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The Importance of the Chimney Sweep

Chimney Fires KILL!

Has yours been swept this year?


Nests (from birds or animals) in chimneys - or blockages of any kind - are bad news. They can cause smoking problems, chimney fires, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Many American homeowners think their chimneys only need to be cleaned and inspected if they burn wood in their fireplaces or wood stoves. But almost all heating appliances, whether they burn gas, oil, wood, or coal, rely on a chimney to safely carry out the toxic gases produced by the heating system. So they all need a yearly service call from a chimney professional.

Oil fired heating systems: In addition to your yearly maintenance from your oil company, your oil burning heating system’s chimney needs regular yearly inspections and /or sweepings by a chimney professional. Chimney sweeping to remove soot build-up is done every 3-5 years on average, never go more than 5 years between sweepings because the soot will cause fewer particles to move up the flue. This will eventually block the connector pipe to the chimney and cause a “blowback” of soot into the house. Blow backs are very common (we get over 50 calls a year from people this has happened to). Blowbacks can cause a huge mess and usually require professional cleaning of everything in your home (walls, curtains, rugs, clothing, bedding, and all surfaces). If the blowback happens at night when your sleeping, your family may awake covered in soot and will have breathed soot and sulfur dioxide all night. It’s a lot easier and better for your health to just sweep the chimney regularly. 

Gas-fired heating systems: Even though gas is considered to be clean-burning, gas heating system chimney’s need regular yearly inspections and/or sweepings by a chimney professional and should have chimney sweeping performed every 5-7 years on average to remove the acidic scaling that forms from the by-products of gas combustion and condensation. You should not go for more than 7 years between sweepings. Carbon monoxide dangers are a serious issue if the chimney were ever to get blocked up (from things such as animal nests, or liner collapse in worn-out chimneys).

Solid fuel burning (such as wood): Solid fuel-fired chimneys must be swept yearly or possibly after every cord burned. The best time to sweep is late spring after all burning is done so the creosote doesn’t sit in the chimney all year (which can damage the flue lining). A dirty solid fuel chimney with only a quarter-inch of soot contains a highly flammable tar-like substance called creosote.  A hot fire around 1000 degrees F. could easily cause stack temperatures in excess of 450 degrees F. (creosote’s low-end temperature of ignition point) and ignite this substance into a roaring chimney fire.  At the height of a chimney fire, the creosote can burn at temperatures exceeding 1800 degrees F.  Flames and flying embers can easily land on the roof and ignite the wood framing of your home.  The intense heat can cause the flue to crack or collapse possibly causing the interior walls of your house to burst into flames. In unlined flues, the thermal transfer can cause the wood framing of the house to ignite inside the walls.

Glazed creosote in your chimney is recognizable by its dense, shiny tar-like appearance.  This unpleasant substance is basically wood tar which has become baked onto the walls of the chimney or flue lining.  Once it gets burning in your chimney, it is extremely difficult to extinguish. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as creosote-free wood burning.  Creosote accumulation will occur no matter what kind of wood is burned and no matter what kind of wood-burning system is used. 

If your chimney sweep has already diagnosed glazed creosote as a problem in your chimney takes his or her advice seriously.  DO NOT continue to use your affected fireplace or wood stove.  The simple fact is that a hot fire (or a rapid/hot burn of small floating particles such as burning paper, cardboard, or trash) could easily ignite the glazed creosote and result in a dangerous chimney fire. A low burning fire under such hazardous conditions will only worsen the glazed creosote problem.

For all sweeping call:


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