Thursday, December 13, 2018

How to Clean a Chimney and How Often – Safety Matter

I love my home, but one of the things I wish it had was a fireplace. I grew up with one and they are so nostalgic and romantic and beautiful to me. I never gave much thought about cleaning the chimney of the fireplace though, other than maybe the chimney sweep song from Mary Poppins. I was sent this post about the importance of cleaning your chimney and how to do it, and hopefully you'll learn from it as much as I did.

One of the best things when you live in a house is to gaze at your fireplace during cold winter days, while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. There's nothing more soothing and pleasant than staring into those orange flames while outside is a snowy paradise.
But after a cozy afternoon spent before the fireplace, the cleaning work awaits. With a fireplace comes a chimney, and with a chimney comes a potential threat. While it is not that difficult to clean up the chimney by yourself, it is better to ask for professional help if you wish to be on the safe side.

Chimney problems

While cleaning your chimney is, apparently, an easy task, once you decide to do it and start it, you might be surprised to see it is not that simple. The fireplace is more complex than you might think, and some are constructed in such a way that maneuvering inside without the proper equipment is completely impossible. If your chimney is not cleaned correctly it might lead to future disasters. By igniting the creosote that remains on the chimney walls, a chimney fire can damage your house entirely.

The dangers of creosote

A highly inflammable chemical, creosote appears after a fire was fed with wood, coals, oil or other substances. It forms alongside the chimney walls, especially in the chimney lining and flue. With time it hardens into what looks like black or dark brown flakes. During the usage of your fireplace, the smoke fuels its creation resulting in big problem.

Not only is it dangerous because of its highly inflammable properties, but it’s also carcinogenic and causes problem for your health. The build up of creosote blocks the way for the smoke to escape, and it will stop flowing upwards and will, in turn, exit through the fireplace itself, right into your home, causing air pollution and other things that make your health in danger.

What can be done?

It is best to keep your chimney in top shape, clean and ready to be used in the cold seasons. But to do so, you need to use the right equipment. You cannot use regular items that you might think would do the job right. No dust cleaner would be enough to remove the soot and after-effects of smoke and fire. And no broom will be long enough to help you reach the tricky areas. So, to prevent any type of dangerous situation, or out of control fires, a regular chimney check is in order.

Quality Equipment

Since our society evolves and improves day by day, so does the tools. In the past, all you needed to clean a chimney was a long ladder, a brush, and some climbing skills, since the roofs were quite tricky and required coordination.

Nowadays, however, the situation has changed. There is no ‘universal brush’ that will miraculously fit all kinds of chimney, but a variety of them. Different house shapes mean there are different chimney shapes. You need the correct equipment for your type of chimney.

For example, you might want to consider using a smaller, hand brush while reaching for tight spaces, while a long wired brush is better when you have to cover the whole length of the chimney. If you’re not sure the wire is long enough or strong enough, use a rod. Or even better, use a chemical cleaner, as it will surely give you a helping hand in doing your job.

While brushes might seem more traditional, vacuums are even better. Not only will it do the job faster, but it will also prevent air pollution. Cleaning up the creosote means forcing it off, and so it will produce not only a palpable, dusty mess, but it might also fly freely into the air and damage your health. While using a vacuum, you make sure that there is no mess.

And since every chimney is placed on top of the house, on the roof, it is better to use a ladder to do so. While the old, classic ladders were the best solution in the 17th century, nowadays technology had transformed them into better versions of themselves. Telescopic ladders are not only easy to carry as they can fit in any type of car and space, but they also come with adjustable lengths. Such a modern ladder comes in handy when you need to clean many types of homes, especially in one day.

How often?

Not only do chimneys need to be cleaned correctly, they also need to be cleaned frequently enough.

There is no set rule on how often it has to be cleaned, but the general rule is at least once per year. Creosote deposits over time, so it is best to be cautious.

Safety precautions are in order though, regardless of the frequency of chimney cleaning. There are certain rules that have to be followed when fireplaces are concerned, and the majority of them have to do with what you fuel the fire with. The type and quality of wood are very important, as it has to be not only seasoned correctly but also deposited and kept in the optimal conditions, for the best results.

See my disclaimer.