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How to Get Your Chimney Ready for the Winter

Do you love spending a chilly winter evening by the fire, curled up on your couch, book in hand? It sounds lovely, doesn't it. But, there's one thing you want to make sure is in working order before the cold weather approaches—your chimney.

So, before you spark up a fire and settle in for the winter, make sure your chimney is properly maintained, inside and out, especially if you live in an area where you experience a stormy fall or winter. Here are some tips to help you prepare for cozy evenings by the fireplace.

Prepping Your Chimney for the Cooler Weather

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends having a chimney inspection performed by a chimney sweep once a year, even if you don't use it often. If you use your fireplace a lot in the winter, schedule a chimney sweep to come and clean it in the fall before you start using your fireplace.

While your chimney sweeper is cleaning out your fireplace, ask them to take a look for any damage, especially around the roofline. They'll look for loose bricks, missing mortar and any damage to the flashing, which helps create a waterproof seal between your roof and the chimney. If the chimney sweeper does spot areas needing repair, take care of it now before it can cause significant damage.

During the inspection, the chimney sweeper will also check the chimney cap. It's a protective covering with mesh screening around it that goes over the top of your chimney, which helps keep excess rain, leaves and animals from getting inside the chimney shaft. If there's damage to the cap, make sure you replace it.

You're free to use the chimney for this season once your chimney sweep has given your fireplace a thorough inspection and the thumbs up to use it safely.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Chimney Damage?

Typically, your homeowner's policy will reimburse you for repairs for chimney damage resulting from a specifically covered risk, such as a lightning strike or fire.

In addition, if a strong storm weakens a tree and it falls onto your chimney and damages it, the costs to remove the tree and repair your chimney may also be covered, depending on your policy. As part of a fall preparation checklist, walk around your property and look for damaged trees or branches that need to be removed before inclement weather hits.

What isn't covered by your homeowner's insurance policy is any damage to your chimney from neglect or improper care. For example, if you haven't inspected your chimney in years and the top crumbles, your insurance generally won't cover any damages or repairs.

Tips for Safe Fireplace Use

Once your chimney has been given the all-clear for use, here are a few tips to make sure you get the most of your fireplace: 

  • Use the proper type of wood for your fireplace. Dried hardwood such as maple, oak, ash and fruitwoods are all good choices.
  • Don't overload your fireplace with too much wood; fires that are too hot can cause damage to the inside of the fireplace or send out sparks.
  • Make sure the coals cool after the fire burns out before sweeping or vacuuming the remaining ash. Then, throw away the ash.

Maintain Your Fireplace and Enjoy It More Often

When properly maintained, you can enjoy your fireplace for years to come. That's why it's important to take care of your chimney, especially before the winter or a known stormy season in your area. Inspecting your chimney as part of your regular winter preparation can help spot any potential red flags before the damage becomes too great.

You love your home, and you want to make sure it's protected. Westfield can help. Connect with a local Westfield agent to learn about Wespak Estate, which provides a packaged service for your home and auto insurance needs.