The cold months are almost here. And we want to welcome the new chilly weather with some hot chocolate and a crackling fire. Home, sweet home, right? Well, it’s time to dust off our fireplace! But you bump into a problem: your chimney is not working at full potential or, let’s say, it has a smoke leak. That means your chimney is dirty, something normal if you didn’t use it for a long time.
How can I tell if my chimney needs cleaning? In many cases, the fireplace apparently works okay. Nevertheless, a dirty chimney comes with some risk that you’ll want to consider and might be hidden from plain sight. Coming up next, you’ll learn some tips to clean your chimney and avoid unwanted situations.
Lack of maintenance is the primary cause of chimney fires.
What happens when the interior of the chimney is dirty? Well, it can happen both ways: either you get some smoke inside your house or nothing happens for a while. The first scenario is annoying and you’ll quickly check your fireplace. It usually happens when dirt or debris blocks the smoke to get outside. But the second case is a silent one.
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), the lack of maintenance is the primary cause of chimney fires. When the chimney is dirty, the interior walls might catch fire causing high temperatures that can damage the flue. If the chimney remains unclean, there’s a high risk of a chimney fire accident.
Even if you don’t use it, your chimney may need cleaning
You might think that because you didn’t use it last year your fireplace is good to go. Think again. Ashley Eldridge, CSIA Director of Education, recommends inspecting the chimney every year because branches and leaves can enter the ventilation system, not to mention small animals such as birds and squirrels.
Not everything is soot: clean the creosote
The black and ugly soot is well known to anyone who owns a chimney. Sometimes, it can leave a blackened trace in the front view of your fireplace. Ruins the aesthetic, yeah, but soot has a more problematic and hidden brother.
Creosote is a black or brown residue, caused by wood combustion, that sticks in the interior walls of the chimney. It can be drippy and sticky, crusty and flaky or shiny and hardened. All forms are highly combustible. You better check it because if you let enough creosote accumulate you could have a chimney fire without realizing it.
DIY chimney cleaning: You’ll need a dust mask, safety glasses, and more tools.
To clean the interior walls of your chimney is no easy work. You can do it yourself, but make sure you have everything you need and the necessary time and support.
This task basically requires you getting up on the roof, with a dust mask and safety glasses on, chimney brushes, fiberglass extension rods and a shop vacuum with a dust filter. Be sure to first seal the fireplace with plastic and duct tape to prevent the debris and soot from getting into your house.
If it has not been cleaned in a long time, it’s wise to have a chimney sweep service do the first cleaning. Then, get a professional to clean the surroundings and the entire house while they’re at it.
Clean your fireplace at the this first signs
Not sure if your fireplace needs cleaning? Or if you have chimney fire risks? Here’s a list with the main signs:
- Smoke gets inside the house or there’s an intense smell of combustion
- Cracking or popping noise in the chimney, even if the fire’s out.
- Damaged flue, cracked walls, or collapsed flue tiles.
- Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground
- Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners
Or simply because you are about to use your fireplace after a long time.
So there you have it! Hope this information about cleaning your chimney/fireplace is useful for you this upcoming winter. Take care of your house precious fireplace and remember to watch out for the chimney fire signs.