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Regular chimney cleaning helps your chimney to function efficiently and safety, boosting the chimney’s function and reducing the risk of chimney fires. But how often do you need a professional chimney sweep? It’s an important question to which there is no one right answer. However, understanding how often you should sweep your chimney is important to keep your fireplace in top condition.
Why is Chimney Cleaning Important?
Chimney cleaning helps to remove buildup of ash, soot, dust and debris from inside your chimney, and most importantly helps remove creosote. Creosote builds up on the inside of chimneys and flues when wood fuel is burned. The less efficiently wood is burned, the more quickly creosote builds up. This makes it difficult to determine when a fireplace needs cleaning based on usage alone. One fire where the wood is burned inefficiently may contribute much more creosote than many fires where the wood is burned properly. Creosote is highly flammable and can trigger a chimney fire if left to build up to more than 1/4 inch. Regular cleaning helps to remove buildup such as creosote and keep your chimney safe from fires.
How Often Should You Clean Your Chimney?
Because the degree of creosote buildup can vary depending on how wood is burned, it can be tricky to work out just how often you should have your fireplace cleaned.
Ideally, it’s best to ask a chimney professional to provide a chimney inspection to gauge the level of creosote buildup and determine whether a clean is necessary.
Otherwise, as a rule of thumb the National Fire Prevention Association and the Chimney Safety Institute of America both recommend a chimney should be cleaned and inspected for structural soundness and integrity at least once a year.
If I Haven’t Used My Fireplace Much, Can I Avoid Cleaning It?
Because creosote buildup can occur after relatively few fires where wood has burned incompletely, using your fireplace rarely isn’t necessarily a good reason to avoid cleaning it. Fireplaces can also deteriorate structurally due to water or impact damage and become clogged with debris or even pests, so it’s best to schedule chimney inspection and cleaning at least once a year at the minimum.
Should My Chimney Be Cleaned More Frequently?
If you know that your fireplace is used often and your fireplace burns wood inefficiently, you may need to have your chimney cleaned more often. Chimney cleanings should be aligned with creosote buildup, so in chimneys where creosote buildup is happening more rapidly, cleanings should be more regular. This can also be the case where certain types of wood are burned, such as pine, which naturally releases more creosote. If you use your fireplace very frequently, or are aware that your fireplace is burning fuel inefficiently, it is advisable to consult with your local chimney expert about how often your chimney sweeps should be.
Regular chimney cleaning and inspection helps to keep your fireplace safe, tidy, strong and chimney fire free. Talk to your local chimney sweep about how often your chimney should be cleaned based on your individual needs.
Fireplaces are a captivating home feature and a cozy source of warmth. But as eye-catching as a fireplace may be, it is often forgotten in the grand scheme of home maintenance and repair.
We recommend getting your chimney and fireplace inspected by a professional once a year but, in the meantime, there are plenty of proactive measures you can take.
Here are five useful tips to keep your fireplace safe in any season:
Keep Your Chimney Top Clean
First, make sure you’ve installed a chimney cap to keep mother earth outside. Because animals like to seek refuge in there, the Humane Society of the United States recommends using a stainless-steel chimney cap with wire mesh to prevent their access. Clean the cap if it becomes clogged. You can use a wire brush to remove debris from the mesh.
While you’re up there, examine the brick mortar for cracks or flakiness. Caulk is a great waterproof filler to patch any damage.
Contain The Flame
Gusts of wind from storms can shoot down the chimney and blow embers all over your favorite (and flammable) furnishing. Installing glass screens keeps your fire insulated and protects your home and loved ones.
These screens should be open during the full blaze to maximize airflow. Doing so will promote combustion and minimize the buildup of creosote. Make sure to clear the hearth space of furniture, Christmas trees and other flammable decorations to avoid igniting wandering embers.
Don’t Neglect Your Detectors
Check your carbon monoxide detector’s batteries and invest in a quality smoke detector.
The American Society of Home Inspectors suggests a photoelectric detector, which works by aiming light into a sensing chamber and detecting the entrance of smoke through the chamber via reflected light. A photoelectric detector works best for smoldering fires.
Also, don’t burn trash or old tree branches. They will produce more smoke than productive blaze and risk setting off your alarms.
Keep It Clean
Ensure your fireplace and your chimney are clean prior to your fire burning season.
