Q. My wife and I live with our two children in a home that was built in the 1930s and have a wood burning fireplace. We use it occasionally when we are going to be home for a few hours and have some time to tend to it. It has a set of glass doors and is masonry construction. We open the damper lever when are going to use it and after it has completely gone out. The next day we close the damper to keep from losing our heat. We had our chimney cleaned a couple of years ago and the service man said there were some small hairline cracks in our flue liner but nothing that was unusual for the age of our house and everything seems to be working fine. How often should we have the chimney cleaned and should I think about replacing the flue liners? — Robert of Ashley

A. You should have your fireplace inspected and cleaned annually even if you only use it a few times a year. If the flue is not too dirty the cleaning process will be easier and should be lower cost. If the fireplace hasn’t been cleaned in several years it might be a bigger job to clean it.

The inspection part of the service is invaluable and should be done by an experienced chimney sweep for safety and peace of mind.

If the flue liners are cracked, this should be addressed and replaced. If hot air and sparks make their way into these cracks and out of the flue, they are a fire risk.

In addition, if water or moisture from the exposed flue gets into the cracks, they can then freeze and expand causing flue and chimney damage.

Creosote that is developed by burning wood is deposited on the sides of the flue liner. If this goes uncleaned it can build up and there is the chance of a flue fire, which would be quite dangerous.

Jeff Deahl is past president of the Builders Association of Northeast Indiana. Questions for the Square Corners column may be submitted to jeff@craftsman-design.com.

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