Why is Chimney Cleaning Necessary?
The simple answer is: To prevent chimney fires
A dirty chimney can cause problems you might not be aware of. When wood, coal, oil, and artificial fire logs burn, they generate tars, creosotes, and other invisible by-products of incomplete combustion. These by-products rise up your chimney and condense onto the cool surface of the flue. No matter what wood you burn, or how conscientiously you burn it, creosote accumulates and the probability of chimney fires occurring increases. All it takes is the right amount of creosote, a simple spark and you've got a chimney fire of up to 3000°F, a blaze that may not only cause structural damage to your chimney, but could also destroy your home or business. That's why it's important to have a professional chimney sweep remove the creosote regularly.
What is creosote and why is it harmful?
In the context of wood burning fire systems creosote is the buildup of unburned (or partially burned) particles. These mix with condensation in the flue system and stick together to form a layer of combustible fuel inside your chimney and flue. This unburned fuel can be ignited and cause chimney fires that damage chimney and flue systems and can result in more extensive damage to your property. Chimney fires often result in the total destruction of a building.
How often should I HAVE my chimney CLEANED?
Every homeowner has different burning habits, so every system is different. Technically, the BC Fire Code 1998 requires that every wood burning system be "inspected annually, and cleaned as often as necessary". For our customers, we do a very thorough cleaning and evaluation the first visit, and one season after that we return to assess how often the system needs to be cleaned, based on the use and burning habits over one season. A general rule of thumb, with average use, would be once a year. We visit some of our customers twice a year, and some we only see once every three years.
Does my furnace chimney need to be cleaned?
Oil furnace chimneys also have waste byproducts that condense in the chimney. Although it is not necessary to clean an oil flue as often as a wood flue, they do need to be serviced. We recommend a cleaning at least every 2 to 3 years depending on the efficiency of your burner. We do however strongly advise having your furnace technician inspect the flue each year when doing your annual furnace service. Gas furnace chimneys have very little waste by-products and as such there is no specific recommendation we can give. Some gas flues will require regular cleaning to remove carbon build up while others seem to rarely require cleaning. Again we recommend having the furnace technician check it each year while doing the furnace service.
What kind of mess will there be when I have my chimney cleaned?
When done properly by a professional chimney sweep, there should be absolutely no mess in your home. At Rocky Mountain Chimney Sweeps, we use precise cleaning procedures to ensure this. We do our best to leave each home cleaner than when we arrived.
Why Should I get my Chimney swept in the Spring?
A Spring cleaning and inspection will identify any problems early enough to make decisions and repairs before the next heating season begins. We prefer to clean the chimney before moisture from rain can mix with the soot and creosote to form acids that eat away at the chimney structure. This also eliminates the sour, acrid odour that the fireplace can have over the summer. And of course, we are usually booked up for weeks in the fall with last minute appointments before the snow flies.
WOOD BURNING SYSTEM OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE
Some common questions we get about operating and maintaining Wood Burning Systems:
What causes excessive creosote buildup?
There are many factors that can contribute to a nasty creosote buildup. Poor burning habits, such as burning wet or unseasoned wood, burning trash or coloured shiny papers, or severely damping the stove down to get a longer burn. An oversized or outdated stove, which would have been manufactured before the new emissions standards were in effect. A neglected flue, or one that is too big for the appliance it serves. And inexperienced installations, where the system is not running the way it was designed to. The good new is that all of the above issues have simple solutions.
How do I stop my fireplace from smoking back into the room?
There's no easy answer to this one, unfortunately. Back drafting can be caused by many things, none of which are quickly remedied. The best idea is to have our technician troubleshoot the system and come up with some solutions.
Why should I install a raincap/animal guard on my chimney?
Raincaps are important to keep out rain and moistureand stop it from penetrating the masonry or contributing to creosote buildup They also help to keep unwanted guests (birds, squirrels, raccoons, etc) out of the chimney, and to keep sparks from leaving the chimney and igniting nearby combustibles.
If I have a chimney cap installed will my chimney still work?
A properly designed chimney cap will not impede the natural draft of your chimney. Our experience has shown that certain designs in some instances have caused airflow restriction or down draft.
Do those Chimney Sweep Logs you see advertised work?
Our experience has shown that although some of these logs are effective in loosening creosote, none of them have been able to replace the need for a properly trained, qualified chimney technician. Even the ones that are effective in loosening the creosote do not eliminate it. What usually happens is the soot that was dispersed throughout the flue ends up concentrating on the smoke shelf behind the damper actually creating a fuel bed. Although there are occasions when we will recommend one of these products to a customer to loosen the creosote, it still requires a thorough brushing afterwards and is never meant to replace having your chimney serviced by a qualified technician.
When I build a fire in my upstairs fireplace, I get smoke from the basement fireplace. Why is that?
This has become quite a common problem in modern air tight houses where weather proofing has sealed up the usual air infiltration routes. The fireplace in use exhausts household air until a negative pressure situation exists. If the house is fairly tight, the simplest route for makeup air to enter the structure is often the unused fireplace chimney. As air is drawn down this unused flue, it picks up smoke that is exiting nearby from the fireplace in use and delivers the smoke to the living area. The best solution is to provide makeup air to the house so the negative pressure problem no longer exists, thus eliminating not only the smoke problem, but also the potential for carbon monoxide to be drawn back down the furnace chimney. A secondary solution is to install a top mount damper on the fireplace that is used the least.
My Fireplace Stinks. What can I do?
The smell is usually due to creosote deposits in the chimney, a natural byproduct of wood burning. The odor is usually worse in the summer when the humidity is high or on rainy days when the air is heavy. Cleaning the chimney should help but won't always solve the problem completely. There are commercial chimney deodorants that work pretty well, and many people have good results with baking soda or even kitty litter set in the fireplace. The real problem is the air being drawn down the chimney, a symptom of overall pressure problems in the house. Some make-up air should be introduced somewhere else in the house. A tight sealing, top mounted damper will also reduce this air flow coming down the chimney. It is also possible an animal is living in the chimney or has nested or died in the chimney. Having a certified chimney technician do a quick inspection is a good idea if you think it may be an animal in the chimney.