How Often Do You Need to Clean Your Chimney & Other Little Known Facts

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How Often Do You Need to Clean Your Chimney & Other Little Known Facts

How Often Does Your Chimney Need to be Cleaned?

According to the NFPA or the National Fire Protection Association, chimney cleaning or chimney sweeping should be done at least once every year. However, the CSIA or the Chimney Safety Institute of America suggests having your chimney cleaned if the sooty and/or creosote build-up is ⅛ of an inch thick.

So which recommendation should you follow?

Is chimney sweeping that important?

Does a chimney that’s hardly being used need to be inspected and cleaned at all?

The following information will help you decide how often you should clean chimney fireboxes, liners, dampers, and smoke chambers. Likewise, you’ll also learn why and when your home’s chimney system needs the services of a professional chimney sweep contractor.   

How Often Should You Have your Chimney Cleaned?

How often a chimney needs cleaning depends on how it was used. 

For rarely used fireplaces

The NFA recommends annual inspection to check if it is not compromised, or else it could create a fire hazard. It is best NOT to conclude that the chimney system is always in good working order, no matter the circumstances.

“Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.”

Chimney Safety Institute of America


Even if you are not using your fireplace more often, it still needs to be inspected. 


Birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other critters may have been using your chimney as a spot to build their nests. It is unsafe to use your chimney without getting rid of accumulated debris from these animals’ nesting activity.

For regularly used fireplaces

The CSIA suggests that fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned when the flue system and the surface inside the chimney reveal ⅛ inches of sooty buildup. 

Even so, the flue should be cleaned as soon as there is a presence of glazed creosote or stage 3 creosote. In general, creosote is a dangerous material to have in your flue and brickwork because it can damage the structure.

Stage 3 creosote is an even more dangerous type of creosote. It is a highly flammable substance that accumulates in your chimney liner and is the most common cause of chimney fires.


How Do You Know if Your Chimney Needs to be Cleaned?

So how do you know when your chimney needs cleaning?

Here are six (6) signs that tell you it’s time to hire a professional chimney sweep:

1. You can’t keep your fire burning

Having problems in keeping a fire burning or worse, having a hard time starting a fire in wood-burning stoves or firebox means there is a problem inside your chimney walls. Keeping a fire burning requires a good flow of air. Too much and not enough air can cause fire from burning properly. 

2. You smell a strong odor coming from your chimney

The smell of burning wood in your furnace should have a pleasant odor. Otherwise, there could be a problem with your chimney. The strong, foul odor coming from your chimney means there is a presence of harmful gases like carbon monoxide, which can lead to respiratory problems and even death. 

3. The presence of creosote or greasy black soot 

Creosote releases harmful chemicals that are not safe to breathe. Therefore, immediate removal of the substance is an absolute must. To check for the presence of creosote, try to reach the insides of your fireplace and touch the walls. The greasy black soot is the creosote.

4. Smoke buildup when burning firewood 

The unmanageable buildup of smoke in the fireplace while burning firewood indicates a blockage inside the chimney. The build-up of creosote, tree branches & leaves, and the accumulation of debris from burning wood can block the exit of smoke from the chimney.

5. A damper in bad working order

It is wise to always check if your damper is in good working condition since it maintains the normal flow of air inside the furnace and into the chimney. If you find it hard to open and close the damper then you should have it repaired as soon as possible before it leads to larger problems in the future.

6. Animal noise coming from chimney walls

Scurrying, fluttering, and other animal noises in and around your chimney mean animals are using your chimney as shelter. Squirrels and raccoons can enter your chimney and build their homes. 

Likewise, birds often build their nests on chimneys. Dry grass and straws from bird’s nests not only cause blockage but can also lead to chimney fires as well.  

What is Involved in Chimney Cleaning?

Cleaning your chimney involves keeping it clean and free of obstructions such as accumulated debris from burning wood, soot, creosote, and debris from the animals’ nests. 

Chimney maintenance is essential to the safety of the household and the life and operation of the chimney system.

Why Should I Get My Chimney Cleaned Regularly?

Creosote is a combustible black or brown residue that accumulates on the inside of chimneys. Formation occurs when wood, coal, oil, or other fuel products burn. It is highly flammable and can cause chimney fires when not removed.

In extreme cases, neglecting to clean your chimney regularly can lead to the creation of a dangerous build-up called creosote slag. This is a layer of solidified creosote that coats the entire chimney interior and can become difficult to remove. Creosote slag is a major contributor to chimney fires.

The chimney sweep must remove soot, blockages, and built-up creosote from your fireplace. This cleaning will help create a safer operation during the heating season. Remove any remaining deposits that would have formed on these surfaces over time. Carbon burning or other factors such as firewood smoke sitting too long before becoming released into your homes’ ventilation systems. 

