Whether it’s mowing the lawn, washing the dishes or sweeping the floor, chores are part of our life. A chimney and associated fireplace are no different.
Keeping you warm during the winter can create quite a mess, ranging from an accumulation of ashes to soot that sticks to carpets – this isn’t even touching on the other issues like animal nests and cracked mortar!
In order to keep your chimney in good working order, you better follow these basic chimney chores.
It All Starts with an Inspection
One of the biggest things you can do to keep your chimney in good shape is to know if there’s anything wrong with it in the first place. You shouldn’t wait until something is wrong either, as it’s always better to fix problems when they’re still small.
About once a season, you should be looking around both your fireplace and chimney – inside and out! On the outside, you should be wary of any chips or cracks in your masonry. Often times this is just a result of normal erosion that occurs but can be indicative of a larger problem such as a leak.
If the bricks themselves are pushed around and are of unusual texture, then you might have what is called spalling. This-this means that the stacks integrity has been greatly undermined.
Another area you can look at is the cap – if the cap has been damaged or malformed then your going to want to replace it. Replacing a cap isn’t extremely difficult but can be dangerous if the right precautions aren’t taken. You always want to hire professionals to replace your cap.
Inspecting the inside can be a little bit easier as damage doesn’t happen as often. Watermarks around the chimney and mantle mean a leak is on foot and might be worse than it actually appears – as most leaks are.
Chips inside of the firebox can indicate that the flue liner needs to be replaced or at least checked out. If you do have any underlying problems its best to get them repaired in the spring and summer months.
Be Wary of Obstructions
Obstructions are one of the biggest problems when it comes to chimneys. To get a good idea if your chimney is blocked try to look upwards from inside the firebox. If you can’t see any sunlight, you might have a blockage on hand. If you don’t that’s great but there are a few preventative steps you need to take make sure it doesn’t happen.
Make sure to only burn dry cured wood – this is wood that has ideally been split and dried from anywhere to 8 to 12 months. The best types of wood to burn are hickory, beech, and ash but as long as it is dry it should work fine.
Other forms of wood such as crates, painted or treated wood, or building lumber should never be used as it can release extra chemicals in the air. It will also make your chimney more covered creosote, a toxic substance that clings to the inside of a chimney.
Make sure the damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use. This will save you money and prevent animals, moisture or backdraft plunging its way into the stack.
If you ever smell any odd smells such as rot, moisture, or something smokey, you might have something inside of your chimney stack. Burning a fire with an obstruction can result in carbon monoxide gas entering your home.
Clean Out the Firebox
The firebox is probably the most viewed part of your fireplace structure and you better believe it’s important to clean it. Unlike repairs or removing blockages, cleaning out the firebox can be done by most people.
All you’re going to need is some sort of metal bucket, a pair of gloves, a face mask, a rag, and some basic cleaner. You don’t want to burn yourself so you’re going to have to wait until everything is cooled down.
Even after waiting, you want to be careful when cleaning, as ashes can stay warm for many days. When setting up, make sure to put down some sort sheet on the floor and any nearby furniture.
Carefully scoop out the ashes and deposit them into the bucket. Once the bucket is full take it to a safe area away from any combustibles such as paper, cardboard, wood, gasoline, and so forth. You should empty water on top of it and let the ashes sit for a couple of days before completely disposing of it. An alternative method is to reuse the ashes either as nutrients for your garden or distilled into a cleaning solution.
A more in-depth cleaning can occur around the perimeter of the fireplace with a wire brush or scraper. Anything that seems stained can be cleaned with a basic solution of warm water and baking soda. After it has sat for a while go ahead and wipe it down with a rag.
Schedule a Chimney Sweep
It doesn’t matter how careful you are or how much maintenance you perform, eventually, you’re going to need a professional eye on your chimney and fireplace. A chimney sweep will do much of what is outlined here taken to a much higher level along with incorporating other abilities to make sure everything is in great working order.
A certified chimney sweep is able to diagnose issues with your chimney and quickly fix it if necessary. Along with this, they are able to clean out all the creosote, foliage, or animal nests that may be blocking your fireplace.
The secret to getting a good chimney sweep is the certification. If they don’t have a certification from the Chimney Safety Institute of America then they aren’t worth it. If you are unsure you can either see whom your neighbors are using or what the internet has to say.
Most professionals use state-of-the-art equipment to pinpoint exactly if there is a problem, so expect the use of cameras with plenty of pictures. More invasive procedures might be necessary depending on the level of dilapidation your chimney has undergone.
Don’t Forget About These Chimney Chores
Forgetting to do these basic chimney chores won’t only leave you with an icky chimney and fireplace, but also a structure that can become a safety hazard to you and your family. You should take the time about once a season to see that everything is in proper working order as well – note any chips or cracks in the brickwork.
When you do use the firewood make sure you are only using wood that is properly dried out. Make sure to keep the firebox cleaned out and be careful when you do so.
Finally, you need to schedule a chimney sweep to come to clean out your chimney annually so as to keep everything in working order for the rest of the year.
Hire Professionals for Chimney Chores
From a simple inspection to a sweep, chimney chores keep piling up. The best course of action to take is to hire professionals. At Vertical Chimney Care, we have helped thousands of homeowners with the best chimney sweep and inspection services since 1985. Contact us today to speak with a product specialist!