If the extent of your knowledge of chimney cleaning is derived from Mary Poppins, you are not alone. In fact, there are not as many chimneys that need cleaning any longer. Many new homes are built with gas fireplaces, which do not require a traditional chimney. Furthermore, only .5 of every 1,000 newly built homes have a wood-burning fireplace with a typical chimney.  

Safety issue

So, what's all the fuss about? Chimneys can be a safety issue, or more accurately, dirty chimneys can. When you build that romantic, crackling fire, smoke heads up your chimney. As it works its way up and away from the warmth of your fire, the smoke cools and condenses on the sides of your chimney. Over time, it builds up, and your chimney becomes clogged with a thick, black debris called creosote. This is very similar to the way cholesterol builds up and clogs your arteries. 

The creosote needs to be removed or it could catch fire. When this happens, it is called a chimney fire and is very dangerous. The fire may cause the chimney to collapse or even spread to other parts of your home. Less noticeable but equally dangerous, a chimney fire could force carbon monoxide back into your home, leading to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Warning signs

There are plenty of warning signs that the creosote level in your chimney is reaching a dangerous point, including the following:

  • See. When your chimney is blocked with creosote you will notice more smoke coming into the room. While you could close the doors, if your fireplace has them, to avoid the smoke, you need to address the creosote before it becomes a bigger issue. 
  • Smell. Creosote has a stinky smell that is different from the 'campfire' scent that a wood-burning fireplace typically gives off. 
  • Hear. The most obvious sign is that you hear a popping noise from inside your chimney. This could mean that the creosote is getting too hot or, possibly, that it's on fire. 

Do not take chances with your fireplace. If you notice any of the warning signs above, call a professional chimney sweep immediately. 

Creosote logs

There are products on the market that claim to clean your chimney simply by having you burn them in your fireplace. Burning a log or a tablet, however, cannot remove all the built-up creosote in your chimney and creates a false sense of security. The only way to truly get your chimney clean and creosote-free is to have a chimney cleaning service manually remove the creosote with a brush.

Chimney cleaning services

In order to avoid creosote buildup and the chance of a chimney fire, you should have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually. The chimney cleaning service will insert a long brush into your chimney and dislodge all the soot and creosote, making your chimney clean and safe. This information applies to homeowners with wood-burning fireplaces. 

If you have a gas fireplace, you will not have creosote, but you should still have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually. The chimney cleaning service will check for any cracks or leaks in your chimney and clean out any bird or rodent nests that may have been built over the last year. Nests can clog your chimney and force exhaust fumes like carbon monoxide back into your home, which is dangerous for you and your family. 

Having a safe and clean chimney is a simple task when you understand the basics, know what to look for, and recognize when to call your professional chimney cleaning services.

To learn more, contact a resource like Sposato Masonry.