Chimney Cleaning: Why You Need a Chimney Sweep

Chimneys need cleaning and inspection on a regular basis to keep them functioning safely. Chimney Cleaning Charleston will ensure that your fireplace is free of dangerous creosote buildup, among other things.

Chimney Cleaning

A Level 3 inspection will involve the chimney sweep going into concealed areas to inspect for damage or hazardous conditions. You should prepare for this by moving furniture away from the area and covering it with drop cloths.

When wood burns, it produces unwanted byproducts such as soot and creosote. These byproducts are dangerous and can cause long-term problems in chimneys and fireplaces if not removed regularly. Creosote is a black, tar-like substance that can appear in chimneys in various forms, depending on the severity of the buildup. It can look like soot, flakes, or hard tar.

During a fire, hot air from the fireplace rushes up the chimney. If this flow of air is restricted due to creosote accumulation, it can cool and stick to the inside walls of the flue. Eventually, this can accumulate into thick layers of soot that can block the chimney and lead to smoke backflow into the home.

Creosote is also flammable and can cause severe damage to chimneys and fireplaces. It’s important to have a professional chimney sweep remove the creosote from your chimney when it gets too thick. It’s also important to maintain regular chimney sweeping and inspections to prevent creosote from accumulating in the first place.

A chimney sweep will be able to determine the stage of creosote accumulation and recommend the best course of action for removal. Stage one creosote looks like soot and can typically be brushed away with a chimney brush as part of an annual sweep. If you have a more advanced level of creosote, such as Stage 2 or 3, it will be harder to remove and could pose more of a risk. This type of creosote is a more flaky and hard tar-like substance that requires the use of specialized tools such as a rotary sweep.

Lastly, Stage 3 creosote is the most dangerous and can resemble a hardened tar coating or thick clumps of a dark brown substance. This is the stage when a chimney fire can most likely occur and threaten the entire structure of the chimney. The fire can melt or crack the tile liner and allow heat and flames to access other combustible materials in the home. This includes the roof and attic of the home, the chimney itself, adjacent masonry walls, and other combustibles in the home. If this happens, the chimney fire can spread very quickly and become a serious house fire.

Excessive smoke formation

If smoke is blowing back into your home or if you can see flames shooting up your chimney top, it’s time to call in the pros. These are signs of a creosote fire, an extremely dangerous situation that requires immediate professional attention.

Creosote is a dark brown to black, highly flammable coating that forms in your chimney when wood byproducts cool and condense as they travel up the chimney. Over time, it can form thick layers that block the flue or reduce your chimney’s ability to draw air from outside into the home.

As your chimney accumulates creosote, it goes through three stages: When it is in the first stage, it flakes easily and is a safe material to remove with basic chimney sweep tools. But if left unchecked, it can move to the second stage, which has a tar-like appearance and is at greater risk of starting chimney fires. This stage is more difficult to remove and requires chemical treatment or a special rotary brush attachment.

Another problem that leads to the formation of more dangerous creosote is a lack of proper fuel burning and poor fire ventilation. Using wet, green, or improperly seasoned wood creates low firebox temperatures that increase creosote buildup. In addition, a stove that is poorly vented will allow outdoor air into the house at a faster rate than it exits the stove, creating negative pressure in the home. This causes outside air to push down smoke from the fireplace and wood stove instead of carrying it safely outdoors through the chimney.

To prevent excessive creosote and smoke formation, have your chimney cleaned regularly by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep. Make sure you use only seasoned, dry wood, and don’t burn trash or construction lumber in your fireplace or wood stove. It is also important to ensure that your chimney and flue are at the correct height, which varies according to climate, landscape, prevailing winds, and altitude. If you are unsure of the chimney’s height, contact a qualified professional to determine the exact measurements and if your chimney needs to be rebuilt or relined.

Animal Nests

Many animals consider chimneys ideal locations for their dens and nests since they are warm, protected from rain and predators, and offer a safe place to raise young. Unfortunately, animals that make their homes in chimneys can cause a lot of damage to the chimney and your home. If you suspect an animal has taken up residence in your chimney, look for signs of its presence, including loud chirping, feces and tracks, or a foul odor.

Birds are the most common animals that find their way into chimneys. If you hear chirping noises that are repeated and regular, the sound is most likely coming from a nest of baby birds being raised inside your chimney. The chirping will stop once the babies are old enough to leave. Rats are another animal that commonly enters chimneys. They can crawl through holes the size of a quarter, so it is important to have your chimney professionally inspected for entry points on a regular basis.

The first thing you need to do if you think an animal has taken up residence in your chimney is figure out whether it got stuck there or came there intentionally. You can usually tell which is the case based on the type of noises the animal is making and when they occur. If the noises are frantic and random, it is probably a stuck animal that needs to be removed by a wildlife control service.

If the sounds are more regular and come at a specific time of day, it is most likely that the animal came there on purpose. You may even be able to see a nest, though this will depend on how close the chimney is to your house. You should call a wildlife control service to remove the animal and ensure that your chimney is properly sealed to prevent it from entering again in the future.

Another potential problem with animal nests is that they can block the flow of air in the chimney, putting you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Additionally, the nests can contain parasites that can then be transferred to you and your family when the animal dies.

Signs of damage

When a chimney undergoes frequent use, it can experience damage. It’s important to watch for these problems and call a professional to address them quickly, or they could worsen.

One of the most common signs that your chimney needs repair is mortar damage. The mortar is the stuff that runs between your bricks and holds them together, so any holes or cracks are serious issues that need to be addressed right away. A common repair technique is called tuckpointing, which consists of applying new mortar to the joints in your chimney and filling any gaps. This process restores your chimney’s integrity and helps keep water from getting into the structure and causing further damage.

Another problem you should keep an eye out for is the appearance of rust on your fireplace components, like the damper or firebox. This can be a sign of natural weathering, but it could also be a clear indicator that you have leaks in your chimney. Moisture can lead to wood rot, which can cause major structural damage to your home and threaten the safety of your family.

A chimney that’s experiencing a lot of moisture damage may develop a white discoloration on its exterior walls. This is a clear indication that the chimney needs immediate attention, as moisture can ruin your entire chimney system. You should hire a CSIA-certified chimney sweep to examine your chimney if you see this symptom.

You’ll want to keep a close eye on the wallpaper surrounding your fireplace, too. If you notice any discoloration or peeling, this is a clear sign that your chimney is taking on too much moisture. Moisture can erode the masonry of your chimney and lead to structural damage, as well as cause mildew or mold inside your home.

Chimney flues and utility flues often get clogged by animal nests or lawn debris. These blockages are a big reason why both your chimney flue and utility flue need to be inspected regularly. A professional can use a special camera to see any obstructions and remove them safely.