Although we might not always see it, just about everything is subject to deterioration over time.
People often assume masonry materials will last forever unchanged; that they are invincible, non-combustible materials impervious to heat and flame. However, With exposure to the elements and changes in temperature, flue tiles, in composition not dissimilar from the terracotta used to pot plants, will crack, spall, or otherwise deteriorate, falling in and creating an obstruction in the venting passageway.
That’s why regular cleaning is not necessarily enough to make one’s chimney fit for use. Although regularly cleaned chimneys with cracks in the flue can operate for years with defects hidden, it might only take one session of bad burning practices (or a chimney fire) to ignite surrounding combustibles. This is due in part to pyrolysis, the process through which moisture is driven from nearby combustibles. After being exposed to heat repeatedly over the decades, wood studs in the vicinity of the fireplace become more susceptible to ignition, frequently igniting even without direct contact with flame.
That is why camera-based internal evaluation systems were introduced. During a flue scan a stabilized camera is rotated inside the chimney flue to find cracks, missing tiles, and eroded mortar lines. Clients can watch in real time as the technician locates flaws or affirms the structural integrity of the chimney flue as “a uniform surface free of defects.” Scanning the chimneys also provides documentation for the homeowner in the form of high-resolution images in reports that illustrate the areas of concern in your chimney system.
One would not go to the dentist for a cleaning and say, “Listen, I just want a cleaning, I don’t want to hear any nonsense about decay—that could end up being expensive.”
We offer our clients a general assessment based upon the codes and standards that are in place to keep everyone safe. It is incumbent upon the diligent homeowner to at least know whether or not their fireplace is fit for use based upon established standards. Home heating remains the second leading cause of structure fires in the United States (after cooking fires), and yet the structure fires related to fireplace use are entirely preventable. That’s why we at Mike’s Clean Sweeps have made an ethical commitment to technical betterment—because the safety of our clients is at stake. In this regard maintaining our credentials with continuing education is the cornerstone of what we do.
Take a look inside your chimney. You’ll be glad you did.