There's something beautifully simple about a fireplace. Wood is burnt, the smoke goes up your chimney, you sit back and enjoy the warmth, and it seems as straightforward as that. However, there's a bit more to modern residential chimneys than this. How long has it been since your chimney's flue liner had any attention? If it's been a while (or perhaps it's been never), your chimney might begin to experience some problems.
A Potential Hazard
The flue liner is an essential safety feature of your chimney, and when it's broken, your chimney will not only be inefficient, but it can actually become a hazard. The lining helps to direct smoke upwards and out of the chimney, while also acting as heat insulation. Even though the action is taking place in the fireplace itself, the expelled air and smoke are extremely hot. The flue liner protects your home from this extreme heat, and a broken flue lining is a potential fire risk.
There are some key signs of a broken chimney flue, and you might first notice that the heat produced by your fireplace has become inconsistent. At times, it might be producing more heat than it usually does, and other times, it might be that it's simply not warming up the room as quickly as it should. Without an intact lining, the flue is unable to regulate the chimney's heat. That heat is escaping into your ceiling, exposing your home's frame, drywall, and brickwork to an unacceptable level of heat.
Debris in the Firebox
Because your chimney is having trouble regulating itself, the remaining portions of your flue can become damaged. The shales that make up this flue liner can detach and fall into the fireplace. This is difficult to spot since the pieces aren't all that easy to identify once they've become mixed with the ashes in your firebox. Still, if you notice strange debris in the firebox that couldn't have come from something you've burned, this could be part of your damaged flue lining.
Call a company that offers residential chimney repair services and tell them that you suspect your chimney flue lining has become damaged. They'll use a special camera (similar to a plumber's sewer camera) to perform a visual inspection of the flue's interior, so they'll be able to locate any damage to the lining. This must be replaced at once, and you shouldn't use your chimney until this has happened.
While a residential fireplace is simple enough, you can't forget the importance of the components you can't actually see, like the lining of your chimney flue.