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Santa won’t be able to come cascading down your chimney if it doesn’t meet proper safety standards. Sorry, those are the rules. Fortunately, you have time to make sure your fireplace is up to par before Saint Nick makes his annual run. 

Fireplaces are wonderful; they look beautiful when they’re lit and it’s a good way to keep your house warm without running up the power bill. But, if they aren’t taken care of, they can cause harm to you and your family. So, what are the dangers of an unsafe fireplace and what can you do to make sure your fireplace is safe? 

The top three problems caused by poorly maintained fireplaces and chimneys are carbon monoxide poisoning, chimney fires and premature failure of the fireplace and chimney. Carbon monoxide poisoning claims about 4,000 lives a year in the US. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of combustion and needs a place to be safely ventilated. Cue, the chimney. Chimneys that aren’t correctly maintained can fail to properly dispose of carbon monoxide. To make sure you’re never exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, install a carbon monoxide detector if you don’t already have one and make sure it’s working properly. Carbon monoxide detectors save thousands of lives every year. 

Chimney fires are also a result of poorly kept chimneys. When the smoke from fire comes in contact with creosote (a black or brown gummy residue that builds up in the flue of the chimney) it could catch fire. If a noise emits from your chimney that sounds like a low flying jet, odds are it’s a chimney fire. By routinely cleaning creosote out of your chimney you reduce the chances of a chimney fire significantly.

Failure of the basic structure of the chimney is possible too. Premature chimney failure is mostly caused by frequent chimney fires which threaten the integrity of its motor joints and cause cracking. The estimated average cost of fixing cracks in a chimney is $175, to rebuild a chimney from the roofline down—$1,000 to $3,000. 

There are ways to prevent costly damages to your fireplace and chimney. All these fireplace hazards are almost entirely preventable; if you use your fireplace 3 times a year or more it should be cleaned yearly. Learn more from the Chimney Safety Institute of America about how to hire a professional chimney sweep.


Shelby Kimes is a Marketing Content Writer in the marketing department for NC State Industrial Expansion Solutions. She writes marketing content for various IES and media platforms to communicate the services and values of IES. She also writes the marketing material needed to alert existing and/or potential clients of any updates within IES. She previously interned with the marketing department at Greenville Parks and Recreation in North Carolina. Shelby graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor’s in Sports Studies and a Minor in Marketing/Business Administration.