To check if it’s time for a sweeping, take a flashlight and your fireplace poker and scratch the black surface above the smoke chamber. If the scratch in creosote is extremely thin, you can leave it a bit longer until your next sweep.
But if you have ¼ inch or more of creosote, do not light another fire until the chimney has been swept out. For a thorough job, we recommend calling a professional.
Pro tip: Ashes and creosote can be a source of calcium for your plants.
Install and Use Fireplace Dampers
Dampers are used to let smoke out during fires and keep heat inside when the chimney is not in use.
Ensure that the damper or flue is open for the entire duration of fire burning and wait until the embers have stopped burning before closing your dampers. The damper can also be checked by looking up into the chimney with a flashlight or mirror.
For a complete and comprehensive fireplace safety analysis, leave it to the professionals. Contact us for thorough inspections and cleanings if you think your fireplace is ready for a sweep.
Keeping your chimney safe is an essential part of keeping your whole home safe. Keep an eye out for these 6 essential warning signs that your chimney needs repair.
A Smoky Or Smelly Home
A smoky or smelly home can mean your chimney liner is not working properly. Chimney liners, with clay being the most popular, are channels inside of the chimney that contain and direct combustion products outside, protecting the chimney from corrosion. If these fumes are not redirected, the consequences on your health can be severe.
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to spot liner damage. Consider calling a professional if you detect an overly smoky odor from your chimney.
Flakes Or Shards Of Tile/Ceramic In Your Hearth
On the topic of chimney liners, watch out for bits of flue lining in your firebox. Flue liner “shaling” occurs with time and can lead to a host of consequences, as indicated above.
The purpose of the liner is to protect the surrounding home, including combustible materials around your fireplace. Get an inspection to determine whether to replace or repair the lining.
White Staining On The Chimney’s Exterior
Efflorescence the name given to the effect created when a white residue of minerals and salts comes to the surface of concrete and mortar. It is a sign that water is leaking into your chimney system and is indicative of present or future structural deterioration.
When the chimney has disintegrated materials or is missing a cap, rain water can more easily make its way into the walls. This can be a sign your chimney needs repair or additional protective structures to prevent further damage.
Cracks In The Chimney Crown
On the topic of water damage, let’s discuss the dangers of crown cracks. If you’ve noticed air or water coming in through the fireplace, there may be cracks in the mortar around your chimney. As the cracks grow, so do structural problems so have these repaired quickly to maintain safety.
Stained Ceiling Or Walls
We’ve been talking a lot about the dangers of moisture and stained ceilings or walls around the chimney as these are great signs that your chimney may need repair.
Look out for dark patches, dampness, and stains and take steps to investigate the issue. There are countless DIY conversations happening online on websites and forums to help you troubleshoot, but as always, it’s important to reach out to a professional if unsure.
A Chimney Fire
Loud cracking and popping? Dense smoke and intense smell? These are signs of a chimney fire.
Flue fires are caused by the release of hydrocarbon gases from heated wood. At around 1100 degrees F, unburned gases condense and harden into creosote.
Creosote is highly flammable and triggers chimney fires. Chimney fires can cause the masonry to expand to the point of blowing out, which in the worst cases means room explosions.
To tell if you’ve had a chimney fire, look for warped metal in the damper, cracks in exterior masonry, smoke escaping through the mortar, or heat damaged TV antennas.
If you’re concerned, call your local chimney sweep for an inspection as soon as possible.
Keeping your chimney safe and in good condition means you can enjoy your fireplace in comfort, peace, and safety.
Chimney masonry repair helps to correct damage and restore the structure to the bricks and mortar of your chimney. While masonry repair is an essential task to keep your chimney safe, many homeowners don’t know how to recognize the signs that a chimney masonry repair is due. Here we look at 4 key signs that you need a chimney masonry repair.
As winter approaches, you may be looking forward to cozy days around the fire. If you are lucky enough to have a wood burning fireplace, it can be easy to neglect through most of the year up until time to set up that first winter fire. Wood burning fireplaces do require chimney cleaning, inspections, and maintenance.
Chimneys keep you warm and can provide a home with a beautiful focal point. However, they can hold hidden dangers and it’s important to regularly check for these signs. Failure to do so can lead to very expensive, dangerous, and preventable conditions.