Why Should I get my Chimney Cleaned?

Part of the job of the chimney sweep is to remove soot, blockages and built-up creosote from your chimney liner, firebox, smoke chamber and damper. But there is more – they should also check installation for code compliance – system for any broken or worn parts – and attempt to ensure it will work as intended or designed.

By having your system cleaned and inspected you will reduce likelihood of chimney fire or other disaster and have much greater peace of mind.  Remember it only takes a small amount of creosote to cause a chimney fire!  Yes a Chimney Fire!  That nasty substance we know as creosote is a highly flammable substance that builds up inside your chimney or liner as a result of burning wood. No – and other blogs explain why – but old wives tales such as burning potato skins; or burning the fire hot; or burning only hard wood.. do not negate the importance of a Chimney Sweep.

How much creosote accumulates and how fast it accumulates and more importantly what type of creosote is present depends on your burning practices and the particular appliance or woodstove you have.  Some woodstoves are worse than others; burning practices such as shutting down air on older airtight stoves cause tremendous buildup; green wood and other factors covered in other blogs here.  Species of wood is not as big a factor – some think wood such as pine causes huge buildup – an old myth disproven by the University of Georgia – but beware of advise you take.  Some websites where one might think they can get advise are wrong – burning pine being one that may pop up from time to time which is WRONG.

There are also other wives tales such as burning hot fires; burning potato skins or even the thought of the chimney cleaning logs.  None of these clean out creosote – the best some of them do is to cause the hard Stage 3 creosote to become crisper and flakier in formation.

To ensure you have that confidence and peace of mind you system is in good working order and operating as they should, you should follow the Ontario Fire Code and have an annual chimney inspection.   In fact most homeowners do have a Chimney Cleaning each year; some think they can skip it; others think they can do it themselves and others think burning potato skins does the job.

The first – who do it every year not only comply with the law but have peace of mind.  The ones who can skip may be taking a risk they can not afford – best to have a Professional Certified Chimney Sweep take a look and see if you can skip.  The ones who do it themselves – well to be honest and frank about this – I have yet to see one who did it correctly.  Not saying they can not – but do not know how.  Oh some think they do and these are actually likely the worst.  Finally the ones who rely on potato skins.. you might as well go to the fortune teller and get some advise or buy a lottery ticket.. it is NO more reliable and has be proven multiple times that it DOES NOT remove creosote but may make it more cleanable.

Even those who only use their system on minimal basis should have inspections – in fact I offer inspections at low cost – typically the $40 range.  If the system is clean will see you the next year – if it needs cleaning will clean and not charge you the inspection fee but will naturally charge for the sweep.

The inspections are code inspections as well as operational inspections – this is part of reason you always should hire a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep – they are trained to do this properly.

How often should you clean your chimney?  The National Fire Protection Association and the Ontario Fire Code states that chimneys, fireplaces, woodstoves and vents should be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. All cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.  Keep in mind also that birds and animals can get into the chimney – I cleaned a squirrel and bird out of fireplace earlier this week.

The CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) says that fireplaces should be cleaned when 1/8″ of sooty buildup is evident inside the chimney and flue system – the Ontario Fire Code says 2mm of deposits.

I recently did one chimney with a full 5 gallon plastic pail of creosote – and another with 2 full pails.  Owners in both cases were new owners but indicated this was only one year of use.

Don’t wait until the fall, I can perform your chimney cleaning or inspection any time of year.