How often to clean your fireplace and chimney

While cozy evenings in front of the fireplace are sure to be irresistible, take the time to make sure your fireplace is as safe as it is inviting. A 2016 report by the National Fire Protection Association found that a major contributing factor to heating fires was failure to clean chimneys.

It’s usually not home improvement, so it’s best to hire a certified chimney sweep from the Chimney Safety Institute of America to do the job, recommends Ashley Eldridge, CSIA training director. Because chimney cleaning and inspection is about much more than just sweeping soot.

Here is everything you need to know about preparing your fireplace and chimney.

How often should a chimney be inspected?

Each year. New wood-burning installations such as fireplaces or wood-burning stoves should be checked in the middle of the first heating season to ensure that everything is working properly.

How often should a chimney be cleaned?

Cleaning should be done as needed – usually when there is at least 1/8 of an inch of debris in the chimney. An annual inspection determines whether sweeping or repair work is required.

In some cases it may be necessary to sweep more than once a year, especially if the operator, fuel, or venting system are not properly coordinated.

Why have a chimney inspected and cleaned at all?

During the combustion process, an acidic material is deposited that weakens masonry or metal chimneys and decomposes them prematurely. Significant buildups of creosote, a flammable material produced by incomplete combustion, can catch fire and spread to the attic and other areas of the home.

If a chimney is infrequently used, living things and birds can gather and nest there and block the chimney. Leaves, twigs, pine cones and branches can also clog the chimney.

Strong winds or driving rain can also damage chimneys. CSIA recommends that as a general rule, a chimney should have a rain cap to keep animals and water out, as these are the main reasons for chimney failure.

What does professional chimney cleaning involve?

  1. Sweeping the chimney, checking the combustion chamber, the linings, the smoke box and the chimney, the chimney exterior and the appliance for the correct distances.
  2. Recommendations for the proper operation or replacement of equipment and necessary repairs to equipment or structures.
  3. A video inspection. This can mean additional costs, but it could detect hidden damage.

What are the costs for chimney sweeps and cleaning?

According to Andy Klotz of Angie’s List, a standard chimney inspection costs around $ 100-250, depending on the accessibility of the roof and the type of chimney being inspected. Some chimney sweeps waive inspection fees for cleaning or repair work.

Chimney cleanings typically cost $ 100 to $ 350, according to Klotz, depending on the special equipment required or complications, such as living or dead animals in the chimney.

How do I choose a qualified chimney sweep?

  1. Hire CSIA certified chimney sweeps and check that certification is active. For more information, go online or call CSIA at 317-837-5362.
  2. Ask for references and warranties / guarantees for the services provided.
  3. Ask for proof of insurance (minimum $ 300,000) and check with the insurer that the policy is up to date.

What to do about other chimneys and heat sources in the house

Wood-burning stoves also have smoke outlets and chimneys that require annual inspection. If the furnace is operated optimally, you will find gray ash as the predominant residue. However, if there is shiny debris on the inside of the door, it is a sign that the fire is burning way too low.

Low-burning fires create an even larger build-up of creosote on the chimney. But don’t be hotter until the chimney is swept, warns Eldridge. This is because if creosote has built up in the chimney, turning up the heat can cause a fire.

Can I clean the chimney myself?

“I hesitate to recommend do-it-yourself,” says Eldridge, “because most of us don’t know how to do it properly and we certainly don’t have the expertise or equipment to inspect the chimney for other defects . “

However, there is one type of chimney that most likely could be cleaned by the homeowner. It has an insert installed in the fireplace with a properly sized insert. To clean, insert the brush into the chimney and smoke outlet and sweep it up.

“The disadvantage is that there can be a lot of soot or creosote on the rain cap itself, which also needs to be cleaned. Most of the work can be done from the chimney, ”says Eldridge,“ but you want to be able to see through the rain cap from the floor to make sure it’s not blocked. ”Also, if the chimney head needs cleaning, that means the roof to climb, a task not for the faint of heart.

6 ways to properly care for your chimney and fireplace

While it’s best to have a professional inspect and clean the chimney, there are six things homeowners can do to enhance their fireplace experience.

  1. Clean the ash from the chimney as it builds up.
  2. Collect firewood a year in advance to properly season it. This means that less combustible material collects in the chimney.
  3. Make sure the hatch is fully open before starting a fire in the fireplace.
  4. Do not burn anything in the fireplace except dry firewood or CSIA-approved logs. Never burn pressure treated or lacquered wood.
  5. Burn fires that consume the fuel. Burning wet or poor quality fuel will result in slow fires and more creosote buildup in the fireplace.
  6. Consider using a top-down burning method that burns hotter, cleaner, and produces less smoke than traditional fire construction methods. Place the largest logs on the bottom of the fireplace, then add a cross-layer of smaller logs. Next, add some crushed newsprint and cover everything with an inch of kindling. Light the newspaper, sit back and enjoy the fire.

This article was originally published on November 3, 2016.

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