Uncle Bobs Tips

Chimney Wear And Care

Chimney Wear And Care

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If your home has a fireplace, you've also got a chimney (If you don't have a fireplace, but want one, check out these designs ideas.) Since chimney design options vary in so many small details, it's easy to get confused or completely fail to notice this vital piece of equipment.

First thing that should be said is that chimneys do not fall within the diy category. Chimney construction and installation can be extremely risky unless you really know what you're doing. Best let the men in the funny suits deal with this one. Don't worry, there are plenty of other diy projects to keep you busy.

Though you don't want to actually install the chimney yourself, it is important to read up on a few of the more important details. Here's some information that you might find helpful.

The basic principle is this: hot air rises. The hot air produced from burning wood, gas or other alternatives, rises and causes draft (this is good!). Draft brings more air into the appliance, and pushes out the denser cold air through the chimney opening. The colder the air outside, the stronger the draft will be. Even when the chimney is not in use, there should be a minimal amount of draft flowing.

Factory-built chimneys provide better insulation to withstand high temperatures and to isolate nearby combustible material from the high gas temperature in the flue when fire is burning. By keeping flue gases warmer, creosote (a greasy liquid, often produced by wood burning, extremely flammable and dangerous if it gets out of hand) is also significantly reduced, making chimney fires less likely.

Masonry chimneys are clay or stainless steel structures protected by brick, block, stone or other strong weather resilient material. This is the quintessential chimney pictured in your mind.

When looking at chimneys, ask yourself these questions:

What type of appliance is this for?

What size is your fireplace/furnace/stove (that is, the size of the outlet collar)?

Can it withstand the intense pressure and temperatures?

Is your chimney strong enough to tolerate severe and varying weather conditions?

If you are buying or renting a home with a chimney already installed, find out:

Is your chimney properly located?

Was the chimney installed correctly?

Good signs:

Fires are easy to light, and draft builds quickly.

No smoke spillage when you open the door to tend the fire.

Bad signs:

Smoke fills the room when you try to light a fire.

A foul odor or cold air emanates from the hearth when not in use.

If you are experiencing either of the two bad signs, have your chimney maintenanced immediately.

Here are a few things you can do to keep yourself ahead of the game:

A chimney must have a proper foundation and good lining. Strong concrete foundation should extend several inches below the frost line, and high enough to support the height of the chimney. The lining prevents hazardous leakage.

Install the chimney inside the house, as centrally located as possible, not on the outside as is sometimes done mistakenly. This will help create draft, even when no fire is burning, and prevents cold air and unpleasant smells from entering your home. It will also protect your chimney from severe weather damage and extreme temperatures.

Burn smaller, hotter fires to avoid smoldering.

Keep the flue pipe assembly as short and straight as possible (try not to use right angles).

Use a sealed double-wall flue pipe.

Re-line a masonry chimney.

Re-install the chimney inside the house; or construct an enclosure or chase around an outside chimney if re-installation is unmanageable.

The flue size should be equal to the appliance flue collar, not bigger. This is important for safety and proper functioning.

If you are having trouble building or maintaining draft, you may consider adding height to the chimney. The taller the chimney the stronger the draft will be (14-16 ft is really a minimum height for efficiency). (Note this trick will only work on internal chimneys).

A proper chimney cap is imperative. Caps keep out cold air, small animals and rain, and prevent regular water leaking in and problematic wind down flow, which causes draft issues.

Learn and use proper fireplace maintenance to do your part in keeping your chimney and parts running safely and efficiently.

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