A clean, well-maintained chimney will save you money and keep you out of trouble—and yes, you can do some of the work yourself. It is a truth that if you have a chimney, it will require chimney cleaning. But when and how often should your chimney be cleaned?
The answer is dependent on a variety of circumstances, including how often it’s used, the type of fuel you’re burning, and even the flue material. Chimney cleaning is probably not at the top of your list of duties to keep up within your house (cleaning brass, cleaning grout, cleaning up mildew, regular cleaning).
Sooty buildup and combustible residue aren’t exactly romantic things to worry about while snuggled up in front of the fireplace staring into the crackling flames (out of sight, out of mind, right?).
Before you light up the fireplace this season, make sure your chimney and chimney cleaning is in good working order. Neglecting to clean your chimney on a regular basis might lead to serious (and expensive) problems down the line. (Around 25,000 house fires originate in chimneys each year.)
Although you may do essential home maintenance tasks yourself, most homeowners hire a chimney sweeping service. It’s a potentially hazardous and filthy task that’s best left to the pros in most situations.
Needed: Tools and Materials
- HEPA Rated Vacuum for dust control and to collect soot and debris removed from the chimney flue.
- Drop Cloths
- Metal wire brush
- Spot light
When you clean your fireplace, you need drop cloths to cover and protect your floors and furniture, as well as a high-powered HEPA filtered vacuum and wire brushes to get rid of brushable creosote from your chimney.
How to Clean Your Chimney: A Step-by-Step Guide
Firebox, flue liner, smoke chamber, damper, smoke shelf, and other parts of the chimney are cleaned when soot is removed during a chimney clean. For the best results and dust management, we sweep your fireplace chimney cleaning from bottom to top.
Step 1: We start by putting down a drop cloth in the work area to protect your floors and furnishings while we sweep.
Step 2: We insert a spiral wire brush into the flue and work our way up through the liner and flue to the chimney cap using expanding rods and the HEPA vacuum.
Step 3: During this step, the brush is spun clockwise within the chimney to remove any brushable soot deposits.
Step 4: After the flue has been swept, our sweeps will brush and vacuum off soot deposits around the damper, smoke shelf, and firebox.
Following the chimney cleaning, your CSIA-certified professional chimney sweep service will evaluate your chimney and present you with a report detailing any repairs that are required.
Is chimney cleaning necessary?
To eliminate soot, obstructions, and creosote buildup from your chimney, you’ll need to clean it. There is a risk of a chimney fire if soot and creosote build up in a chimney flue. This reduces the draw of the fireplace and increases the risk of a fire. Creosote is a highly flammable result of wood burning.
The pace at which creosote builds up within your chimney flue is determined by the type of wood you use, how you burn it, and how well your chimney system is maintained. Some types of firewood are better for burning than others due to their density and water content. The better the firewood burns and the more heat it can provide, the denser and drier it is (aged/seasoned).
Unseasoned or green wood burns fast, resulting in increased creosote accumulation. It’s also a good idea to have your chimney checked out by a professional chimney sweep every few months. They’ve received the necessary training to detect deterioration and vent problems.
Is It Necessary to Sweep My Chimney on a Regular Basis?
Sweeping should be performed as needed. We shall recommend that the chimney be swept if there is a minimum of an 18-inch coating of soot on it. The National Fire Protection Association says that people should have their chimneys and fireplaces checked every year, no matter how often they use them. The NFPA safety tip sheet may be found here.
Checking for Creosote in the Chimney
Creosote is made when wood doesn’t burn all the way through, either because it hasn’t been properly seasoned or because there isn’t enough ventilation. Creosote is a result of oils in the wood that hasn’t been entirely burned out. All of these are taken up by the smoke, which cools as it rises, letting the byproducts mix with moisture and other chemicals before they condense on the inside of the flue.
There are three phases to creosote development in your chimney:
Stage 1: Creosote buildup looks like a flaky, loose deposit that can be brushed away easily during a sweep. This is the first stage.
Stage 2: Creosote transforms into a tar-like layer that is difficult to sweep after several burns and cooling and condensing cycles. It must be manually scraped from the interior of the chimney at this point.
Stage 3: Excessive heat has resulted in many accumulated layers of deposits, which have solidified into a thick coating that restricts airflow.
As it heats up, it will start to pop and drip, much like candle wax, within your chimney. Given creosote’s flammability, this stage is particularly hazardous since it can result in chimney fires that start in the flue and spread upward to the roofs.
Professional: A CSIA-certified chimney sweep can tell if creosote has built up in your chimney during your annual chimney inspection, and they can give you the best way to keep it and your home safe from a chimney fire.
What is the cost of having your chimney cleaned?
The cost of having your chimney professionally cleaned varies depending on where you reside, but it typically ranges from $125 to $300. An inspection (for general safety evaluation) and comprehensive chimney cleaning, or sweep, should be included in this cost. Heavy creosote removal will almost certainly cost more, and if your chimney has rodents (dead or alive—yikes!) or requires extensive repairs, expect to pay a bit more.
Are creosote sweeping logs recommended by specialists and do they work?
Yes and yes, but keep your expectations in check. Most importantly, sweeping logs should not be used to substitute for yearly chimney cleaning! When a sweeping log is burned, the creosote dries up and becomes flaky. This makes the task of a professional chimney sweep much easier, but it is still required.
Is cleaning a fireplace chimney and cleaning a wood stove chimney the same thing?
Both yes and no. Woodstove chimneys and ordinary fireplace chimneys also have the same problems with creosote and soot buildup. Chimney cleaning should be done once a year. However, cleaning a wood stove pipe is a different story. Consult your owner’s manual first. There should be detailed instructions and a suggestion for what to use to clean it up, like a cleaning kit or materials. The process may be made easier by burning creosote cleaning logs first, and consulting a professional or the local fire department is also a good idea.
Always put your safety first!
How Much Does Chimney Cleaning and Maintenance Cost?
Depending on your appliance and the amount of inspection completed at the time of the sweeping, having your chimney cleaned by a professional can cost anywhere from $200 to $350.