problem becomes hazardous.

Annual cleaning and inspections are very important to the safe and efficient operation of your home's central heating system. The chimney sweeping process averages one to two hours.

Stainless steel resists corrosion, maintains it's strength at high temperatures and is easily maintained. For these reasons, it is used widely in items such as automotives, home and food processing products, as well as medical and health equipment. The most common types are: 304; 316; 316Ti; 316L; 29-4C.

316TI Stainless Steel
316TI is a stainless steel alloy with a small amount of titanium added. It's make-up allows it to resist acids and the stresses of hot and cold cycles. It can be used with solid fuels (wood, coal and pellet), gas and oil. It can withstand temperatures up to 2100 degrees.

316L Stainless Steel
316L chimney liner metal is commonly found in some thicker flexible chimney liners as well as in rigid chimney liners. The titanium is left out because of the added thickness of liners made from 316L stainless steel. 316L stainless steel is acceptable for use with coal, wood, gas or oil systems.

304L Stainless Steel
304L is best for chimneys venting a wood burning appliance. This alloy is commonly found in rigid chimney liner.

The most commonly specified austenitic (chromium-nickel-stainless class), it accounts for more than half of the stainless steel produced in the world. This grade withstands ordinary corrosion in architecture, is durable in typical food processing environments and resists most chemicals.

Al 29-4C Stainless Steel
This chimney liner metal alloy is used most often when relining a masonry chimney or clay lined chimney that will vent a modern high efficiency gas or oil furnace.

It is an alloy of stainless steel that is highly resistant to corrosion. It is used for relining flues where flue gases may contain highly corrosive elements. Being that most of the heat generated by such a high efficiency appliance goes into the home, the flue gas temperatures tend to be relatively low.

Low flue gas temperature keeps moisture in the flue gases from evaporating and being eliminated up the flue. The combination of moisture in the flue gas along with other chemicals that may be inducted into the flue from the surrounding environment, such as those from chemical cleaners and laundry supplies, can contribute to a very corrosive flue gas composition.

AL29-4C is made to resist such corrosive environments over a long period of time.

For more information call :Chimney Liner Depot (800) 943-1515

or go to

Glen Kellogg is a certified chimney professional that has single hanidly revolutionize the do it yourself chimney repair industry.

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