The Importance of a Clean Chimney

Having a clean chimney is essential to the safety of your home. It also helps prevent carbon monoxide from building up inside your home.¬†Start by placing a plastic or painter’s cloth over the fireplace entrance. Next, place a ladder against the roof and secure it. Attach a brush rod to the top of your chimney. Start at the top and scrub down, adding additional rods. Visit¬† for more information.

chimney sweep

Creosote is a dark, sticky substance that can look dusty, puffy, flaky, or oily, like tar. It is a byproduct of burning wood and other fossil fuels, and it can build up inside your chimney flue and in your firebox. Eventually, it can block your chimney and create dangerous conditions threatening your home. Although you cannot prevent creosote from forming, you can do things to minimize its accumulation and slow down its inevitable progress.

You can usually tell if your chimney has heavy creosote buildup by shining a bright light into your fireplace and using a fireplace poker to scratch the surface. If the scratches have a matte black finish and are 1/8 in. or less in-depth, you probably have first-degree creosote, which can be removed with a chimney brush.

If the scratches are shiny tar-like, you have second-degree creosote, which is much harder to remove. It is also more likely to be stuck in your chimney’s lining than first-degree creosote. If left untreated, it can damage your vent and lining.

The type of wood you burn in your fireplace impacts how much creosote forms. Dry, well-seasoned wood produces fewer combustion byproducts and lower stack temperatures, meaning less creosote is paid. Green or unseasoned wood, on the other hand, burns hotter and has more combustion byproducts. The higher stack temperature and the moisture in the smoke combine to form more creosote.

Creosote can also accumulate from condensation inside the flue. When the vapors cool, they condense and stick to the inside of your chimney and flue. The heaviest deposits of liquid creosote are formed during all-night burns when the smoke cools and condenses for longer periods.

If your chimney has heavy creosote deposits, you should hire a professional for a Level 3 inspection, which is the most thorough and reveals structural damage. A Level 3 inspection requires ladders and a roof-mounted chimney sweep brush, operated by two people: one person on the roof holding one side of the pulley rope and the other at the fireplace with the other end of the string.

When creosote accumulates inside a chimney, it can cause a foul smell resembling asphalt or tar. This smelly byproduct of wood-burning fires is a telltale sign that it’s time to schedule a cleaning service.

The most common cause of odors from the fireplace is that it’s not getting enough draft. It can be due to a dirty chimney flue, a damaged cap, or a clogged smoke chamber. When air can’t get up and out of your chimney, it sucks through the cracks around the outside of the fireplace and into the house. It can lead to a musty smell, especially in the summer.

During a chimney sweeping, our trained technicians use special brushes to scrape all the thick creosote off the lining. This process allows for a much better and more thorough cleaning. It also helps to reduce the odors caused by the buildup.

Another major reason for a musty chimney odor is moisture retention. Moisture in the chimney can cause rust and deterioration of the masonry, mold, and mildew. If your chimney has leaks, it can also lead to water damage in the house. These issues will create musty odors that can be difficult to eliminate.

Other causes of musty chimney odors are animals that have taken up residence there. These creatures often find their way into a chimney, searching for shelter and warmth. They can also leave behind feces, waste, and other debris that will stink up your home. These animals can also become trapped inside your chimney, resulting in them dying and decomposing, causing an extremely foul smell that can be hard to remove.

The best way to prevent these problems is to have your chimney inspected and cleaned regularly by a professional. The trained chimney technicians at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney can inspect your chimney and determine what is causing odors in your home. Our professionals can then clean your chimney, repair any leaking parts of the duct, and help you prevent future odors with waterproofing.

When wood burns, it releases a host of contaminants into the air. When these contaminants cool as they rise through the chimney, they condense on the interior of the flue and chimney walls to form a sticky residue known as creosote. When left unattended, this substance can eat away at the chimney’s lining and allow deadly gases into the home. Creosote buildup is a very serious problem and shouldn’t be ignored.

Chimneys that don’t have top-rated chimney caps are especially prone to a creosote buildup. Wood debris, leaves, and other organic matter can enter the chimney. Birds and other animals often carry these contaminants into the chimney. They can also be blown into the duct by wind.

Creosote can also form when fires aren’t burning properly. Wood produces more smoke and doesn’t burn as completely when it has more moisture. Unburned wood produces more creosote than seasoned wood.

In addition, if the wood isn’t stacked correctly or the fireplace isn’t large enough for the fires that are burned in it, more creosote can form. It’s important to burn only seasoned and well-spaced fires in your chimney.

Whether you use gas- or oil-burning equipment, your utility flue should be cleaned regularly. Blocked or clogged vents can cause carbon monoxide to leak into the home, which is particularly dangerous for children and older adults.

A professional chimney sweep can clean your chimney and remove the dangerous buildup of creosote. You can do your part by wearing a sturdy ladder and a dust mask. You should also wear a pair of work gloves and have a box of sand or gravel on hand to protect the fireplace floor from spilled creosote.

Before sweeping, you should cover the chimney with heavy-duty plastic sheeting at least 6 feet long and 4 feet wide. Tap it to the ground before the fireplace. Once you’re ready to start, cut a length of extension ladder and set it against the side of your house, close to the chimney. Place another piece of plastic on the ground beneath the ladder to protect it from any falling masonry.

Your chimney is an important safety measure that allows smoke, toxins, and dangerous fumes to escape your home. It also helps prevent damage from water, wind, and fire. Having a clean chimney helps you and your family stay safe while enjoying the warmth and coziness of your fireplace.

A dirty chimney can cause a house fire. When creosote builds up on the lining of the flue, it becomes highly flammable. Over time, the creosote can burn through the masonry and wood of your chimney, creating an open flame that could spread to other parts of your home. Periodic chimney cleaning helps keep creosote levels low, making your fireplace and home less likely to catch fire.

Chimneys are also a common place for carbon monoxide (CO) to build up. CO is an odorless, colorless gas that can reduce the ability of blood to carry oxygen to your brain. If exposed to high levels of CO, you may experience dizziness, confusion, or shortness of breath. A clean chimney allows CO to exit your home through the vents, keeping you and your family healthy.

Many DIY chimney cleaning kits on the market contain a brush, a telescoping pole, and a pulley rope system. One person takes the chimney brush up on a ladder to the roof while another holds one end of the rope, sending the brush-up and down through the chimney to scrub it clean. This method can be difficult to master, but it’s worthwhile if you want a safer way to clean your vent.

If you have children in your home, keeping them away from the fireplace is important. Children are curious and can easily fall down the chimney or get hurt by the rotating brush. They may also be tempted to play with or chew on the meeting if you have pets. If you have a pet, consider putting a cage over the fireplace to protect it from the rotating brush.

If you hire a professional, ensure they know NFPA Standard 211. Look for a company with positive reviews from past customers and check that they’re certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Francis Woodworth