All News & Blogs
Certified chimney sweep Jacques Leccia cleans a chimney at a home in Lake Bluff, Ill.
Jeff Bearden / Chimney Safety Institute of America / ASSOCIATED PRESS
View More Images from this story
Visit the Photo Place
BY CAROLE FELDMAN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
People are drawn to a fire, whether they're roasting marshmallows around a campfire during the summer or cuddling up near the fireplace in the dead of winter.
And just as you take precautions outdoors, there are things you should do to make sure your fireplaces and chimneys are safe.
Fires built in fireplaces or wood stoves leave a gummy residue, called creosote, that can stick to the lining of your chimney. Creosote--created by soot, smoke, gases and other particles--is flam-mable, and can be the source of a dangerous chimney fire.
Between 2005 and 2008, an average 26,900 fires annually were blamed on fireplaces, chimneys or chimney connectors, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Experts recommend that chimneys be inspected every year by a certified chimney sweep and cleaned if necessary. The cost can range from $100 to $300 or higher.
Cleaning a chimney is not a do-it-yourself project, says Kit Selzer, a senior editor at Better Homes and Gardens. It's a dirty job, and it also can be risky, especially if you have to climb onto the roof.
Chimney sweeps are trained to determine whether chimneys are structurally sound and whether they need to be cleaned, said Ashley Eldridge, education director for the Chimney Safety Institute of America. They also will make sure the chimney is up to code, especially important in older houses.
Selzer recommends that homeowners use the institute's website, csia.org, to select a certified chimney sweep. To become certified, a sweep must pass two tests: one on the inspection proc-ess and tools, and the other on the international residential code, as it applies to chimneys, Eldridge said.
"Each job is different," said Christina El-Hage, a certified sweep with Pride Clean Chimney Sweeps in Bethesda, Md., but there are some basics.
"We're looking to make sure the flue is fully safe," she said. "We're making sure there are no third-degree burns of creosote on the lining."
Chimney sweeps also check to see if there are any birds or animals in the chimney, or anything that would block the flow of smoke. They also check that there's no water coming in.
Cleaning the chimney involves removing creosote.