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Here we see some examples of unsafe chimney flues. The first picture shows what a recent chimeny fire did. Fires can happen when creosote builds up from burning wood and not cleaning regularly, burning too much soft wood (example pine), or burning unseasoned wood (seasoned wood = cut, split, covered, and dried 3 years).
The picture shows the black puffy creosote along with cracks in the tiles. After a fire you may notice this creosote on your roof and even on the ground next to your house. Chimney fires can burn over 2000 degrees which often makes clay flue tiles crack from thermal shock as seen here. Thermal shock happens when the high heat of the fire meets cold air and cracks the tiles. Many people never know they have had a fire until it is inspected and others know right away by the roaring fire or neighbors seeing giant flames coming out of the top the
chimney. Big pieces of tile fell to the cleanout door on this chimney. The third picture shows the inside of a stove pipe that also had a chimney fire in it that had become clogged with creosote. The fourth picture did not have a chimney fire but has severe damage to it. The clay tiles are cracked and the mortar joints have eroded and are now offset from water getting into the flue causing damage over the years. This chimney did not have a rain cap which most likely caused the problem. Water and moisture can do lots of damage especially during the winter. Cracks in tiles and missing mortar joints no longer allow the tiles to properly contain heat and fire to the chimney which can quickly spread to the structure of your house.