Top Tips for a Clean Chimney

tips for keeping your chimney clean

Top Tips for a Clean Chimney

How a Clean Chimney Works

There’s nothing cozier than a home fireplace. Although some people opt for gas-fueled models, and they definitely have their strong points, most prefer genuine wood-burning heating system. This is due primarily to the homey crackling sound of burning logs and the luminous orange embers that they produce.

Unfortunately, where a gas stove is fairly clean-burning, a traditional fireplace is a bit more of a challenge to maintain. A clean chimney generally works well, but when it is slow to draw the smoke out of the house, it can result in a sooty, smelly home full of carcinogens. In the worst-case scenario, a badly preserved chimney may also lead to a terrifying chimney fire.

professional chimney sweeper

To better understand how often to clean a chimney, it is important to start at the beginning and learn the various parts of the venting system and how they work together. Once you know how a chimney works and why it is important to keep it clean, you will likely understand why hiring the right chimney company like Pro-Tech Chimney & Sweep from Long Island.

The Parts of a Chimney

There are up to seven parts to contemporary chimneys plus the firebox, which is where the fires are actually constructed. Generally, venting systems consist of the following:

  • Chimney flue: the vertical opening by which the smoke exits the home
  • Chimney liner: the interior of the chimney that protects the home from the high temperatures created in stoves and fireplaces
  • Chimney damper: the “doors” to the chimney, which consist of two metal plates just above the firebox
  • Smoke chamber: area between the damper and the flue where combustion byproducts are compressed to exit through the chimney
  • Chimney cap: prevent animals, debris, downdrafts, rain, snow, and sleet from entering the chimney
  • Crown: cement part of the chimney found at the very top
  • Chimney flashing: metal pieces that block water from causing damage where the chimney and the roof meet

Incidentally, most chimney fires begin in the smoke chamber, therefore, it is an extremely important area to keep clean and free of debris.

What Could Happen If You Don’t Clean Your Chimney

Many would-be homeowners long for a residence with a fireplace. They can arguably help with heating costs during a cold winter. Fireplaces and stoves are also handy to have when a storm knocks the power out. Plus, they are just irresistible.


Unfortunately, as with any aspect of homeownership, they come with some major responsibilities that must be addressed on a regular basis. Ignoring these can cause real problems; the worst of which is the potential for a chimney fire resulting in significant property loss.

Why Clean Your Chimney

A homeowner should never neglect having the chimney cleaned. This periodic task handles a few different things that help keep the heating system in proper working order.

  1. It removes creosote buildup. Creosote is an oily, black substance that is a residual byproduct of burning wood. It is highly flammable and the cause of many house fires.
  2. It clears out any birds, raccoons, or other creatures that might have been using your chimney as a “critter condo”.
  3. It encourages the free flow of smoke up the flue, thereby eliminating unsafe levels of carbon monoxide gas and soot damage.

Each year U.S. homeowners spend over 200-million dollars as a consequence of using dangerous, dirty, debris-filled chimneys. Regular cleaning keeps your chimney working properly and safely.

It can also help you identify when normal wear needs to be addressed so you can avoid expensive repairs to your heating appliance systems, such as wood-burning stoves, etc.

How to Keep Your Chimney Clean

There are several things a homeowner should do to keep his/her chimney clean. Proper use to ensure a safer operation is one. Make sure to open the damper before starting a fire in the firebox and closing it after the fire has been extinguished.

Use a chimney sweeping log or similar product on a regular basis. These “logs” help prevent chimney residue and eliminate debris deposited along the chimney walls. Merely follow the directions on the packaging.

Although cleaner-logs are a decent DIY step, they are not adequate substitutes for a thorough manual cleaning. Follow an annual inspection schedule and regular cleaning conducted by a licensed chimney sweep to keep your chimney safe and properly functioning.

How Often Do You Need to Clean Your Chimney?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, “Chimneys, replaces, 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.”

regular chimney inspection keeps your home safe

A chimney should be cleaned at least once a year. However, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) states that as soon as 1/8′′ of sooty buildup is evident within the chimney venting system. If there is a creosote buildup of any amount, a thorough cleaning should be done. This combustible resin is what often results in chimney fires that damage the chimney and may even spread to the roof and house.

Furnace flue systems also require cleaning, so don’t neglect regular cleaning of those venting systems.

What Determines How Often to Clean Your Chimney

If it has been a year or longer since you’ve had your chimney inspected by a certified company, you should schedule an appointment. If you’re having any performance problems with your chimney or heating appliance system, you should have a technician check it out.

