Come winter, there’s a lot to worry about in terms of home maintenance, especially here in the Capital District area. Frozen pipes, broken down masonry, a faulty healing system, and ice in your driveway are just a few of many things to concern yourself with! Fortunately, if your fireplace and chimney are well cared for, you at least have a cozy fire to come home to at the end of it all.
But wait… Have you recently looked up at your chimney only to notice an alarming amount of snow and ice building up on top of it?
In our neck of the woods, it’s not uncommon for temps to reach below freezing and for us to experience day after day of snowfall. And this can sometimes lead to dangerous issues when it comes to buildup on your chimney cap. If you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to give our qualified crew a call – we’re here for you!
Snow on Your Chimney Cap: Why & When It’s Dangerous
So, obviously there will be some snow and ice on your chimney cap from time to time, so let’s start by saying a normal amount of buildup isn’t something to stress about. And if the temps in your area are consistently going above freezing and allowing some of the snow and ice to melt before dropping again, you should be just fine to continue using your fireplace without concern.
But every now and then, we get day after day after day of cold, snowy weather, and it’s during these times when you may need to worry.
If the snow and ice isn’t regularly melting, it could eventually block up your flue, which will then hinder ventilation and put your home and family at risk. Not only will you experience inefficiency, but your chances of smoke or carbon monoxide exposure will go up significantly, too.
Another concern about ice on your chimney cap is its potential to damage the cap itself. Rusting or cracking could easily occur, which will then leave you vulnerable to water invasion, animal entry, clogging, downdrafts, and more.
What Causes the Ice to Form in the First Place?
So, why is this area especially prone to ice accumulation?
Well, as the smoke, fumes, and heat from your fires get closer to the top your chimney, they cool down. This causes them to condensate, and when temps are below freezing, this condensation quickly turn to ice that then builds up around your cap. And when it stays extra cold for days on end, this ice can eventually cause some serious blockages.
Can I Prevent Ice Build Up?
So, controlling Mother Nature clearly isn’t an option, but is there anything homeowners can do to try and minimize ice buildup during these colder stretches?
We’ve got some suggestions.
- Burn Seasoned Wood: Burning seasoned wood is beneficial in numerous ways (like for burning cleaner/hotter fires and reducing creosote accumulation), and it can help you minimize ice buildup, too. Seasoned wood will have less moisture, which means fewer acidic water vapors will be traveling up your flue – and you’ll experience less condensation as a result.
- Invest in a Top-Sealing Damper: Because they seal at the top of your flue, as opposed to the throat, top-sealing dampers ensure your entire chimney stays warmer on those colder winter days. And if your flue is warmer when you first light your fires, there will be less cooling and condensing as smoke reaches the top.
- Warm Up Your Flue: If you warm your flue before lighting a fire, the smoke and fumes will move up and out more quickly, thus leaving less time for things to linger and condensate. Don’t know how to do this? The best way is to simply tightly roll a newspaper, light it, then hold it up inside of your chimney until the cold airflow reverses.
- Insulate Your Stainless Steel Liner: If you have a stainless steel liner, you should have insulation options, which (like the top-sealing damper) keeps your flue warmer when not in use and minimizes condensation once fires are lit.
- Schedule an Inspection: Sometimes the problem has more to do with the size and shape of your chimney than anything else. Get an inspection on the books to see if any adjustments are needed to improve efficiency and give you a better fireplace experience overall. We could also check out if you potentially need a different cap or some type of device that could aid with airflow.
Do You Own Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors?
Now, all this talk about the potential for smoke and carbon monoxide exposure leads us to our next important question… Do you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home? If not, doing so as soon as possible is a must! In fact, we suggest not using your fireplace until this is done.
Most companies suggest installing these devices on every level of your home, as well as outside all sleeping areas, ensuring people can hear them wherever they’re at and even if they’re asleep. And have them linked up! That way if one upstairs goes off, all the ones downstairs will go off, too.
Also, make sure you’re testing them every month, replacing batteries on them twice a year (like when you change your clocks for daylight savings), and checking the manufactures instructions to see when the units should be replaced (typically every 5 – 10 years).
We’ve Got Your Back!
If you need quality care, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of professionals. Simply call or reach out online to get started. We’re here for you!