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All About Carbon Monoxide

You won't know it's there until it strikes! Avoid CO poisoning through proper chimney care and maintenance.

You won’t know it’s there until it strikes! Avoid CO poisoning through proper chimney care and maintenance.

When you are using your fireplace, you probably give little thought to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning; however, the Chimney Safety Institute of America states that every year over 200 people in the United States die from carbon monoxide poisoning due to the toxic gas entering their homes due to venting problems or leaks in their heating or chimney system. Additionally, 10,000 cases of illnesses due to carbon monoxide poisoning are reported every year. Fortunately, proper maintenance of your chimney, including an annual chimney sweep and inspection from a CSIA-certified chimney sweeping company like Weststar Chimney Sweeps, can prevent any possible carbon monoxide poisoning incidents from occurring in your home.

What does carbon monoxide do to you?

Quite simply, too much carbon monoxide in your bloodstream will kill you, and low levels of exposure to carbon monoxide over a period of time can cause many health problems. Unfortunately, when carbon monoxide is in the air, the protein hemoglobin in your blood would rather latch on to carbon monoxide and ignore life-giving oxygen. Because of this, your body will replace oxygen with carbon monoxide, and this causes greater or lesser levels of your cells suffocating, depending on the duration and intensity of the exposure to carbon monoxide. Low-level exposure to carbon dioxide includes serious side effects like permanent organ and brain damage. The elderly, infants, and people with breathing issues are in more danger to carbon monoxide exposure as their immune systems are compromised. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the common cold and flu, so it can take some time to diagnose the true problem. If you continue to suffer from headaches, fatigue, or even depression, ask your doctor to check your blood levels of carbon monoxide.

How does carbon monoxide form in my chimney?

A by-product of combustion, carbon monoxide can be found in both gas and wood-burning fireplaces, stoves, and furnaces. If the combustion process is incomplete, more carbon dioxide is formed. Restricted air flow (closed fireplace doors and an unopened damper) is a cause of incomplete combustion as not enough oxygen is able to get in to burn the fuel completely.

How does carbon monoxide get into my house from my chimney?

Several factors lead to the toxic gas leaking into your home. A damaged or deteriorated flue liner allows carbon monoxide to seep through its cracks. Weststar Chimney Sweeps can easily take care of this problem by restoring a damaged flue liner with HeatShield or even replace your old liner with a new stainless steel liner. Other factors that cause carbon monoxide to enter your home are debris clogs, soot build-up, and animal or birds nests obstructing the chimney flue.

How do I prevent carbon monoxide from entering my house?

The best prevention against carbon monoxide leaks is an annual chimney sweeping and inspection from a CSIA-certified company like Weststar Chimney Sweeps. We will ensure your venting system and flue liner are in good shape, and if not, we provide chimney repair services to fine-tune your chimney so that it works efficiently and safely.

If you have any more questions about the dangers of carbon monoxide, contact Weststar Chimney Sweeps, and our staff will be happy to answer them as well as schedule a chimney sweeping and inspection to ensure your home is carbon monoxide-free.

Extend the Life of Your Chimney

Chimney systems are comprised of many parts that rely upon one another to operate at peak efficiency.  A problem with one part of the system can cause another part of the system to have to work harder to pick up the slack, thereby causing that overworked component to wear out at a much quicker rate.  This can quickly become a vicious cycle if the initial problem isn’t addressed in a timely manner.  The moral of the story here is quite simple: repair minor problems early on to prevent them from becoming major problems down the road.  Keep reading to get a better understanding of ways you can help to extend the life of your chimney.

Put a Cap on your Chimney

Installing a properly-sized chimney cap is one way to be proactive in protecting your chimney.

Installing a properly-sized chimney cap is one way to be proactive in protecting your chimney.

A chimney cap is designed to cover your chimney’s opening in order to keep water, birds and other wildlife, leaves, twigs and other debris from getting into your chimney.  Water is diverted away from the center and off the sides of your chimney.  Mesh screening on the side blocks birds, other wildlife, leaves, twigs and other debris from getting in.  Purchasing a chimney cap and having it installed by a certified chimney professional is a choice you won’t regret!

New Chimney Flashing will help Prevent Leaks

Chimneys are notorious for leaking; the source of these leaks is almost always the flashing.  It keeps water out of the chimney and protects your flue and roof.  Flashings are made from a variety of materials (e.g., aluminum, copper, galvanized steel, and/or tin).  You should have new chimney flashing installed if any of the following issues exist:

  • Your flashing is missing.
  • Your flashing is rusted through.
  • Your flashing is falling off.
  • Your flashing is completely covered with roofing tar (this is a common short-term fix that’s sure to be hiding bigger problems).

Many homeowners also opt to have new flashing installed when having a new shingle-roof installed.

Crumbling Mortar is a Definite Warning Sign

The mortar used in your chimney’s construction is exposed to various elements on the outside and heat and chemical compounds from your firebox on the inside; all of these things speed up the weathering process.  Because of this, it’s common for mortar to crumble and fall away sooner or later, which leaves open areas between the bricks.  This only makes a bad problem worse, giving rise to more issues.  During chimney repointing, the process for repairing your damaged mortar, a chimney professional will remove the damaged, old and loose mortar from the joints between the bricks and replaces it with new mortar.  It can’t be stressed enough that only a skilled professional should perform this work, as it requires an experienced hand.

Flue Liners

Problems in your chimney’s flue can present serious risks to your home and family, because it’s no longer able to perform its primary function: safely containing and venting the products of combustion to the outside of your home.  If your current liner has deteriorated, it’s recommended that you either have a new one installed or have your current liner repaired.  There are several different relining options available to you, depending on both the type of flue liner you currently have and the overall condition of your flue.  Because of the nature of the job completed by your chimney’s liner, it’s a critical part.  Every chimney must have a working liner!

Your chimney system is comprised of numerous parts, all of which are inspected by a chimney professional during your yearly chimney inspection and sweeping.  To prevent major chimney system repairs, it is of paramount importance to make minor repairs as soon as problems arise.  Some parts are in the line of fire more than others and are adversely affected by the heat, while other parts are exposed to the elements, thereby causing them to wear out faster.  Contact the team at Weststar Chimney Sweeps with any and all of your chimney service related questions.  We want you to have all of the information you need!