The Basics of Chimney Cleaning and Maintenance

Courtesy of HSA Home Warranty


Keeping your chimney clean not only ensures a cleaner burning fire, it is a safety precaution as well. If you burn a resin-y wood like pine, then creosote, a rather nasty, oily material, can accumulate on the chimney walls. When enough builds up, it becomes a fire hazard. Even if it doesn’t burst into flames, it can make for an unpleasant and smoky fire.

Many people figure self-cleaning their chimney is a dirty job—and it is. These folks hire chimney sweeps, pay them and send them on their way. But if you’re not inclined to pay a chimney sweep, it’s possible to clean the chimney yourself, as long as you you don’t mind getting a bit sooty and going up on your roof. Below are some cleaning tips to get you fired up:

The best time to check and clean your chimney is in the fall just before the heating season. You’ll need chimney sweep tools, which include a round or square brush with an extension. First, check to see that the mortar and brick are still sound and that there are no cracks or loose mortar. You’ll need to check both on the roof and in the attic. Some mortar probably has come loose if you’ve been using your fireplace. If you find any trouble spots, repoint them. If the seal around the flue looks like it’s deteriorated or cracked, seal it with silicone caulk. 

Use a sturdy Type I or Type II ladder for climbing up on the roof and make sure the feet are steady and on even ground. Some people use a harness as an additional precaution.

To actually clean the fireplace, open the damper and drape a wet sheet over the fireplace opening. Then, climb up to the roof and use the brush with the extension. Make sure to brush downward as far as possible. The sheet you’ve draped over the fireplace entrance will keep soot from blowing into the room.

After brushing out the chimney, the sheet can be removed and the soot wet down before it’s removed. Next, clean the firebox and vacuum the damper before closing.

Depending on how much work you have to do, the job can last anywhere from an hour to eight hours. But when it’s over, you won’t have to worry about fireplace fires you didn’t set or resinous smoke billowing into your room.

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