Do you live in a home that has a fireplace? How long has it been since you last had your chimney inspected? In general, it's important to have your chimney cleaned out and inspected annually or at least every other year if you rarely use the fireplace. It might initially seem silly to you but there are a number of reasons why it's essential to have your fireplace checked out regularly. A few of the biggest reasons include the following. 

Buildup: Although the image of a chimney with smoke lazily curling upwards is a picturesque one, the smoke itself is a hazard to your chimney. Among other things, smoke is made up of near-microscopic particles that are unburnt or only partially burnt. As these pass through the chimney, these particles can condense on the relatively cool interior of the chimney much in the same way that water vapor condenses on cool glass. Unlike steam, this smoke residue doesn't then evaporate later. It continues to collect and build up until it is either removed manually or eventually ignites due to the heat of the fire down below. Even if the rest of your home is undamaged by this happening, the fire can result in the need for sometimes expensive and extensive chimney repairs.

Cracking: Things that get hot tend to expand a bit and things that cool tend to contract; this is probably something that you learned in elementary school. This principle also applies to things like the bricks and mortar that make up your chimney. A well-built chimney obviously isn't going to start crumbling right away, but this is something that will certainly happen eventually. Without minor chimney repairs being performed as needed, this damage can build up over time to the point where the entire thing must be torn down and rebuilt in order to prevent collapse or worse.

Animal intruders: A modern chimney typically has a cap over the top that prevents birds and mammals from entering and potentially getting stuck while still allowing smoke to exit. Unfortunately, this cap can become dislodged or lost due to high winds or by being landed upon by birds. Unfortunately, it can be easy to overlook that this cap has gone missing and to light a fire without realizing that some small animal entered the chimney, became trapped, and perished within. Regular cleaning and inspection can reveal that this happened, remove any remains, and allow you to have one of the easiest chimney repairs ever; having that cap returned to its proper place.

Contact a company like Allstate Chimney Service if you suspect your need chimney maintenance.