How Long Does a Chimney Sweep Take?

Generally, cleaning a chimney only takes around 45 minutes to an hour. But some factors could take any chimney sweeping activity a bit longer. 

The number of fireplaces

More than one fireplace means more time is needed for a chimney sweep to complete his job. Moreover, there are other preparations before the cleaning can start such as wearing shoe covers and laying down covers for the floor and other furniture to ensure your home remains clean just as before.

Time since the last sweep    

If you regularly use your fireplace during cold months but haven’t had the annual chimney inspection then there’s probably a huge amount of creosote buildup inside your furnace and flue.

Thick layers of creosote are hard to remove and may take more time due to the quantity of buildup that might be present. 

This is why regular cleaning of your masonry fireplaces and chimneys is required to prevent further buildup of soot and creosote.

Blockages present

Removal of blockages also takes time. The most common things that cause blockage to your chimney are:

  • Debris falling from the flue
  • Animal nest and
  • Dead animals

Thus, it is necessary to install a chimney cap to prevent leaves, tree branches, birds, and other animals from entering your chimney. 

When is The Best Time to Clean your Chimney?

The best time to have your home’s chimney system inspected and cleaned is before the burning season, which is in the summer or early fall.  

During this time, the frequency of burnings slows down. This normally occurs during the cold season. In addition to a lower frequency of usage, you can enjoy proper conditions for cleaning out deposits from creosote bush. This plant releases a flammable sap when it becomes heated or comes into contact with air.

Combined, these factors make the sweeping process more difficult and dangerous when performed during other seasons. It almost always results in additional wear on your chimney system as well as the sweep crew performing the work. A better option is to make an appointment after spring and then another before fall arrives each year.

It is wise to have your chimney inspected by a certified chimney sweep company before thinking of building a fire after the weather has changed.

Schedule a Chimney Inspection Once a Year

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends the inspection of all chimneys and vents at least once a year. CSIA also advises that you have your chimney cleaned when an inspection reveals creosote deposits thicker than 1/8 inch.

You can also have your chimney cleaned when you notice:

  • increased levels of smoke in the home
  • soot on the walls or ceilings of the home
  • an odor of burning wood in the home
  • rust on the damper handle
  • a bird’s nest in the chimney, or other debris blocking the flue

Have you been having trouble with your fireplace? When the answer is yes, it is time for an annual chimney inspection. Most experts recommend this important procedure. It is one way that homeowners can ensure their fireplaces are running smoothly all year. Performing inspections every twelve months also guarantees that any needed repairs will get fixed before they become serious problems.

When Do I Need a Chimney Inspection

The frequency of your chimney inspection will largely depend on how often you use your fireplace. When you only use it a few times a year, an inspection may not become necessary. However, using your fireplace frequently signals to have an inspection at least once a year.

In addition to the frequency of use, other factors that can affect the need for inspections include:

  • the type of fuel for burning
  • the climate where you live
  • the age and design of your chimney
  • whether or not you have a cap on your chimney

The last thing you want to do is put your family at risk! Every year, a fireplace or heating system inspection must take place. Make sure not to wait! It almost always results in additional repairs. These can lead to property loss when these are unsafe systems. Every day, homeowners lose over 200 million dollars as they continue using them! This is even though there have been safety concerns raised regarding their use of this device.

How to Check for Creosote

There is a right and wrong way to check for creosote. The latter waste your money, time, and resources just to get unsatisfactory results. When you choose the former, there is no way to avoid wasting some of these things. A chimney inspection provides peace of mind that makes you at ease during each season.

The Wrong Way To Check for Creosote

Spray an excess amount of water down the flue while continuing regular usage. This is especially common during spring and summer when the frequency of use increases. Falling temperatures signal that you turn on the heaters again. Continue using your fireplaces or stoves at least five times more than during the winter months. In doing this, it becomes harder to tell whether or not you have a chimney that is safe for use.

The Right Way to Check for Creosote

Avoid using your fireplace as much as possible before taking the time to check for creosote buildup. This takes place between September and May when the frequency of burnings becomes less frequent. In this way, it will become easier to see when you have a problem with creosote building up.

In addition, waiting creates an accurate picture of what you are dealing with after sweeping occurs. Another bonus is that it leads to better results from each sweep that follows.

Required Tools for Cleaning a Chimney

Make sure that you have the proper supplies on hand before beginning your cleanup process. This ensures that you prepare everything and save money by avoiding sudden trips to the hardware store. Good things to have include:

  • Safety goggles
  • Nylon brushes
  • Metal scraper tools
  • Creosote removing chemicals
  • Drop cloth
  • Flashlight
  • Dust mask
  • Flue liner brush
  • Noodle brush
  • Long-handled brush
  • Shop vacuum
  • Safety harness

Clean up any creosote buildup from the chimney. This will prevent most fires from starting in your fireplace. It is a very important area to clean. Some fireplaces are too high or difficult for homeowners with limited access. When yours is one of those, make sure you can see inside before cleaning this part by yourself.

