Whether you’re a homebuyer with a new place that has a chimney, or you finally decided to get your chimney back in good working order, there needs to be a method to your madness.

Mistakes can happen when chimney repair and maintenance is done in a haphazard manner. Some things get overlooked that could even cause lasting damage to your chimney or fireplace.

That damage could mean up to thousands of dollars in repairs, not to mention having to go without your chimney until it’s fixed. Knowing what to look for when it comes to repairs and having a regular inspection done is the responsibility of every chimney owner.

Using fire properly keeps you and anyone else in the house safe, and it also gets the most out of your fire. It doesn’t matter if you actually need your chimney to warm the house, or you just like the ambiance of a natural fire indoors, keeping your chimney in top shape makes things easier.

There’s an order to chimney inspection and repair. Having a checklist and going through them in a methodical order will help make sure you don’t miss anything.

It’s not rocket science, but taking a little time to organize now will save you headaches in the future. Here are some things to put on the checklist to make sure your chimney keeps working great.

Chimney inspection and repair checklist

1. Get on a Regular Schedule

The first thing that should go on your checklist is either a call to the chimney sweep company or a DIY inspection appointment. Chimneys should be inspected at least once every year.

You need it to look for any oil buildups, whether you’ve got any animals nesting inside, ensure the flues are working well, and there are no issues with any other component. Failing to put it on the checklist calendar will likely result in you going years without a proper inspection.

After all, many homeowners think that if nothing is going wrong, then it must be fine. That’s true to a certain extent, but without inspections things tend to go wrong fast and cost a lot of money to make right.

2. Check the Outdoors

When we think of chimney repair, we often think of what’s unseen inside the brick structure. However, there’s a lot going on outside that can affect the way a chimney works.

One easy thing homeowners can do is survey the area around the outside of a chimney for tree branches or any other vegetation that could encroach into the chimney. Tree growth can push into a chimney and hurt its structural integrity or branches can fall inside the chimney and possibly damage something in there.

If trees or vines are getting too close to your chimney, call a maintenance company out to take care of it. If you feel confident in your own handy skills, then break out the ladder and trimmers and handle it yourself.

While you’re outside, scan the bricks to look for any cracks or erosion that could point to trouble down the road. It’s important to spot those things early so you don’t end up damaging your roof if something serious is going wrong with your chimney.

3. Get a Thorough Cleaning

This sounds basic, but a lot of people get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and forget to clean out ashes that build up over time. Ash buildup can be a health hazard inside, and it causes a lot of messes.

The regularly scheduled cleaning is a perfect time to dispose of ashes. Getting rid of ashes will also help with fire. Too much ash captures moisture that makes it hard to start and maintain a fire.

One thing that most homeowners will need professional help with is cleaning the interior walls of the chimney. Chimneys that get regular use accumulate oil called creosote on the inside of the chimney walls.

The oils are flammable and can spark up unexpectedly. If they burn too intensely, they could harm the flashing and other important parts of your chimney.

4. Make Sure you Have a Decent Wood Stockpile

While this isn’t vital to the operational well-being of your chimney, every inspection checklist should include wood supply. There’s nothing worse than inviting friends or family over for a cozy fire on a winter night only to discover you’re out of wood. Summers are a great time to stockpile high-quality dense wood that will burn forever and cost less.

Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of the winter to go looking for wood. It will be harder to find and much more expensive.

5. Do a Spot Check of All Your Chimney Parts

There are pieces to modern chimney that are critical to it working well. The flashing is a metal strip that holds the chimney to the roof line. It prevents it from shifting.

Check to see that it’s not loose. Look for any water or condensation around the flashing that could indicate that it has gotten loose and water is leaking in. Water damage over time can erode bricks and mortar and cost a lot of money to repair.

It can also drip down onto your fire and make it hard to keep the flame alive.

Chimney caps also often get broken or cracked which can lead to problems. Look to make sure that it’s in place firmly with no issues. The cap stops small animals, branches and even water from getting into your chimney.

If the cap isn’t working, then things will fall inside that can prevent the flues from opening and closing properly.

The flues also need to be cleaned. Flues are where creosote buildup is most common, so it’s important they’re inspected and repair regularly. Flue cleaning is probably best done by professionals because they have special tools to get to hard to reach areas of a chimney.

They also have the experience needed to spot creosote deposits. While they’re in there, they’ll also clean away any soot or debris that’s fallen into the flue.