Every day is a little cooler and winter is right around the corner, which means in a few short weeks you might be chopping wood or scooping your pellet stove insert into your fireplace to stay warm. Now is the right time to clean the chimney to make sure it is safe to use.
How do you know it is time for cleaning? The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) says fireplaces need cleaning when the inside of the chimney or flue system has 1/8″ of soot buildup.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) encourages homeowners to clean and inspect their fireplaces at least once a year even if it isn’t used often. It isn’t uncommon for animals to makes nests in the area, and when they do, it is unsafe to start a fire below.
You might be looking to clean your chimney, or maybe you just want to know more about the process. Either way, here are the steps needed to ensure your chimney is ready to keep you cozy warm during the cold winter.
Step 1: Inspect the buildup
Start by making sure there isn’t a downdraft, and if you feel air flow open a window in the same room as the chimney to stop it. Next, put on goggles and a dust mask. Grab a good flashlight and a fireplace poker. Scratch the surface of the smoke chamber.
If the groove is ⅛ inch thick, then it is time to schedule cleaning. If it is ¼ inch thick or more, then don’t start another fire until a cleaning is completed.
Also check for creosote at the top of the firebox, in the smoke chamber, the damper and the flue.
Step 2: Limit the mess
Cleaning a chimney is a dirty job. It’s best to start by controlling the mess. Grab a roll of duct tape, lay canvas tarp over the hearth and seal it up around the entire opening of the chimney. Put the hose of a shop vacuum behind the seal of the opening to grab the dust and soot.
It helps to use extra hoses so you can place the vacuum outside, so when you dump it or clean it, you are not releasing all of the ash in your home. Furthermore, many shop vacuum filters don’t trap the fine soot and will blow right out the exhaust port. This step will save you extra clean up.
Step 3: Top to bottom brushing
It’s time to jump on the roof with your chimney brush, but first, turn on the shop vacuum, so it is ready to grab what you are throwing down. Ram the cleaning brush down the flue and move it up and down several times in one small section.
Use a good flashlight to inspect your work before going to the next section. Continue down the fireplace until you reach the smoke box. The rest of the work needs to be completed from the inside.
Peel back a part of the sheeting sealing off the fireplace. Then, use a long-handled brush and noodle brush to remove the soot from the smoke shelf and firebox.
Step 4: Finish the job carefully.
Before you remove the shop vacuum, use it to remove the remaining soot. When you are finished, carefully remove the seal from the fireplace. Wrap up the canvas and throw it away, so you don’t spread the soot around your home.
Cleaning a chimney requires quite a few tools including several different types of chimney brushes. If you don’t have the equipment, time or experience give Sooner Carpet a call at (405) 329-8999, and we’ll make sure you have a safe chimney. We want to give you peace of mind while you depend on its warmth this winter.