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Handyman: Get your chimney ready for Santa

DetroitNews-Unknown

Are you ready to receive the big guy and all his presents? Chimney and fireplace maintenance is one thing that should always be on your fall to-do list, but too often it gets put on the back burner.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you should have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually to get rid of the soot and creosote that builds up and make sure there are no other issues, such as cracks or dislodged bricks that need to be repaired. Annual maintenance will ensure the fire in your fireplace doesn’t lead to a structural fire that can burn down your home.

In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, cpsc.gov, estimates that 22,300 structural fires were the result of chimney problems annually from 2011 through 2013, the latest available statistics.

While most chimney fires are found in wood-burning fireplaces, carbon monoxide poisoning can be a concern for those with gas logs.

Patrick Raleigh of Emmett’s Energy, (586) 752-2075, emmettsenergy.com, said if you have a vent-free system, the gas used is never more than 40,000 BTUs and is combusted at 99 percent, so the chances of having carbon monoxide issues is minimal.

“However, if you have a vented gas log system, it can use between 60,000 and 90,000 BTUs so some gas can escape unburned,” Raleigh said. “That’s why it is vital that you always have the damper open when you turn on the fireplace so any unburned gas will go up your chimney rather than into your home.”

A common complaint from people who have vented gas-log systems is the soot that collects on the logs, which is caused by incomplete combustion of the gas. But Raleigh said brushing them regularly with a soft-bristle brush is still the best way to keep them clean.

“We have seen insects like spiders actually spin a cocoon as thick as a cotton ear swab tip inside the pilot, and we have to take it apart and clean it so the gas will flow properly,” Raleigh said.

When looking for a chimney sweep, make sure they have the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s (CSIA) Certified Chimney Sweep designation.

Two in our area that have this designation include Doctor Flue, (800) 438-3583, doctorflue.com, and Home Care Chimney, (586) 336-1977, homecarechimney.com.

You can also search for others at the CSIA website, csia.org. But it is the busy season for chimney sweeps, so don’t be surprised if it is after the holidays before they can get to your home.

It is always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher ready. Check the pressure gauge to ensure it is in the “green,” and make sure the safety pin is intact and the nozzle unobstructed.

You may also want to add a portable aerosol fire extinguisher such as the Tundra Fire Extinguisher Spray from First Alert, firstalert.com.

If you have a gas-log system, you also want to make sure the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector are new and the unit is working properly.

Just like other areas of your home, preventative maintenance is vital so you can enjoy your fireplace safely this winter.

For more home improvement advice, call “The Handyman Show With Glenn Haege” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can also be heard on more than 135 radio stations nationwide.