When you use your wood-burning stove or furnace infrequently, you may believe that an annual inspection is unnecessary. A reputable chimney sweep will look at all heating ventilation systems, chimneys, stove furnace, and system flues. Through these inspections, any undiscovered defects or problems can be detected and addressed even when cleaning isn’t required.

If you’re using more than a full cord of wood during a single burning season, the chimney may need to be cleaned more than once a year. A quick way to determine whether your chimney needs to be cleaned is to run the tip of your poker along the inside of your chimney liner. If the buildup is more than ⅛-inch call a chimney specialist.

Having inspections done on a regular basis can help you determine the best time to have it cleaned annually.

When to Inspect and Clean a Chimney Flue

The best time of year to have your chimney cleaned is any time during the late summer up to the beginning of autumn. This gets your chimney cleaned, maintained, and repaired before you plan to use it and hopefully after any animals that took residence has moved on.

You should also have your chimney inspected any time your heating appliance systems have been updated, changed, or added onto. This can detect any undiscovered defects or installation issues that should be repaired before use.

How Often to Clean a Gas Only Flue

Some homeowners prefer the more contemporary gas fireplace. They consider it a cleaner and safer option. If your chimney is only used for venting gas appliances, get in touch with a certified chimney cleaning specialist to ascertain an inspection and cleaning schedule that works for you.

How Often to Clean a Pellet Stove Chimney

Another modern choice is the pellet stove chimney. Wood pellet stoves are usually small and easy to operate. It burns bags of pellets about the size of a mulch bag.

Since the fire is included in a heating box within the stove, there’s less ash, less creosote, and less smoke than traditional heating options. A personal cleaning should be done monthly, but you should contact a chimney company for advice on your particular situation.

How to Clean a Chimney

Although creosote builds up slow, it can become a very genuine chimney fire hazard. The process of cleaning a chimney is at best a dirty one. Plus, there are several special tools and brushes you need for the firebox and flue if you are going to attempt the job yourself.

  • Begin by using one of the smaller-diameter brushes to reach through the opening to clean out the smoke chamber and as far up into the chimney as the brush reaches.
  • Using a high-quality tape, thoroughly seal the front of the fireplace with thick plastic sheeting. This blocks the opening and protects the home’s interior from any extra dust that will fall on the floor of the firebox.
  • Remove anything that might be obstructing the top of the chimney, such as the chimney cap or any grates. Then use the largest-diameter brush to clean the flue from the top.
  • Finish up by cleaning the interior of the fireplace.

Since this is a specialized job with specific tools, it is likely one best left to a licensed, professional chimney sweep. This is especially true since the potential consequences of doing the process poorly can be catastrophic.

When Should You Hire a Chimney Sweep

Although you may feel inclined to attempt removing the creosote yourself, to get the best results call a CSIA-certified chimney sweep. More than half of the chimneys serviced have an accumulation of hardened resin that requires extra cleaning with specific tools or chemicals. This is because many homeowners wait too long before scheduling an inspection.

hiring a professional chimney sweeper

Professional chimney sweepers may see 40 to 50 chimney fires each year. Depending on how often you use your fireplace or wood-burning stove, you should have it inspected on a regular basis and at least once a year.

What Does a Chimney Sweep Do?

A chimney sweep has to be educated about construction codes, trained to recognize corrosion and venting issues, and equipped to advise homeowners about the chimney’s condition and solution options. They inspect the chimney’s exterior, as well as the interior. This includes the firebox, the liners, the smoke chamber, and the flue.

Professional cleaning includes an inspection for soot buildup, obstacles, and cracks in the chimney, as well as signs of water damage. Older chimneys often have gaps where the mortar has dropped out. New chimneys should be inspected for undiscovered defects in design or installation.

How to Hire the Best Chimney Sweep

Choose a chimney sweep that is qualified to assess your style of chimney and heating system. Make sure that the sweep you employ does more than pushing a brush. Verify that the technician is CSIA-certified and confirm the certification is up-to-date. Ask for references and proof of insurance of at least $300,000. Plus, ask about any warranty/guarantees provided.

Generally, chimney cleanings typically charge $100 to $350, based on Klotz. This depends on the individual job. Any special equipment needed for complications, such as hardened creosote buildup or creatures in the chimney will result in a higher charge.

To maintain a quaint and cozy fire in a safe environment, it is necessary to follow an annual inspection schedule and regular cleanings performed by a professional Long Island chimney sweep.

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