How Can I Tell If My Chimney Needs Cleaning?

How Can I Tell If My Chimney Needs Cleaning?

How can I tell If my chimney needs cleaning? Chimney cleaning is a necessary part of maintaining a home and fireplace. A properly cleaned chimney will last longer and provide a much more enjoyable experience when being used all winter. Not only is it important for the health of the fireplace, but it also has implications for those living in the home as well. 

While some recommend a threshold level of buildup (typically 1/16th of an inch) before needing a chimney cleaning, a yearly sweep is the best route. While this is the case for most, a chimney may be due for cleaning before that time if used more frequently. Luckily, some telltale signs may present themselves when a chimney cleaning is due.

It is important to familiarize yourself with these warning signs to prevent potential hazards that may pop up before a routine chimney cleaning. 

Signs To Get a Chimney Cleaning

If you are experiencing one or more of these, you should consider scheduling an examination of your chimney immediately.

  1. Poorly-kept fires: Without the proper ventilation, fires will not keep lit as well or may burn oddly. If your fire is burning poorly or is taking more effort than normal to stay going, it may be a sign of a blockage in the chimney flue causing buildup.
  2. Campfire smell: If you detect the smell of fire coming from your unlit fireplace, it’s a good sign that it is due for a cleaning. 
  3. A blackened damper: The fireplace damper is a small mechanism that works to block off the chimney flue whenever the fireplace is not in use. A blackened damper is a sign of creosote (a harmful byproduct of wood-burning fireplaces) buildup.
  4. Oily marks: if the walls look oily, this is another sign of creosote buildup. 
  5. Smoke entering household: If smoke is escaping the fireplace and entering into your home in significant amounts, this could be a sign that there is not adequate ventilation in your flue due to a buildup of creosote. 
  6. Evidence of animals: Sounds of scurrying feet or flapping wings may be an indication of animals making a home in your chimney–another issue that would require a chimney cleaner. 

While some of these signs make themselves known to homeowners, others are only found when being looked for. It’s important to routinely check for things like oily buildups and blackened dampers which may present themselves in more subtle ways. Some build-up is normal but, if it becomes excessive, it may be time for an assessment by a professional. 

The Importance of a Yearly Chimney Sweep

Creosote is a harmful chemical that is contained within the smoke that comes off of burning wood. As it travels through the flue, the smoke begins to cool, resulting in the creosote depositing into an oily substance coated on the chimney. This happens for every wood-burning fireplace.

As the buildup thickens, the problem compounds as the smoke takes longer to reach the top and, therefore, has a longer time to cool. While this is restricting the airflow of the fire and can result in smoke entering the home and getting on furniture and wallpaper, the issue can be far more harmful than that. 

Creosote is highly flammable at high temperatures and could lead to a chimney fire or sparks flying out of the top and igniting the roof. Additionally, if it combusts, creosote-containing smoke can be sent throughout the house, resulting in the inhalation of large amounts of the harmful chemical. 

Evidence shows that creosote is likely carcinogenic and harmful to breathe. In addition to this, it has been shown to cause rashes and other uncomfortable ailments. The chimney can become a storehouse for this dangerous substance and that is why it’s important to clean it out every year.

Some will schedule their chimney cleaning to be done at the end of the winter after it has been used the most. Others prefer to schedule it for the fall to ensure that the chimney is free of any debris or animals before the start of winter.

Whatever option works best for your household, it’s important to establish a chimney cleaning ritual and stick to it. 

Professional Chimney Cleaning from CMO

Yearly chimney cleanings are a normal part of chimney maintenance but they don’t have to be a pain. Hiring a professional team like the one at Chimney and Masonry Outfitters to come and clean your chimney takes all the hassle out of the process. Within 30-60 minutes, we can have your chimney cleaned and ready to start making memories.

Whether it’s time for your chimney to be swept or you just would like an inspection, we’re here to help! The team at CMO offers a dedicated staff of experts and a wide range of services to ensure that your chimney is in great health. Request an appointment today!