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By Jennifer Noonan

As days get shorter and weather gets colder, we retreat indoors to the warmth of our homes and hearths. If you have a fireplace, fall is a great time to make sure the chimney and flue are in good working order. If your assessment uncovers any issues that give you pause, call in a chimney professional to diagnose the problem before it gets big, expensive and potentially dangerous.

Exterior

Visually assess the chimney from the outside. Is it leaning? Are there any chipped bricks or masonry joints? Do you see any cracks or holes? If your chimney is factory-built metal, look for any corrosion, stains or loose sections. If your chimney is exposed to your attic, make sure to check there as well. Look for any signs indicating repairs are necessary.

Chimney cap

A good cap can reduce damage caused to a chimney by water and wildlife. Rain and snow can enter an uncapped chimney, and subsequently freeze and thaw, causing expansion damage. Small wildlife can nest in chimneys, creating clogs and potentially introducing fleas, ticks, worms and other disease-causing pests to your home. A chimney cap with screen mesh will keep animals out while shielding your roof from embers and sparks.

Leaks & stains

Inside the house, check the area around your chimney for any stains or dampness. These could be caused by faulty flashing around the chimney at the roof line, or by a damaged flue liner. If you see signs of water around your chimney, call a chimney professional right away.

Flue

Open the clean-out door from the base of the flue, located either in your basement or outside the house. Using a small mirror and flashlight to see up the flue, look for buildup of soot and also any cracks, holes or separations. If in doubt, give your chimney professional a call for a good checkup and cleaning.

Interior

Check the brickwork in your fireplace for wear. Check the damper as well — it should open and close easily. Look into the smoke chamber above the damper to check for buildup of soot. Again, call your chimney professional for service if you see any of these telltale signs.

Chimney safety should be a high priority for every homeowner. With regular maintenance, your fireplace and chimney can give you years of wonderful service. A chimney professional can spot things that even a diligent homeowner could miss. Call on a pro to do regular cleanings and safety checks as part of your home-maintenance routine. Then throw another log on the fire, sit back and enjoy.

Related:

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

About the Author

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila's Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

  • Leah Beall Eisen

    Chimney safety is often overlooked by homeowners.

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