When to Clean Out Your Chimney
It can be said that firewood warms a person up four times: when it’s cut, when you haul it to your house, when it’s burned, and when you clean out your chimney. Cleaning out your fireplace chimney can be a chore, but it’s a required necessity.
Soot and creosote are by-products of burning wood. Each time you light a fire in your fireplace, a powdery black carbon residue called soot is produced. Creosote, a tar-like carbon substance, rises up with exhaust gases to cling to the inner walls of the chimney flue. Soot and creosote accumulate with each use of the fireplace. Creosote is in particular is flammable and is responsible for thousands of chimney fires each year.
If you have a chimney you use infrequently and you can’t remember the last time it was cleaned, it would be advisable to have it inspected for any damage and cleaned of any debris that may have built up. A chimney sweeper or other professional should be hired to perform the inspection and cleanup.
If you use your chimney regularly, it should be inspected and cleaned at least annually. This should be done before the wood burning season begins in your area. This would typically be during the early fall when birds, squirrels and other small animals begin to seek nesting spots for the winter. Chimneys with no caps or broken down caps are favorite havens for these animals.
After the initial cleaning, it would be advisable to inspect the inside of your chimney every week if you use it often. The frequency will also depend on the type of wood you burn inside your fireplace as unseasoned green wood will leave larger deposits of flammable creosote more quickly than cords of seasoned wood. A general cleaning guideline to observe would be to clean out your chimney when at least one eighth of an inch of creosote builds up on the inner chimney flue lining.
Whether done by yourself or a professional, cleaning out your chimney is an essential task. Doing so will keep you, your family, and your home safe from chimney fires, gases, and other hazards.