An invisible killer, carbon monoxide poisoning can result from the failure of a chimney to adequately vent smoke away from a fireplace and out of the house. Chimneys obstructed by bird or bee nests can lead to insufficient ventilation, as can improperly sized chimney caps and even chimneys of the wrong height. The air tightness of modern homes also causes problems, keeping fresh air from entering and circulating through the house.
If the chimney fails to draw smoke out of the house, it might as well not be there since it exists for precisely that purpose. Signs that it is not functioning properly include smoke in the room, strong smells coming from the fireplace, falling debris, and moisture collecting inside windows. Any of these can signal a blockage in the fireplace or an excessive buildup of creosotes, either of which can lead to toxic fumes remaining in the home.
Carbon monoxide continues to claim lives every year, with hundreds of deaths attributable to this deadly gas every year, many of which are caused by blocked chimneys. Headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath are all warning signs that carbon monoxide is poisoning the air you are breathing. Causing damage to the brain and organs alike, it can even be fatal with prolonged exposure and is often mistaken for the symptoms of winter colds and flues.
One of the best ways to prevent carbon monoxide in the home is to have your chimney regularly inspected by professionals. They are trained to spot warning signs that homeowners may miss and are able to identify and correct the underlying problem. While this involves some expense, it is insignificant by comparison with the costly structural damage that may be done by failing chimneys and is obviously less important than health and safety.
Common sense steps to take include placing carbon monoxide detectors in the home and cracking windows from time to time to admit fresh air. These, however, are no substitute for a properly functioning chimney removing toxic gases from the home. Put your mind at rest and schedule a professional inspection of your chimney and fireplace.