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About Chimney Flue Repair

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A chimney flue is a pipe or shaft inside the chimney through which smoke and harmful gases, called flue gases, are vented away from the fireplace. Typically made of ceramic, brick or some types of metals, flues can break down over time, requiring flue repair.

Depending on the number of fireplaces or stoves being vented, a single chimney might have multiple flues. There are a variety of styles and shapes for chimney flues, but they all share one thing in common: they require regular maintenance and inspection.

The most efficiently-operating flues carry gases and smoke away from the fireplace while losing a minimal amount of heat. Flues are also used to create a draft, which fires need to burn. The draft can be controlled by the damper at the bottom of the flue.

Because the gases and smoke coming from the fireplace are very hot, flues must be made of heat resistant materials. The most common construction materials are ceramic, tile, brick and some types of metal. The chimney that surrounds the flue adds another layer of fire resistance.

Over time, flues can become clogged with creosote and other byproducts of fires. Creosote, in addition to clogging the flue and preventing the proper venting of smoke and gases, is flammable. Fire safety experts say many home fires each year are caused by creosote that catches fire inside chimneys and flues.

Flues can also crack and break, requiring a replacement. Especially during winter, chimney flues have to handle big temperature gaps. Sudden and severe temperature changes can cause the brick or ceramic to crack. Cracked flues must be replaced immediately, fire safety experts say. Also, flues made of substandard materials or not installed to code must be replaced.

Chimney flues also need to be cleaned periodically. While there’s no set rule for how often this should be done, most experts suggest annual cleanings. A professional chimney sweep can perform the task, or the homeowner could decide to make it a do-it-yourself job – just make sure you have goggles, a dust mask or respirator and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Some experts also advise homeowners to schedule a chimney and flue cleaning if the creosote is one-eighth of an inch thick on the flue. If the buildup is a quarter-of-an-inch thick, there’s a significant risk of a chimney fire, experts say.

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