There isn’t a simple rule of thumb when it’s time for a chimney cleaning. It depends a lot on how often you use your fireplace or stove. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys, fireplaces, and vents be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs should be done if necessary.
When it’s time for a chimney cleaning, call a professional that knows exactly how to clean and inspect your fireplace and chimney.
According to The National Fire Protection Association (www.nfpa.org), “The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (27%) was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.”
The problem is that creosote (the tar deposited on
chimney walls by wood smoke) can form when unseasoned wood is burned, the air
supply is restricted, or/and the chimney temperatures are cooler than
normal. Burning unseasoned wood keeps
the smoke cooler than seasoned wood because much more energy is used to drive
off the water trapped in the logs. A
smoky fire without enough oxygen emits lots of unburned tar vapors that can
condense inside the fireplace flue and stick to it, possibly leading to a
chimney fire. You can reduce creosote
buildup in your fireplace flue by providing adequate combustion air, which will
encourage a hot, clean-burning fire.
When using a wood stove, overloading the firebox with wood in an attempt to get a longer burn time also contributes to creosote build-up. We recommend filling the firebox to around 75% if possible.
Check for creosote build up…
To check for creosote yourself, first, make sure there’s no downdraft from the chimney. If you feel an airflow, open a door or window on the same floor as the fireplace until the downdraft stops or reverses and air flows up (tape tissue to the fireplace opening and watch its movement). Then, while wearing goggles and a basic disposable dust mask, take a strong flashlight and shine the light near the top of the firebox, in the smoke chamber and around the damper. And check the fireplace flue too, especially on exterior chimneys, where creosote builds up faster than on interior chimneys because of lower outside temperatures.
Take your fireplace poker and scratch the black surface above the damper (smoke chamber). If the groove you scratch in the creosote is paper thin, no cleaning is needed. However, if it’s 1/8 in. thick, schedule a cleaning soon. If you have 1/4 in. of creosote, do not use the fireplace again until it is cleaned – a chimney fire could occur at any time.
Can I do this when it is time for a chimney cleaning?
You could try to remove the creosote yourself, but why not save on materials and get a thorough job, call us. We are knowledgeable, and trained to recognize deterioration or venting problems, and able to advise you regarding the chimney’s condition. Proper care and maintenance of your chimneys, woodstoves and fireplaces can help protect you and your family from unnecessary fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Finally, when it is time for a chimney cleaning, do not try to do this yourself. It is a dangerous job with unique tools. Call us and let our pros do it right, safe and cost effective.