Sometimes I struggle with ideas for things to write about on booneyliving.com but today I’m writing about something that’s quite serious and something that recently struck very close to home. For those of you that have wood stoves to heat your homes with, you probably realize that one of the most important safety measures that you can take is to ensure that your chimney is clean and free from creosote to prevent chimney fires.
Where we live, we are required to have what is called a “spark arrestor screen” on our chimney cap. We live in the forest and we certainly don’t want a smoldering ember leaving our chimney and causing a forest fire so when we installed our wood stove, we made sure that we were in compliance with the county codes and we installed a spark arrestor screen on the chimney cap.
We’ve know that if we don’t clean the chimney screen from time to time, the chimney won’t draft quite right which could cause an increase in the amount of creosote that accumulates inside the chimney which is never a good thing. As a preventative measure, we’ve made it a habit to clean the screen on a routine basis.
While it’s good that this screen is designed to prevent forest fires, it does require a little bit of extra maintenance. It’s usually not that big of a deal and it doesn’t take much time. All we have to do is occasionally clean the screen with a wire brush.
From time to time, my husband simply climbs up on the roof and runs a wire brush over the screen which does a really good job of cleaning away any soot that might be starting to accumulate. He routinely does this in the winter time when there is snow on the roof and even though we have a corrugated metal roof, the pitch isn’t very steep so he’s never had a problem with slipping on it.
At least I could say that he’s never had a problem until yesterday. Unfortunately for him, the conditions were just right for a slip and fall accident. It had been foggy most of the day and towards evening when he decided to climb up on the roof and clean the chimney screen, the temperatures had dropped below freezing. Ironically enough, as he was climbing up the ladder, he remembered thinking to himself that he didn’t need to worry about slipping and falling because there was no snow on the roof.
What he didn’t realize was that the fog had left a thin layer of water droplets on the metal roof which ultimately froze into a very thin layer of ice when the temperature dropped below freezing. Yesterday’s chore of cleaning the chimney screen started off like any other time that he had done this chore. He climbed the ladder, walked to the highest point of the roof, took one step over the ridge and his feet suddenly came out from underneath him. He immediately started sliding down the roof until his hand snagged on one of the sheet-metal screw heads. This was enough to spin him around until his hip caught on another screw head. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop him from sliding and just before going over the edge, his pants caught on yet another screw head which ultimately stop him from plummeting over the edge.
He was extremely fortunate as his only injuries were a few cuts and bruises. He very easily could have broken his neck, back, or even died!
Whenever Possible, Hire a Professional!
We’ve always tended to be self-reliant people so we try to do whatever we can ourselves but the message of today’s article is that when it comes to getting up on your roof and performing chimney maintenance during freezing temperatures, this chore is best left to a professional. That’s my official advice to anyone who reads this article. Now, I know my husband way too well to believe that he’ll follow my advice. I’m sure that the next time the chimney needs to be cleaned or the chimney screen needs to be cleaned, he’ll climb right up that ladder to do it himself.
If You’re Going to Get on Your Roof, Use Proper Safety Equipment
Since I know my husband and I know that he’ll climb right back up there the next time the chimney needs to be cleaned, I know what he’s getting for Christmas this year. He’s getting an extra long rope and a good safety harness! I don’t advise anyone to climb on their roof during the winter or when there’s any possibility of sliding off. As a matter of fact, as mentioned before, I strongly feel like this chore should be left to the professionals. Unfortunately, I know my husband won’t listen to me but I can guarantee you one thing, his near-death experience yesterday scared him enough that HE WILL be using the proper safety equipment to ensure that he is safely roped off in the event that he should slip the next time he climbs up there to perform the routine maintenance.
If you are like my husband and bound and determined to do this yourself, please make sure that your roof isn’t icy or slick when you climb up there and that you have all the necessary safety equipment!
We love our wood stove but I hate seeing my husband climb up on our metal roof when it’s time to perform chimney maintenance. For anyone who’s reading this article, I plead with you to make sure that you use the proper safety equipment if you should choose to make the decision to climb up on your roof to perform chimney maintenance.
While we’re on the subject of wood stoves, you might want to read this article before you leave: Keep Things Green By Only Burning Seasoned Wood In Your Wood Stove.