How often should I have my chimney swept?

There is no steadfast rule regarding the frequency of a chimney cleaning. It can vary from once a month to once every ten years depending on a variety of factors. However, The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) along with the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that chimneys, fireplaces, heating flues, and vents be inspected at least once a year and cleanings, maintenance, and repairs done if necessary.

Variables include:

  • How often you use your fireplace
  • Type of wood or fuel used
  • Location of your chimney in your home
  • If your chimney is lined
  • If your chimney has a cap
  • If you heat with oil or gas

What does a chimney sweep entail?

First, a visual inspection is done of the readily accessible areas of the chimney system. This is done to determine if a flue needs to be swept, type of brush needed, and confirm it’s free and clear of obstructions. Once this is done, the proper size brush is attached to flexible rods one-by-one and pushed through the flue. A drop protective cloth will be will be placed in front of the fireplace and a high-powered vacuum running for dust control.

How long does it take for an inspection and sweep?

Inspections generally don’t take very long but there are a few factors that will influence how much time will be needed. These factors include how many flues you have, the age of the home, the height of the chimney, and available access. Sweepings take about 20-45 minutes per flue depending on how dirty.

Is there a mess?

No, there shouldn’t be a mess. Extreme caution is taken when any service is provided in your home. When a sweeping is done, drop cloths are placed in front of the work area and high-powered vacuums are going for dust control.

What is a level 2 inspection?

A level 2 inspection is an examination of the “accessible” areas of chimney, which includes an internal camera scan of the flue(s). A camera is attached to rods and is inserted into the flue, taking pictures all the way to the peak. The photos will reveal interior condition and will let you know if your flues are worthy of use.

How do I know which type of inspection is needed?

A level 1 (visual) inspection will give you basic condition and determine if a sweep is needed.

A level 2 (camera) inspection will inform you if a flue is safe to use.

What is a flue? And how do I know how many flues I have?

A flue is the tunnel, or passageway, that is used to transfer exhaust gases for fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, boilers, or generators outside. Each fireplace should have its own flue and the heating system may have a flue, as well. For example; if you live in a single-family home, have one fireplace, and heat with oil – you most likely have 2 flues.

My fireplace smells smoky even when I’m not burning. What is this caused from?

The smell is caused from creosote deposits in the chimney. The odor is usually worse in the summer when the humidity is high, and the AC is on. We usually recommend a sweep to help keep odor down, but that won’t necessarily solve the issue. The core issue is the negative pressure in the chimney which causes air to be pulled back down and released in your home. By introducing make up air or installing a top sealing damper may help alleviate the problem. Fireplace deodorants or a cup of white vinegar on the smoke shelf can help mask the smell until a professional can come to evaluate.

When I build a fire in one fireplace why do I get smoke in the other?

This has become quite a common problem in modern air-tight houses. This issue typically occurs with the fireplace located on a lower level where the negative pressure is greater. Smoke transfer typically comes from one of two areas –  smoke from a used fireplace can be expelled into the atmosphere and then pulled down by a neighboring flue, or the smoke transfer is happening along the way through a breach in the flue.  If the transfer is happening at the peak, installing a top sealing damper, sealing off the lower level fireplace, or staggering the heights of the flues at the peak should prevent this from happening.  If the flue is the culprit, relining the flue that is in use will alleviate the problem.

What is Creosote?

Creosote is a highly flammable chimney and stovepipe deposit formed during incomplete combustion (including vapors, tar and soot). Creosote is often initially liquid, but may dry to a flaky or solid, glazed form.

How do I know if I need a liner?

According to today’s codes and standards, the flue must be clear of any defects and any damage that would allow the escape of combustion products, including gases, moisture, and creosote. An inspection will confirm if a liner is needed for your flue.

What's the difference between gas logs and a gas insert?

A gas logs set a is faux log and grate addition to your existing masonry fireplace and uses the chimney similar to a traditional wood burning fireplace. A gas insert is an enclosed unit which is inserted into your existing masonry fireplace and requires two small liners, one for exhaust and one for fresh air supply. One of the biggest differences between a gas insert fireplaces and gas logs, is aesthetic appeal. You can see flames inside the inserts, but they are permanently sealed with a glass face. Gas inserts use circulating blowers or radiant heat to provide warmth to the living space.