Is my fireplace safe?
I purchased a home with a fireplace but am not sure if it is safe to use it for firewood. The chimney is very high up on a steep roof and I can't get anybody to climb up there and check it out or clean it. So, my question is if there is some kind of test method to find out if there is suction so that I won't put the house on fire..
There are several things that you should do to ensure that you have a safe chimney for burning firewood.
The first step would be to hire a CSIA certified chimney sweep to inspect your chimney. These professionals are specially trained to inspect chimneys and determine if they are safe to be used. Regardless of how high or steep your roof is, they will be able to inspect it. Chances are, especially if you've never used the fireplace, it could at least use a good cleaning. A chimney sweep will be able to let you know. You can find one by visiting the CSIA website and using their chimney sweep locator tool.
If you don't hire a chimney sweep (which you should) and still want to use the fireplace, it's a good idea to do a quick test to make sure that the chimney is drafting properly.
First, make sure that the chimney damper is open. There is usually a lever at the top of the firebox to open and close the damper. Make sure that the damper is open and take a rolled up piece of newspaper and light it. Make sure the smoke is going up the chimney and not into your living room! This is safer than testing it out with a roaring fire. Additionally, this will warm up your flue which will allow for the chimney to draft better when you first get your fire started.
So, in conclusion, hire a CSIA chimney sweep to take a look at your situation. At a cost of less than $100, it's certainly worth the price. Any problems will be identified from the inspection and you will shortly be enjoying your fireplace. Good Luck!