How often should my chimney be cleaned?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends an annual inspection/cleaning of all chimneys for safety. Removal of flammable creosote is one of the tasks that the sweep will perform while servicing your chimney. Professional sweeps can tell by the “ring” of the brushes if you have a cracked flue tile that needs attention. During the cleaning other areas that are checked for safety are your cap, flue, smoke chamber, smoke shelf, damper, firebox, exterior brick, flashing, and crown. If detected early, small repairs can save you thousands of dollars. Our sweeps are also trained in detecting third degree creosote glazing and helping to correct the cause of it.

Who has chimney fires nowadays?

The most recent figures from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission indicate that there are over 29,100 chimney/solid fuel related fires annually in America. A chimney fire happens when the creosote deposited inside the chimney ignites. When this happens, it is usually associated with a loud roaring sound, like an aircraft taking off or a train running through your living room. This is due to the tremendous amount of air rushing into your fireplace producing a blast furnace type of effect. A chimney fire can produce temperatures exceeding 2,000 degrees; hot enough to melt mortar and spew flaming balls of creosote out of your chimney like a volcano. Some people have limited chimney fires just burning up one side of the flue sounding like the howling wind outside. Many times, this will crack the clay flue liner leaving the homeowner in a more vulnerable situation should a second chimney fire occur. A common occurrence is a resulting structure fire transmitted through the brick from the intense heat.

Do the powders and logs I see advertised to eliminate creosote really work?

Powders and potions have been around for over twenty years that claim to reduce or eliminate creosote in the chimney. Our field observations of homeowners that try these chemicals have shown that not only do they not eliminate creosote, some are actually causing severe damage to the chimney interior. We have seen homeowners burning aluminum cans, potato peelings, and even chicken droppings. These methods not only do not eliminate creosote, they also produce a caustic acid when burned, and deposit on the inside of your chimney. Be wary of anything boasting all-natural ingredients. In most cases this means sodium chloride (table salt) being deposited in your flue. Salt mixed with humidity and moisture spells disaster both for masonry and metal interiors of chimneys. Much like salt on your sidewalks in the wintertime.

What type of wood is best to use in my fireplace?

The most common type of wood to order from this area of the country is mixed hardwoods, followed by birch. Birch is not as popular as it is a softer wood and will burn twice as fast as the mixed hardwoods, also producing twice as much creosote. The most important thing is to burn a well-seasoned wood. Wood should be cut and split and left to dry 12 months and stored with a cover over the top with the sides left open for air circulation. Stay away from pine because of its high pitch content and never burn cardboard, plywood, Christmas wrapping, treated, or painted wood. The smokier the fire you have, the more creosote you will be depositing in your chimney.

What is that chirping in my chimney flue?

You may have noticed little bat-like creatures living in your chimney during the months when it is not in use. These birds are often confused as bats because of their jerky flight, but are actually completely harmless Chimney Swifts. These tiny little birds migrate from South America during the Spring and leave the northeast around early November, just as the cold weather starts to come through. Chimney Swifts are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This Federal Law prohibits the removal of any migrating bird without a federal permit. In addition to the prohibited removal, these migratory birds always return to the same nesting spots year after year, therefore, if you had a nest in your chimney last year, you can expect the flock to return this year. If you decide you do not want the birds to return to your home, preventative measures must be taken within the proper window of time. On the other hand, if you would like to provide a home for these birds, it is best to learn ways to help them find and enjoy your home.  The most effective way to prevent these birds from re-nesting is to have a chimney cap installed.

What is causing the smell coming from my chimney, especially in the spring and summer months?

The culprit that smells up your home through your chimney is creosote. Creosote is a natural by-product of burning fuel, especially wood. When the weather is humid and warm, the creosote odor gets stronger. Of course, chimney cleaning will resolve much of the smelly chimney problem, but not always completely. Odor neutralizing agents like baking soda or kitty litter put into the fireplace can help, but many times a deodorizing agent needs to be spread into the chimney.  Of course the smell could also be the culprit of a dead animal in the flue.

The fact that you have these odors may also indicate that your venting system is drawing too much air down the chimney (downdraft) or that your damper may be defective. There are also several structural defects that can show up as a smelly chimney, so as always we advise a thorough inspection to determine the root cause.

Chase cover? Chimney Cap? Crown? - What is the difference?

chase cover is a metal cover that fits over your chimney chase (on chimneys with wood, metal, or vinyl siding) to prevent water from entering the chimney. It's very important that the chase cover is installed properly so that water runs off the chase cover.  Its appearance from the ground is similar to that of a shoebox top.

chimney cap sits on top and in the center of your chimney flue.  Chimney caps may seem unnecessary however, animals nesting, sparks and embers escaping, and moisture getting in and damaging your chimney are the main reasons to have an adequate chimney cap installed.

The chimney crown, which can also be referred to as a chimney wash, is a large slab that covers the top opening of a masonry chimney. The chimney crown covers the entire top of the chimney. Chimney crowns may be made of concrete or stone. Over time, the chimney crown deteriorates due to weather and age.  As the crown often cracks under these circumstances, it is necessary to repair, or resurface, the crown to keep water and debris from entering the chimney flue.