How to Remove Creosote

Remove creosote by scraping it away. Use a metal scraper to make the process easier and safer for you to complete in this way. Use a vacuum with a long hose when cleaning parts of your chimney that are too high up or difficult to reach otherwise. It makes cleanup afterward go more quickly since most of what you sweep out falls off when using waterfalls before sweeping begins.

Afterward, clean each section again but only with water. This will ensure that no remaining residue causes fires when burning your fireplace or stove again in the future. Clean all areas of your home’s exterior once done applying chemicals directly to your flue liner brush and nylon brushes. This is while they rest inside your stove during an entire sweep.

Tips for Chimney Cleaning Costs

These costs vary based on the frequency, size of your home’s chimney system, and how many people will become involved in the process. It can range from $150 to $350 for an average chimney sweep price. This is because there are so many different variables involved in completing this type of work. It is impossible to provide a precise quote without seeing the area first.

As much as possible, avoid using water to check for creosote buildup when you plan on making an appointment with a professional right away. This is after determining that chemical methods will not work. Only do this between September and May when the frequency of use decreases due to colder temperatures outside.

Forms of Preventive Maintenance

You can do many things to protect against major chimney cleaning problems. They include:

A professional can inspect your chimney at least once a year. That is unless you have access to the portion that comes out of your roof. This is the only form of preventative maintenance that carries an additional cost with it when completed for you.

Never burn trash in your fireplace or leave any wood indoors during the summer months when you are leaving home for several weeks. This promotes more creosote buildup outside instead of causing fires inside.

Avoid any kind of activity that reduces airflow in the flue each time you use it even when it is very hot outside. Stay away from this type of routine, which includes burning excessively large logs.

Do Experts Recommend Creosote Sweeping Logs

There is no definitive answer to this question. Some experts say that creosote sweeping logs do more harm than good because they can create more residue in the chimney. The main reason you might need to use one of these products is when your chimney does not have cleaning within the past year. In this case, it can help remove some of the build-ups before your professional sweep arrives.

Choose the frequency of chimney cleaning based on the type of fuel you are burning and how often you use your fireplace or stove. Cleaning frequency also depends on whether or not you live in a single-family home or an apartment building. A competent professional should always inspect both before and after any work is done.

Can You Get Away with Just Chimney Sweeping Logs?

It is possible to use chimney sweeping logs as the only form of preventive maintenance. You should consider this when you have yearly access to your chimney and live in a single-family home. Sweepers come in contact with creosote and other forms of residue while they are doing their duty. This helps remove some of it before it becomes a problem.

You can also use one after your professional sweep without doing one recently. It is best to avoid using water when checking for residue buildup. Only do this between September and May when temperatures are cool enough to prevent fires from starting.

Can You Clean Your Chimney?

It is possible to clean your chimney when you set aside the appropriate amount of time for this project. The frequency of sweeping varies based on how often you use your fireplace or stove. You should rely solely on chemicals before hiring a professional when creosote buildup is present. Make sure that water does not come into contact with any residue during the summer months when you are out of town for an extended period.

The best way to avoid extensive damage to your chimney’s lining and flue is by using preventative maintenance before problems start occurring in the first place. Examples are sweeping after every other heating event and applying creosote-reducing products like Bio Fire Cleanse-All regularly.

Let us Sweep Away the Dangers of Creosote from your Home

Chimneys and fireplaces are marvelous assets to any home. Annual inspection and cleaning can make your household safe from fire and health hazards. 

Pro-Tech Chimney has licensed chimney cleaning experts who are knowledgeable about building codes. They are also trained to recognize any venting and deterioration problems. Furthermore, they can advise you regarding the condition of your fireplace and chimney.

Hiring a Chimney Sweep Company

When hiring a chimney sweep company in Long Island, always ask for proof of insurance and licenses. This protects you from any damage that may occur with ongoing work. You should also get an estimate in writing to avoid any surprises when the bill arrives. Request an estimate for sweeping logs as well.

As you plan on using your chimney more than twice this winter, have a sweep soon to avoid problems with creosote buildup. Experts also recommend that you keep the wood-burning stove or fireplace operable during the cooler months when it is not in use. In this way, you can prepare for your upcoming heating season instead of waiting until spring arrives before calling a professional.

Chimneys need sweeping every year because they are an opening into the inner part of your home. There is no other way to get inside to clean out all that build-up besides getting a brush up into that flue pipe.

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