In the unlikely event your chimney is struck by lightning during a summer thunderstorm, the one thing you don’t want to do is operate the fireplace before having the chimney thoroughly inspected. This is because a lightning strike can cause minor damage to the chimney structure – damage that a casual observer might not be able to spot.
The two key concerns with lightning are a chimney fire and damage to the chimney and related parts. Let’s look at both scenarios.
If your fireplace burns wood, there’s likely some level of the smoke byproduct creosote on the inside of the chimney liner. This substance catches fire easily. A chimney fire can be particularly dangerous, because the homeowner often won’t be aware of it right away. A fire in the chimney can actually go out on its own, but even though the fire is gone, there can be various types of damage to the chimney.
Depending on the condition of the chimney and liner, a fire can spread to other parts of the home, such as the attic, where it won’t be immediately visible.
When lightning strikes around your home, you should immediately determine if a fire has started. Chimney fires often produce a roaring or clicking sound that can be heard from inside the home. Any visible smoke will also point to a fire. Even if you don’t believe there’s a fire in the chimney, do a visual inspection of all rooms in the home adjacent to the chimney.
If you know or suspect that any size of fire is burning, contact local emergency services. Do not call a chimney sweep to put out a fire.
When lightning hits a chimney, it can cause cracking or breakage in the bricks and mortar. Significant damage is easy to spot. Minor damage might not be. If you believe your chimney has been hit by lightning, don’t start another fire in the fireplace until you’ve had a professional chimney inspector (most chimney sweeps perform this service) take a close look at the situation.
Minor damage isn’t always a major concern at the moment, but it can turn into a major problem when bricks and mortar suffer further decomposition over time. Small compromises to the structure should be sealed or repaired quickly by a professional to prevent significant and costly damage down the line.
Lightning also can damage chimney caps, crowns and flashing. Damage to any of these parts can allow water to get into the chimney system, virtually guaranteeing more extensive damage over time. Broken chimney caps and warped or damaged flashing can be replaced. Compromised crowns can be sealed or repaired, as necessary.
If lightning has struck your chimney and you’ve ruled out the possibility of a fire, you should have a thorough inspection before using the fireplace again. Chimney Solutions of Indianapolis can perform this inspection and any related repairs. We also provide full-service chimney cleaning across the Indianapolis region. For a prompt response, call us at (317) 757-6979.