With the weather getting cooler and the holidays on their way, there’s nothing quite like cozying up to the fireplace with a warm blanket and a hot cup of tea. But before you light that first log–when was the last time you had your chimney cleaned?
While an often overlooked aspect of home maintenance, chimney cleaning is essential in making sure your winter season at home is just as safe as it is holly and jolly. So before anyone in a red suit comes to town, you really should clean your chimney.
While throwing a few logs in your woodburning fireplace is one of the enjoyable elements of it getting cold, it can also become a danger if not handled properly. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), nearly 50% of residential fires caused by heating and cooling equipment between 2011 and 2013 were fireplace or chimney-related (Source: CSIA).
Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, which can result in damages, injuries, or worse. When you burn wood in a fireplace, the wood smoke leaves a residue on the inside of your chimney and the flue that lines it. When enough of this residue builds up, it creates a sticky, black substance called creosote. Creosote can be rusty and flaky; tar-like, drippy and sticky; or shiny and hardened. All forms of creosote are combustible–and that’s bad.
However, the good news is that clean chimneys don’t catch fire!
Cleaning your chimney regularly (or having a professional do it) eliminates your risk for a chimney-related fire. Removing built-up creosote can also improve efficiency if you’re experiencing any problems.
While there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all answer for how often you should clean your chimney, CSIA recommends having a qualified professional inspect your chimney and vents annually. Yearly inspections will look for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. A chimney inspector will perform cleaning, maintenance, and repairs on a case-by-case basis as necessary.
Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, it’s possible for birds, squirrels, and other small animals to have used your chimney and with them, nesting debris. If you are a frequent fireplace user, CSIA recommends cleaning fireplaces when 1/8″ of sooty buildup is evident inside the chimney and flue system. If there is any glaze in the flue, you should clean it even if there’s less than 1/8″ of build up. Any significant quantity of soot and creosote can be enough to pose a threat. If you use your fireplace as your main source of heat, you’ll definitely need to clean it more frequently.
You can find a CSIA Certified Professional Chimney Sweep near you here.
While it is possible to clean your chimney yourself, it does require some specialized tools and is rather strenuous work. It also involves getting up on your roof with the proper tools. Safety is key, here. If you’re concerned, it’s best to leave it up to the professionals.
Now that winter is coming, are you ready? Check out our post on How to Make Your Home Winter Ready for more tips and advice.
Sarah is a content writer and social media assistant with a BA in literature/creative writing from Wilkes University. When she’s not spending her days at work writing, reading, and drinking coffee, she’s usually at home reading, writing, and drinking coffee. She also devotes a fair amount of time to HGTV, drawing, and doting on her dog. As a creator, Sarah believes in emphasizing personality through design and DIY projects.