Chimney sweeps and fireplace cleaning are critical for keeping your home safe. For safety reasons, you should inspect your fireplace and hire a chimney sweep to keep it safe and clean.
There is nothing more warming than a roaring fireplace. But as with many other facets of a house, a fireplace needs regular care other than an occasional cleaning of ashes.
In fact, an ill-maintained fireplace can not only cause problems such smoke and odors, but can be dangerous. The creosote that builds up in a fireplace is a combustible product. It can ignite into a very hot, roaring fire.
Proper Maintenance of your Fireplace
How much maintenance your fireplace requires depends on how often you use it. In addition, burning wood versus a natural gas log set puts more of a burden on a fireplace, requiring care more frequently. Staying on top of maintenance, however, will make repair jobs go smoother and allow you to better enjoy your fireplace through the cold winter months.
Steps to Maintain a Fireplace
What follows are a few steps that the typical do-it-yourselfer can take to tune their fireplace. Otherwise, for chimney sweeps and fireplace cleaning issues, you’ll need to hire a professional.
Check for debris and blockages
First, spend a few minutes inspecting your fireplace, preferably on a bright sunny day.
Start by opening up the damper and using a flashlight to look up the chimney. Wear gloves and goggles to protect yourself from any falling debris. You can also have someone on the roof lower a light on an extension cord through the chimney.
Look for any obstructions in the chimney, such as an animal nest or branches and leaves. If you notice movement in the nest, or you hear scurrying in the chimney, contact your local animal control officer or humane society about removing the animal.
Checking the Damper
Next, check to make sure the damper is operating properly. The damper is a hinged metal plate that is found inside the fireplace where it meets the chimney. It opens and closes to allow outside air into the fireplace, and also to allow smoke to travel up the chimney.
When the damper is completely closed you should not be able to see outside light in the chimney. A big complaint about fireplaces is that they emit cold air into a room when they’re not being used, which means the damper isn’t sealing properly. A damper that doesn’t close all the way produces the same effect on a cold day as an open window.
You might be able to repair the damper with heat-resistant weatherstripping sold at most fireplace stores. The gasket material is applied around the edges of the damper.
A good cleaning of the damper with a creosote-removing product may also help it seal the right way.
A damaged damper can also be replaced. Remove the existing damper to properly size the replacement piece. If removal is almost impossible, an option is to replace the damaged damper with one that is installed at the top of the chimney and controlled with a chain that runs down the flue.
Checking the gas supply pipe
Next, if you have a natural gas log lighter in the fireplace, check the end pipe for deterioration. Replacement pipes, which screw on, are available at fireplace shops and hardware stores
Check the firebox
.Also, check the brickwork inside the firebox to make sure it’s secure. If there is crumbling of mortar between the bricks, it needs to be fixed. With minor damage, you can purchase fireplace mortar in a caulking tube that you can apply yourself. If there is a good deal of crumbling, however, you’ll need to call a professional tuckpointer to repair the damage.
Check the chimney
On that note, use a ladder that can reach the top of the chimney, or a pair of binoculars, to inspect the chimney for exterior masonry problems. Check for cracks or openings where the top cap or flue extends from the top of the chimney. Also, check the flashing where the chimney comes in contact with the roof. Again, you may need the services of a professional tuckpointer to make any repairs here.
Here are some more home safety videos: Home hazard as seen from a firefighter’s point of view.
Finally, have your fireplace cleaned of soot and creosote, a thick black residue that is the byproduct of the incomplete combustion of wood. Chimneys are cleaned by running steel brushes up and down the flues. These brushes are attached to rods and lowered into the flue. They can also be weighted and lowered into the chimney by a rope. The brushes are available at most fireplace shops.
If you plan on doing the cleaning, you’ll need ladders that can easily reach the top of your fireplace.
We know that many of you will not or won’t want to get up on a ladder to do the work. We also know that you won’t want to get dirty doing the job needed to clean the flue and fireplace.
So, for chimney sweeps and fireplace cleaning, you can hire a chimney sweep to do the dirty work. Contact your local fireplace shop for a referral. They will also be able to take care of the tuckpointing issues with your firebox and chimney.
© by Jim Sulski.