Chimney Sweep 101: Best Guide to Chimney Cleaning

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Required Tools & Materials

  • HEPA Rated Vacuum for dust control and to collect soot and debris removed from the chimney flue.
  • Drop Cloths
  • Metal wire brush
  • Spot light

Drop cloths are used to cover and protect the your floors, furnishings, a high powered HEPA filtered vacuum for dust control and wire brushes are used to remove brushable creosote from your fireplace flue.

Is Chimney Cleaning Necessary?

Cleaning a Chimney is necessary to remove soot, blockages and creosote buildup from your chimney. If not Cleaned soot and creosote buildup inside of a chimney flue reduce the draw of the fireplace and create the potential for a chimney fire. Creosote is highly flammable and is a byproduct of burning wood. The rate at which creosote builds inside of your chimney flue depends on wood selection, burning practices and the overall condition of your chimney system. 

Ask A Sweep Tip: Density and water content make some types of firewood are better for burning than others. The denser and drier (aged/seasoned) the firewood is, the better it will burn and the more heat it can produce. Green or unseasoned wood will burn quickly and produce more creosote buildup.

Additionally, we recommend that you have your chimney inspected by a qualified chimney regularly as well. They have the training needed to identify decay and venting issues.

How Often Should I Sweep my Chimney?

Sweeping should be done as necessary.  If we observe a minimum of ⅛-inch deposit of soot in the chimney we will recommend that it be swept.

To ensure that your chimney and fireplace are operationally ready, homeowners, regardless of burning frequency, are encouraged by the National Fire Protection Association to have their chimneys inspected annually. You can find the NFPA safety tip sheet here

Checking for Chimney Creosote

When wood does not burn completely, either due to using wood that is unseasoned or inadequate airflow (or both), it generates creosote. Creosote buildup is the byproduct of oils in the wood which aren’t completely burned off.  These are carried up with the smoke, which itself cools off as it rises, letting the byproducts mix with moisture and other chemicals and ultimately condensing on the flue interior.

Creosote buildup in your chimney has three different stages: 

Stage 1:  Creosote buildup begins as a loose, flaky deposit which can be easily brushed away during a sweep. 

Stage 2:  After multiple fires and cooling and condensing cycles, creosote turns into a tar-like deposit which becomes difficult to sweep.  At this stage, it must be physically scraped off the inside of the flue.

Stage 3:  High heat has produced multiple accumulating layers of deposits that have hardened into a thick layer constricting airflow.  This will begin to pop and drip like candle wax inside of your flue as it is heated. Given the flammability of creosote, this stage is especially dangerous and can lead to chimney fires beginning in the flue and moving upward to the roofing.

During your annual chimney inspection, a CSIA-certified pro chimney sweep will identify whether creosote deposits are present in your chimney and recommend the appropriate solution to protect your chimney and home from a chimney fire.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Clean Your Chimney

Chimney cleaning includes removing soot from the firebox, flue liner, smoke chamber, damper, and smoke shelf. For best results and dust control, we sweep your fireplace cleaning from the bottom to the top.

Step 1: We begin by placing a drop cloth in the work area, making sure to protect your floors and furnishings during the sweep process. 

Step 2: With the HEPA vacuum on, we insert a spiral wire brush into the flue using expandable rods and slowly progress upwards through the liner and flue towards the chimney cap. 

Step 3: During this process, the brush is turned clockwise inside of the flue to remove any brushable soot deposits. 

Step 4: Once the flue is swept, our sweeps will brush and vacuum out soot deposits around the damper, smoke shelf, and the firebox. 

Upon completion of the chimney cleaning, your CSIA-certified pro Chimney Sweep service will perform an inspection of your chimney and provide you a report outlining any repairs needed.

How Much Does it Cost to Get Chimney Sweep Cleaning and Maintenance?

Getting your chimney cleaned by a pro typically costs between $200 and $350 depending on your appliance and the level of inspection performed at the time of the sweeping.

How can we help?

Our team is available to answer any of your chimney, fireplace, or masonry-related questions.

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