A home’s chimney is often the forgotten appliance.

Despite their important role in keeping your home free of dangerous gases and reducing the risk of a house fire, chimneys are an afterthought for many because they are typically unseen, hidden behind walls and bricks.

As a result, problems that threaten your chimney’s proper operation tend to lurk in the shadows until they are revealed by an annual inspection by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep .

Still, you may be able to identify some potential chimney problems by putting some of your five senses to work.

iStock_000016294918XSmallSight: Take a look at the top of your fireplace opening. Is it discolored, or stained a shade of black? If so, that staining is a likely indicator that smoke is entering your home, rising above the fireplace opening to create the discoloration because your chimney is not venting properly. A chimney inspection can reveal what’s causing the back up.

Smell: Some may claim to like “that fire smell,” but we sniff trouble if a smoke-like odor fills your home with each fireplace fire. A properly-working chimney should be pulling all smoke and fumes up and out of your home. If you catch a whiff that your chimney is not doing what it’s supposed to, it is time to call in an expert.

Touch: After your next fire, when the fireplace has completely cooled, run your hands along the light yellow firebricks that make up the inside of your fireplace. Does mortar break away as your run your fingers over it, or do you feel cracks in bricks or points at which bricks seem loose? Even minor abnormalities in the structure can lead to big problems down the road and should be looked at by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep.

While they can’t substitute for an annual chimney inspection, your senses could help identify a potentially dangerous chimney issue. Put them to use today for a safer tomorrow.