How often does your chimney need cleaning?

October 5, 2020

When most homeowners light up their wood-burning fireplace they’re thinking solely about warmth and comfort. Yet without regular chimney cleaning and maintenance, a fireplace could hurt the air quality in your home and create the ideal conditions for a chimney fire. Here’s how to enjoy heating your home with wood safely.

How often does your chimney need cleaning?

Why a chimney requires cleaning

Burning wood produces a highly flammable by-product known as creosote, which stays on the chimney liner until it’s removed. The more wood burned in the fireplace or stove, the faster creosote accumulates. Creosote residue can also reduce the efficiency of your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Regular chimney cleaning will ensure the removal of creosote, soot, and other debris. And while it sounds simple enough, it’s not recommended for homeowners to try it themselves. This dirty work requires particular equipment and knowledge to ensure the job is done thoroughly, without causing any damage to your heating or venting system. Use the search engine to find a qualified chimney cleaning and sweeping professional near you.

The importance of a chimney inspection

To really understand the state of your chimney, schedule an annual inspection by a licensed professional chimney sweep. This will involve a careful check of all parts of the heating and venting system including the chimney cap, masonry, flashing and caulking, flue, and liner. Your chimney cleaning professional will check for water infiltration, cracks, accumulated debris, and animal nests (birds, squirrels, and raccoons can often find their way in).

A chimney inspection is a good idea if you’ve recently purchased your home, if it’s been over a year since the last inspection or you have issues with your fireplace or heating system. If you’ve upgraded or changed your heating system or added a stove or insert, an inspection will ensure your chimney, lining, and venting systems are working properly and conform to all relevant municipal by-laws.

Inspections should also be done for gas fireplace chimneys to ensure they’re clear of debris. Oil-burning furnace chimneys should be inspected and cleaned by a specialized oil-heating technician.

When is the best time to clean a chimney?

An annual cleaning is usually recommended unless you only use your fireplace occasionally. Your professional chimney cleaner will help you to determine the right schedule.

Chimney sweeping can be done spring through fall, but the best time is before the start of the burning season. If you’re not sure when the chimney was last cleaned look for these signs that it’s time for a chimney sweep:

  • black buildup on the damper (creosote)
  • excess smoke in the room from a lit fire
  • smells like wood burning even when fireplace is not in use

How to maintain the chimney between professional cleanings

The best way to maintain your chimney is to only burn dry, seasoned firewood (hardwoods like maple and oak are good bets). Never burn pressure-treated or painted wood, which can give off toxic fumes. Do not overload the firebox with large fires and clean the firebox of ashes regularly.

Creosote reducing logs and other products can be helpful in reducing buildup inside the chimney but are not a substitute for regular cleaning.

Finally, stay safe by ensuring your home has a working carbon monoxide detectors on every floor as well as a good fire extinguisher.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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