This article was crafted with the help of Michael Boudart of Lindemann Chimney Co.

Unless you have a fireplace and use it often, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your chimney. Nevertheless, even homes without fireplaces have “chimneys,” and they’re a vital part of a building’s infrastructure. A chimney’s purpose is to safely vent heat and combustion products outside the home and away from any system that generates them; in addition to fireplaces, this includes commonplace features such as furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters, and ovens. Because chimney negligence can have dangerous consequences, we talked to Michael Boudart, president of Lindemann Home Services in Chicago, to learn what steps you can take to ensure your chimney does its job.

1. Have Your Chimney Inspected and Cleaned

While you can take care of basic fireplace cleaning tasks on your own, due to safety concerns, chimney cleaning should only be performed by a professional. According to Michael, “Anybody who’s using a fireplace to burn wood should have the chimney looked at by a chimney professional annually, and chimneys that are not related to a fireplace should be looked at every few years for signs of deterioration.”

It’s very unlikely that you’ll become aware of a problem with your chimney without a professional inspection, since chimney problems don’t always manifest in obvious ways. Additionally, if you do use your fireplace, you don’t want to allow the creosote—or ash residue—to build up. If the layer of creosote inside your chimney gets too thick, Michael says, “It can become a source of fuel and burn.” Read more about creosote.

Put a Cap in It2. Put a Cap on It

Michael points out that chimneys are roof penetrations; although they are intended to vent noxious gases outside your home, they also provide a convenient way for things to get inside. While simply making sure the damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use will minimize the amount of cold air that blows in, keeping rainwater out requires a chimney cap. Michael states, “The chimney is a pretty common source of water leaks, and basements and attics are common places to find chimney problems. Attics in particular are great places for mold because the water comes in between the roof and the chimney and then gets the insulation or rafters and roof joists wet.” Additionally, while you may not expect a leaking chimney to affect the basement, that’s where most furnaces and water heaters are located, and water tends to drain out where they connect to the chimney.

Keep Critters Out3. Keep Critters Out

In addition to a chimney cap that keeps rain out, Michael stresses the importance of installing a proper animal screen. He says, “Squirrels and raccoons love to make homes in chimneys, especially in the fall, because they’re warm. The other problem is that animals tend to take up residence by building a nest of some sort, and that nest prevents your flue from venting properly.” Most chimney caps come equipped with an animal deterrent, but it’s a good idea to check with a chimney professional to make sure yours is sufficient.

In general, chimney care is best left to the experts. However, you can help to keep your chimney working properly by being aware of possible obstructions and leaks, getting it regularly looked at by a professional, and building fires safely if you have a fireplace. Learn what you should never burn in a fireplace. If you’re concerned about your chimney for any reason, get in touch with a local Best Pick chimney specialist.

This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Lindemann Chimney Co., a Chimney & Fireplace Work Best Pick in Chicago. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.

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