We all love the coziness that comes from a real wood burning stove or fireplace, as opposed to the sufficient yet lackluster heat that comes from a furnace – especially during the long, cold winters we are so accustomed to. But with the added luxury of having a real wood fire to keep us warm, there are also added responsibilities.
One important consideration to keep in mind when using your fireplace is properly maintaining your chimney. Of course, we can’t see our chimneys, so they often fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” list of household chores – but that needs to change.
Keep reading below to learn not only why keeping your chimney clean is so important, but also the 3 main indicators that tell you your chimney needs cleaning.
Why Does Your Chimney Need To Be Cleaned?
The consequences that can arise from dirty or damaged chimney flues can simply be inconvenient or expensive, but they can go so far as to be fatal – which, we think, is not a risk worth taking.
On the minor end of things, a dirty chimney can lead to a variety of problems with functionality that may require repairs. Having to get repairs done is not only a hassle, especially if the cold weather has already begun, but can be costly.
Additionally, even if no repairs are needed, a dirty chimney also lowers the energy efficiency of your fireplace or woodstove – again, not something you want when the cold weather is just around the corner.
On the more concerning end of things, a dirty chimney can actually be a serious hazard and pose real risk to your home and the safety of your family – did you know that there are over 25,000 chimney fires in the US every year?
The scary thing about chimney fires is that they can often burn for a long time, going undetected by homeowners until it is too late. Some things to take note of that can indicate a chimney fire are loud cracking or popping noises as well as dense, dark smoke.
As you can see, there are sufficient reasons as to why you should take the cleanliness of your chimney seriously.
How To Know When It’s Time
Now that you understand why it’s important to maintain a clean chimney, you are probably wondering things like “how often should it be cleaned?” or “how do I know if it’s ready to be cleaned or not?”
And, of course, there is no definitive answer to these questions. Every chimney is different. (Cliché, we know).
But seriously – we can’t honestly tell you that you need to clean your chimney once per year or after you’ve used the fireplace “x” amount of times. How quickly creosote (the chemical buildup that signals a “dirty” chimney) depends, really, on factors such as how you use the fireplace, what type of wood you are burning, and how the wood burns (aka how good you are at making a proper fire…).
Checking for Creosote
The only real way to know when it’s time for a good chimney sweep is to check the current cleanliness of the chimney with your own two eyes (or hire someone to do it, but it’s easy enough to do yourself).
- Step 1: put on goggles, a dust mask, and grab your handy, dandy flashlight.
- Step 2: make sure there is no downdraft coming through the chimney.
- Step 3: use the fire poker and scratch the black surface above the fireplaces’ damper/smoke chamber.
If the scratch in the black layer (which is the creosote build up) is paper thin, you are in the safe zone – your chimney is not yet in need of a cleaning.
If the scratch appears to be around 1/8th of an inch thick, you may have a bit of leeway, but should definitely schedule a cleaning for the near future.
If the scratch is nearing or over ¼ of an inch thick, you have fully entered the danger zone – schedule a cleaning now and don’t use the fireplace until after the chimney is clean again. With this much buildup, a chimney fire could happen too easily at any moment.
It’s not hard to do and it could save time, money, and even lives. Put on your goggles and check your chimney today. If it doesn’t need to be cleaned, you are in the clear and can continue on enjoying some cozy fire lit evenings. If it does, simply call your local chimney sweet company and they would be happy to bring your chimney back to a safe state!