A chimney with a blue sky behind it.

What Are the Common Signs of a Chimney Fire?

A chimney fire is a serious problem that you might not realize you’ve had or are having until it’s too late. Even if the fire happened in the past, the damage done to your chimney might affect its structural integrity as well as its functionality. Learn about the common signs of a chimney fire to keep your family and home safe — and when to contact emergency chimney repair professionals.

Warning Signs of a Current or Former Chimney Fire

Creosote Buildup

Creosote is a type of debris inside your chimney that collects because of wood preservatives. When you use your stove or fireplace, creosote deposits form when wood catches fire and smoke carries debris out through the chimney. Some creosote buildup is normal and is impossible to avoid entirely.

However, one of the first signs of a chimney fire you might see is honeycomb-shaped or “puffy” creosote deposits. This is important to take care of because it is a circular problem if not addressed — creosote creates more potential for a chimney fire the more it is allowed to build up because it is extremely flammable. You can do your part to keep creosote buildup to a minimum by only burning properly seasoned wood. Never burn green wood, construction wood, or scrap wood because it will combust inconsistently. Never use your fireplace or stove to dispose of garbage, either. 

Flue Damage

Your chimney flue is essentially the “inner lining” of your chimney. It serves to protect your chimney from interior damage from heat. Unfortunately, that means it is often the first part of your chimney that’s seriously harmed by fires. Common signs of chimney fires can be found by examining your flue closely for any cracks in flue tiles, melted pieces, or warping and discoloration. Any problems with your flue are a red flag because your flue also protects the structure of your house around the chimney, meaning you’re exposing your home to a serious fire hazard any time you use a chimney with a damaged flue. If your flue is damaged, you will need chimney repair as soon as possible before you start using your fireplace or stove again.

Roof Damage

Burning chimneys can cause roof damage if left unchecked or if the fire is hot enough. This might look like heat damage to the roof itself or melting or scorching of objects on the roof, such as television antennae. A roof affected by a chimney fire can compromise your entire home because the roof is your last line of defense between yourself and the elements. Contact chimney services professionals as soon as possible if you discover roof damage you think may be due to a chimney fire.

Masonry Damage

One of the most straightforward signs of a chimney fire is damage to your chimney itself. If there are cracks in your brickwork, you see smoke coming from the sides of the chimney rather than the top, or your chimney cap is warped or discolored, knw that these are all signs you may have a current or former chimney fire on your hands. Another kind of masonry damage to watch out for is structural heat damage to your home’s support beams, walls, or ceilings. If you see any of these problems around or nearby your chimney, a chimney fire might be the culprit.

Urgent Signs of a Chimney Fire

Strange Sounds

One of the unexpected but common signs of a chimney fire is strange sounds coming from your chimney when you are not using your fireplace or stove. If you hear loud popping or crackling when you are not burning any wood, or if you hear a loud roaring sound like a jet engine taking off, evacuate your home and dial 911 before contacting emergency chimney repair services. Do not return until you have been cleared to do so.

Unusually Dense or Excessive Smoke

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire — in your chimney, this adage applies literally. If you’re seeing smoke while you’re not using the chimney, or the smoke is excessive, odd-smelling, or dense, evacuate your home, call 911, and contact a professional chimney service right away.

Visible Flames

If you see your chimney literally catch fire, this is another time you need to evacuate your home and dial 911 before you contact emergency chimney repair professionals. Flame should not be shooting from or sparking from the top or sides of your chimney. Your chimney is not designed to catch fire and it can and will cause damage to your roof and possibly the rest of your home if left unchecked.

Chimney Safety 101

Now that you know the signs of a chimney fire, how can you prevent chimney fires in the future? As mentioned before:

  • Only burn properly seasoned wood in your fireplace or wood stove
  • Do not burn garbage or anything inflammable
  • Keep an eye on creosote deposits
  • Make sure your chimney has adequate draft
  • Schedule regular chimney inspection
  • Schedule routine chimney cleaning and maintenance

It’s important to keep your chimney clean; a clean chimney can’t catch fire. Regular maintenance is an essential part of a healthy and structurally sound chimney and should only be performed by certified chimney sweeps due to the hazardous nature of fire, soot, and gas.

If you take good care of your chimney, you won’t have to worry about any fires now or in the future. Looking for a chimney sweep in Morristown, NJ, or the surrounding areas? Give Davis Brothers Chimney Sweep & Masonry a call today!