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Guide to chimney cleaning

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Due to burning fires in a chimney, creosote may accumulate and cause chimney fire. It is very expensive to hire a professional sweep. With some guidance and tools you can do it yourself. Here are the steps.

Prepare to clean the chimney

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First, get rid of any animals that might nest there, for example, squirrels or birds. Use a flashlight to remove it. Then you need to measure the size and shape of the flue, and the height of the chimney to find out what kind of brush you need to buy for cleaning. You should by a brush that can reach the whole length of the chimney. You then need to visit a hardware store to buy the necessary tools, like brush, drop cloth, ladder, broom and dustpan, goggles and dust mask, etc. You should dress appropriately for cleaning. You can wear old clothes as it will get messy. Wear gloves, goggles and dust mask. You can cover your hair with a bandanna. You need to cover your furniture and roll back rugs so that it doesn’t get dirty.

Clean the chimney from the top downwards

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Use a ladder to climb up the roof. Use the brush to clean the chimney. Use extension pipes to clean further down the chimney. Then clean the bottom of the chimney.

Alternative method

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You can also choose to clean the chimney from bottom up. In such case you need to use a pulley which you can easily get in a hardware store.

Completing the job

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Clean the entrance of the flue which is located at the bottom of the chimney. Use a small spade to clean it. Clean the debris from the fireplace using a brush and dustpan. Dispose off the creosote according to the local laws. Creosote is flammable, so you cannot just trash it off in your bin.

Signs that your chimney needs sweeping

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Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb to say how often you should clean your chimney. Creosote forms whenever wood is burned incompletely. If there is not enough oxygen in the smokey fire then lots of tar vapors are emitted. These vapors can condense inside the flue and settle there. This may lead to chimney fire.

You need to check you chimney to find out whether it needs cleaning or not. First make sure there’s no downdraft from the chimney. If there is downdraft then open a door on the same floor as the fireplace until the flow is reversed and the air flows up. Now gear yourself up. Take goggles, dust mask, flashlight, and fireplace poker. Scratch the black surface on top of the smoke chamber. If the groove that you scratch in the creosote is paper thin then you know that no cleaning is required. If it’s 1/8 inch thick then you need to make appointment for cleaning soon. If it’s is ¼ inch thick then you should stop using the fireplace until your chimney is cleaned, else chimney fire may occur.

There are four places to check for creosote: the top of the firebox, around the damper, the flue and in the smoke chamber. Four types of creosote can accumulate. The first type is a light dull gray, black or brown soot. Then there is a black granular form that can be removed with a chimney brush. The third type is a road-like tar coating and then there is a shiny, glaze-like coating. You can reduce the amount of creosote buildup in your fireplace by making sure that there is enough combustion air that produces clean burning fire.

When you find out that your chimney requires cleaning, you should call your local Chimney sweep service.

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