Let's face it. Chimneys are beautiful, but they sure can be expensive.

Year in, year out, you worry about the brick work rotting away or the creosote on the inside. It's a hassle.

Creosote can be fairly innocuous until it builds up in large amounts on the lining of the chimney. Overexposure to the substance can cause burning of the mouth and eyes, or cause an upset stomach. If creosote is somehow ingested, it can also cause damage to the liver and the kidneys.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has even suggested that the substance could become carcinogenic to those who are exposed to it for an extended period of time.Creosote can also cause house fires. The substance is flammable and when it builds up in excess in a chimney, the heat from a fire can cause the creosote to ignite.

The most important thing to know about a creosote fire is its potential to spread very quickly throughout the home, often without any warning.

According to a study conducted by the Fire Analysis and Research Division of the National Fire Protection Agency, the leading factor contributing to home heating fires was failure to clean creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.Contractors that specialize in chimney cleaning, such as chimney sweeps, are equipped to detect potential dangers as well as the best methods for removal of creosote. It is recommended that you clean your chimney, at least once a year.


A common reason for why animals get into your chimney – and sometimes your living room – is that you lack a chimney cap. And, even if your chimney has a cap, if will fail to deter animals if damaged or improperly installed. In order to make sure that those pesky critters don’t reside in your chimney, you must have a properly-fitted chimney cap. You should also be sure to have animals’ nesting debris and biological waste removed; otherwise, such things can be a fire or health hazard to you and your family.

Removing dead animals is usually a straight forward process. For live animals, (depending on the the type of animal and the situation) you may use a potent, non-toxic humane solution to ward off the animal when they won’t budge on their own. The traditional go-to solution here is Apple Cider Vinegar. You may employ another method to get smaller animals, like chipmunks, to leave on their own if they are unable to climb the walls of the chimney by themselves- leave a rope dangling down the inside of the chimney so they can climb out. A larger diameter rope will ease their climb.

#3 - ODORS

Chimneys can be smelly. And you can usually bet that if you have a smelly chimney, there's most likely a problem inside. Maybe your chimney smells particularly smoky or musty or campfire-like. Or maybe it smells like something crawled up there and died inside; it’s very possible that something did.

Lots of people romanticize “that cozy chimney smell,” but the truth is that a chimney that’s been well-maintained should have very little odor.

Water penetration is one of the main causes of fireplace odor. Creosote which is the sticky byproduct created during the distillation of tar is a highly-flammable substance and is largely removed during a routine chimney sweep. However, when creosote builds up and is exposed to water, it can have an especially powerful and obnoxious odor.

Please note that it’s important not to use a chimney deodorizer without consulting a certified chimney professional first. You may be masking a very real problem if you don’t address the cause of the odor before attempting to destroy it.


Much like your body or your car, preventive maintenance can pay dividends in the long run.

Having your chimney checked out periodically can save you from those massive repair bills down the road.

Many chimney sweeping companies employ a Chim-Scan camera to visually inspect the interior of your camera, as well as training technicians to recognize any issues in the brick, mortar, or chimney accessories.

Things to look out for include:

  • Deteriorating mortar and masonry

  • Missing chimney cap

  • Flashing is cracked or torn

  • Excessive creosote buildup

  • Cracked chimney crown

If not addressed quickly, many of these issues can become problematic and costly in due time. Regular inspections can allow you to get ahead of these issues and save yourself money in the long run.


Make no mistake, carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic and dangerous gas.

Even at low levels, CO can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion and fainting. A blocked chimney or a chimney with an improperly functioning flue can cause a buildup of this dangerous gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning claims about 4,000 lives a year in the U.S., and a significant number of these deaths are the result of poorly maintained chimneys. In addition, about 10,000 people are made ill by lower levels of exposure to carbon monoxide. This is why it is critical to have your chimney examined and swept to make sure your flue is clear before using the chimney.

One of the reasons carbon monoxide is so deadly is that you generally can’t see or smell it: rarely do its victims have any warning. Low levels of poisoning tend to cause flu-like symptoms, so that people think they are just catching a cold. More advanced poisoning can cause vomiting and headaches and even death. Carbon monoxide is deadly because it tricks the body into thinking it is oxygen. The body actually prefers carbon monoxide, choosing it over oxygen when both are present in the atmosphere.

Once in the body, carbon monoxide goes everywhere in the body, including the brain. Children, in particular, are quite susceptible to brain damage after relatively low levels of exposure.

Many chimneys have internal issues that left untreated can cause carbon monoxide problems on with little or no warning. Rather than waiting until you have an emergency, chimney inspections can help you keep up to snuff and avoid calling the fire department out for a carbon monoxide alarm.

For the sake of your home and your family, call River City Chimney & Hearth, a chimney company you can trust and have your chimney cleaned and inspected regularly. We are the premier chimney sweeping and inspection company in the Omaha-Metro area as well as Southwest Iowa.

To set up an appointment, call River City Chimney & Hearth at (712) 566-9371.

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River City Chimney & Hearth
23767 McPherson Ave
Council Bluffs, IA 51503
(712) 566-9371

Store Hours:

Mon - Fri : 9AM-5:30PM

Sat : 9AM - 2:00PM


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