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How to Tell if Your Chimney Needs Cleaning

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Heated home equipment is the second leading cause of house fires, this according to the National Fire Protection Association. Such equipment includes space heaters, fireplaces, and chimneys. By regularly cleaning your chimney, you lower the risk of house fire significantly. But how do you tell if your chimney needs major cleaning?

There’s no rule of thumb when it comes to chimney cleaning frequency. But the National Fire Protection Association recommends that fireplaces, chimneys, and vents be inspected at least once per year. In addition, the cleaning frequency will depend on how many times per month you use your chimney.

When a chimney is clogged or dirty, it results in a smoky fire. This is caused by creosote buildup. Creosote is just unburned wood energy that condensate on the inner surface of the chimney. By removing creosote buildup, you give your chimney adequate air combustion, leading to clean burning fire.

Checking for Creosote Buildup

It’s best to leave the chimney cleaning to a professional but you can check for creosote buildup on your own. First, make sure there’s no downdraft from your chimney. If there are, open a door or a window on the same room to keep the air flow up. Next, wear the right gears. We recommend wearing goggles and a disposable dust mask so you don’t breathe in all the soot. Get a flashlight and with your fireplace poker, scratch the black surface above the smoke chamber.

If the scratching reveals a very thin black surface then you don’t have to clean the chimney. However, if the groove you scratched on the creosote is around 1/8 thick, you will have to schedule a cleaning soon. If the groove you scratched on the creosote is around 1/4 thick, do not use the chimney at all and have it cleaned right away. Using a chimney with very thick creosote buildup will only lead to a fire!

Another sign of creosote buildup is if there’s too much smoke flooding your house every time you use it. Soot covering your furniture and dark smoke coming out of your chimney are also signs that you need to have your chimney cleaned right away.

In some cases, chimneys that aren’t used frequently have to be checked, cleaned, and cleared as well because of debris left by birds, raccoons, or other critters that might’ve been using your chimney for nesting.

With the right tools, you can clean your chimney yourself. However, if you want a thorough, deep clean, then it’s best to call a professional chimney cleaner. That said, be sure to hire someone with a license from Chimney Safety Institute of America. There are some chimney cleaners who just use a broom to remove the soot and creosote buildup and that’s not enough to remove the debris accumulated from using the chimney too often.

You want to hire a trained chimney cleaner who’s knowledgeable about building codes, one that can identify venting problems or chimney deterioration, and is able to give you professional advice on how to maintain and keep your chimney from working properly. You can go online to check different chimney cleaning services and compare prices.


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