Cleaning the chimney is probably not at the top of your list of duties to keep up with in your home (cleaning brass, cleaning grout, cleaning up mildew, regular cleaning). Sooty buildup and combustible residue aren’t exactly romantic things to think about while snuggled up in front of the fireplace staring into the crackling flames (out of sight, out of mind, right?). Yes, we did say flammable. Do you think you’re paying attention now?
Before you light up the fireplace this season, be sure your chimney is clean and thoroughly examined. Avoiding periodic chimney care can lead to major (and costly) problems in the future. (Around 25,000 home fires start in the chimney each year.) Although you can do essential home maintenance yourself, most homeowners hire a chimney sweeping service. It’s a potentially hazardous and filthy job that’s best left to the pros in most situations. (You’re not alone if you’re picturing Dick Van Dyke as Bert the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins—but this is serious business!)
Learn how to clean your chimney, how often you (or a professional) should clean it, and other chimney maintenance basics.
What are the benefits of cleaning your chimney?
One word comes to mind: security.
It’s as easy as that: keeping your chimney clean helps avoid house fires. Two things happen when you light a fire in your fireplace: Chimney soot accumulates, as does creosote, a heavy, thick, oily residue that resembles tar and is a consequence of burning wood. While soot is more easily removed, creosote adheres to the chimney lining and is extremely combustible, making it dangerous. To summarize, the bigger the amount of creosote, the greater the risk of fire.
How often should you clean your chimney?
It happens once a year. Cleaning and inspection are advised as part of annual maintenance.
Is it possible for you to clean your own chimney?
Both yes and no.
You may clear chimney soot yourself if you want to save money. However, safety must come first: This isn’t your typical DIY project—after all, you’ll be on the roof. Take the proper steps to protect the inside of your home (think: drop cloths and plastic tarps to seal off the area from all the dust), protect yourself with the appropriate gear (protective goggles, a dust mask, a sturdy ladder), and purchase the right types of chimney brushes for the job to save yourself the time of cleaning up a mess later. Before you begin, read the step-by-step directions to guarantee a thorough and safe cleaning.
It’s advisable to call a professional to clean your chimney if creosote is present.
What is the best way to clean the inside of a chimney?
Cleaning chimney soot with chimney brushes is the preferred method. But it’s not that easy, because you’ll need a variety of items for both the inside and outside of your home before you begin.
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 a comprehensive cleaning, or sweep, should be included in this cost. Heavy creosote removal will almost certainly cost more, and if your chimney has rodents or requires extensive repairs, expect to pay a little more.
Is creosote sweeping logs recommended by specialists, and do they work?
Yes, but keep your expectations in check. Most importantly, sweeping logs should not be used to replace annual chimney cleaning! When a sweeping log is burned, the creosote dries out and becomes flaky. This makes the task of a professional chimney sweep much easier, but it is still required.
Is it necessary to clean the chimney of a gas fireplace?
Yes. Gas fireplace chimneys, like wood-burning fireplace chimneys, should be inspected and cleaned once a year. It’s not so much the creosote that needs to be removed as it is a bird’s nest.
Is cleaning a fireplace chimney and cleaning a wood stove chimney the same thing?
Both yes and no. Wood stove chimneys and ordinary fireplace chimneys also have the same problems with creosote and soot buildup. Cleaning should be done once a year, however cleaning a wood stove pipe is a different story. Consult your owner’s manual first. Specific directions should be included, as well as a suggestion for a cleaning kit and/or materials. The process can be made easier by burning creosote cleansing logs first and consulting a professional or the local fire department is also a good idea. Always put your safety first!