When to Clean a Chimney

If you have a chimney at home and don’t know when or how to clean it, then this article is for you.

There are no hard and fast rules to do house repairs, but the recommended length of time that you should wait before cleaning it is after 50 uses. If you haven’t used it that many times after a year, then you should go ahead and clean it anyway. It’s important to clean the chimney in order to remove the accumulated creosote, a substance that forms when wood is not burnt properly or completely.

Creosote buildup constricts the flow of oxygen into your chimney, leading to smoky fire. This can be avoided by ensuring that there is enough combustion air in the chimney to create a clean burning fire that is warm and comforting. A simple method that you can use to check the creosote levels in your chimney is to examine the inside of the chimney for the presence of any downdraft, and if you do feel that there is, then open up a few windows to encourage the air to flow back into the chimney again.

Inspecting Your Chimney

When inspecting your chimney, you’ll want to wear some heavy duty cleaning gear such as a dust mask and some goggles to protect yourself throughout the process. Using a flashlight and a chimney poker, search for the creosote, and if you feel a super thin groove while scratching, then you can continue to use the chimney and defer the cleaning to another time. If you feel a 1/8 inches thick groove then you should clean it as soon as possible, whereas a ¼ thick groove means that you can defer cleaning, but you will have to do handyman services before you use it again, because using it in this state could ignite a chimney fire. Another area to check for creosote build-up is the chimney flue, which can harbor a lot of creosote if your chimney is outside.

It’s best to remove creosote when it’s still light and paper-thin, and while it still has a dull gray or brown appearance. At this stage, it’s so light that you can remove it with a feather duster. The next stage of creosote accumulation is when it takes on a black granular appearance, which you can sweep away using a hardy chimney brush. The third stage of creosote build-up is when it gets so hard that it looks and feels like tar and it becomes extremely hard to remove, but even that is not as bad as the hazardous glaze-like coating which is literally impossible to remove, especially if you’re using conventional tools.

When the creosote build-up gets to this level, you should call a professional handyman for assistance. Not only are chimney sweeps required to learn about building codes, but they’re also trained to give accurate advice to homeowners by detecting signs of chimney deterioration, as well as venting problems that might have arisen without your knowledge.

Furthermore, it’s important to have your chimney inspected at least once per year to ensure that it is safe and in a state of good functionality.