While Dick Van Dyke's character in Mary Poppins may have had a cheery disposition, residential chimney cleaning is serious business. It is imperative that you have a clean chimney before lighting a fire this fall in order to ensure that you and your family are safe.
Why does a chimney need cleaning?
As you burn paper and wood in your fireplace, soot builds up in the flue, the interior portion of your chimney that smoke travels through to escape to the outdoors. Over time, the soot develops into creosote, a sticky tar-like substance that starts to build up in the flue. The creosote can block airflow in the flue and make your fireplace less efficient.
What does cleaning a chimney entail?
Residential chimney cleaning services use long brushes to remove soot and creosote from your flue. The brush is inserted from the roof and rotated down your flue until all the debris is loosened and removed. A chimney sweep also checks the flue, firebox, and exterior chimney for damage and recommends repairs, if needed.
How do you know if your chimney needs cleaning?
If you smell excessive smoke when you light a fire, your chimney probably needs to be cleaned. Creosote build-up can force the smoke back into the room because the flue is too clogged to allow it to freely pass to the outdoors.
How often does a chimney need to be cleaned?
The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) suggests cleaning your chimney annually to prevent creosote build-up. This should preferably be done before you start using your fireplace each year in fall or early winter.
What happens if you don't clean your chimney?
Left unchecked, creosote will continue to build up and eventually start to block the flue. Creosote hardens over time and, in extreme situations, the hardened creosote could catch fire. A chimney fire is a very dangerous situation.
What if you do not know when your chimney was last cleaned?
If you purchase a house and do not know when the previous owners last cleaned the chimney, assume that it needs to be done and hire a residential chimney cleaning service before using the fireplace.
How do you know if a chimney is safe?
If your chimney has been cleaned recently, you can assume it is safe. You will also notice that the airflow is sufficient to build a healthy fire and the smoke goes up the flue rather into the room.
Having your chimney cleaned should be a regular part of your annual home maintenance tasks.