A chimney fire is the last thing you want after buying a new house.
Let’s face it, not many people think about the chimney when they get a new place. Yet 27% of all heating fires in the home start with a dirty chimney.
Start things off right by making sure your home’s chimney will pass inspection.
Learning how to clean a chimney will keep your home safe. Filthy chimneys are full of a flammable substance called creosote. Left unchecked it will ignite in the chimney.
The first step to cleaning is identifying your flammable opponent. Then you’ll need to gather your cleaning supplies to tackle the problem. Let’s clean that chimney!
The Dangers of Forgetting to Clean the Chimney
Burning wood sends particles up the chimney. If there isn’t enough airflow to push the smoke and particles out, it builds up in the chimney. This substance is called creosote.
Creosote ignites at 451* F and grows to burn at over 2000* F. As it burns, it expands. Chimney fires quickly spread to the rest of the house because they’re so hot.
The high heat is hard to contain. Chimney fires sometimes shoot debris and flames into the air. Neighboring houses aren’t safe from a chimney fire.
All that damage is preventable as long as the chimney is kept clean.
Even if you weren’t trying to pass inspection, your chimney needs cleaning anyway. Aim to give it a good cleaning once a year to keep the creosote build-up in check.
Signs that the Chimney Needs Cleaning
It’s easy to overlook the chimney when making seasonal repair lists. How often do we even look at the chimney after the spring?
That’s why you need to make sure your home inspection includes checking the chimney. It’s good to know if you need to clean it or make major repairs.
Signs the chimney needs repairs:
- Areas near the chimney look burned
- Cracked flue liner
- Damaged mortar
Before the inspection, take care of any significant problems. A simple DIY chimney sweeping won’t make a broken chimney safe.
Signs that it’s time to clean the chimney:
- Creosote with a honeycomb texture builds inside the chimney
- Creosote is more than 1/4 thick
- Debris falls during a fire
- Creosote has a thick, sticky texture
The more often the fireplace is used, the more often it needs a good scrubbing.
How to Clean a Chimney
It’s time to gather the tools of the trade. Make sure you have someone to help, especially when you’re using the ladder.
To clean a chimney, you’ll need:
- Dust mask
- Safety goggles
- Chimney brushes
- Extension rods for brushes
- Plastic tarps
- Painter’s tape
- Shop vacuum with dust filter
Leave the chemicals to the professionals. If your chimney is that bad, bring in someone to help.
Cut down a plastic tarp into a six-foot square. Tape this square onto the floor in front of the fireplace.
Cut another plastic tarp that is one foot taller and wider than the fireplace opening. Use this tarp to seal falling debris in the fireplace. Make sure it is taped securely.
Find a safe way to transport your tools onto the roof. A rope with a large bucket on the end hauls lightweight items easily.
On the Roof
Before you begin, make sure you have all the chimney cleaning tools. You’ll also need the drill and a drill bit that fits the screws on the chimney cap. Don’t forget your dust mask.
Remove the screws holding the chimney cap in place. Set everything aside where they won’t get knocked onto the ground.
Sweeping the Chimney
Screw the chimney brush onto an extension rod. Carefully scrub inside the chimney. Keep going until you can’t reach anymore before adding a new extension rod.
Repeat this process until you hit the smoke shelf.
Pull the chimney brush out while giving the chimney one last light brushing. As you reach where the rods join, unscrew one and set it aside.
Finishing Touches on the Roof
While you’re up on the roof, check the chimney for signs of damage from heat or water. If the damage is bad, you should have a professional fix it.
Before leaving the roof, make sure to secure the chimney cap.
Hand your tools down to your assistant. Don’t try to juggle them and climb down the ladder. That’s how accidents happen.
Cleaning Up Inside
Take a much-deserved break after you get off the roof. The fireplace debris needs 10 or 15 minutes to settle, anyway.
Before you begin cleaning up, put on your goggles, and a dust mask.
If possible, the body of the shop vacuum should be outside. Even the best filters don’t always catch ashes.
Peel away the plastic over the fireplace opening. Fold it so any dust stuck to it is trapped inside. Put the plastic in a garbage bag and throw it away as soon as possible.
Use a smaller chimney brush to clean what you can reach inside. Give everything a thorough cleaning with the shop vacuum.
Step back onto the floor tarp and brush off your clothing. Pay special attention to the top of your shoes. You don’t want to track soot through the house.
Carefully fold up the floor tarp to trap the debris. Bag it up and throw it away with the other tarp.
Throw away your dust mask, as well. Careful when washing your clothes after. Anything with a large creosote stain should be thrown away.
A Little DIY Chimney Sweeping Will Make Inspection Time Easier
Dealing with home inspections is rough enough without surprises. By learning how to clean a chimney, you’re eliminating one potential bad surprise later on.
If you’re looking for a detail-focused home inspector in Northeast Ohio, we’re here to help.
At CLASS Home Inspection, we want to make the process as easy as possible. Our professionals are ready to walk you through the home inspection process.
Contact us today to schedule an inspection. Want to learn more about preparing your home for an inspection? Browse our blog.