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How Often Should You Clean Your Chimney?

By Carrie Dixon, Blog Editor

Chimney in need of cleaningA chimney sweep is a contractor who removes blockages, soot, and buildup from your smoke chamber, chimney liner, firebox, and damper. Cleaning your chimney ensures that your fireplace operates in a safe manner. Even a small amount of glazing can lead to a chimney fire. This glazing is called creosote and refers to a substance that builds up in the liner or chimney when you burn wood. How fast this accumulates depends upon what fire burning practices you utilize and whether the fireplace is working correctly. Different types of wood also have a relation to the buildup, with pine being the worst cause.

How Often to Inspect Your Chimney

Every year you should have your chimney inspected if only to ensure it is operating as it should be. Most homeowners should also go through with an annual chimney cleaning, especially if the fireplace is used on a regular basis. Any ventilation systems that are connected to furnaces or stoves also need to be cleaned on a regular basis to ensure safe operation. Your furnace, stove, and fireplace are likely very important to your home and family so neglecting or forgetting to maintain them can lead to dangerous situations.

Even if you only use your fireplace on an occasional basis, you should still have an inspection done on a yearly basis. The technician who visits your home will look at your chimneys, venting systems, furnace flues, and stove systems to see if there are any problems or defects that require repair or other action, even if cleaning is not needed.

If you choose a chimney sweep company, you can often set up an annual schedule where someone comes out to look over things. This person will let you know if cleaning or additional maintenance is required.

When to Inspect the Chimney

You should set up a time for an inspection if your chimney has not been inspected in over a year. You should also do so if you are noticing performance issues with your fireplace or chimney. Another time to have an inspection is after you have purchased a home that has a fireplace. The last thing you want to do is wait because if something bad happens, the repairs can be substantial. You can even end up with a house fire if something ignites within the chimney.

When to Clean the Chimney

You need to consider how often you use your fireplace when determining how often to clean the chimney. According to the National Fire Protection Association, inspections should be carried out annually and cleaning should be done as necessary. One of the reasons you might need a cleaning, even if you rarely use the fireplace, is if you have birds or animals nesting in the chimney and leaving debris that can ignite.

Fireplaces should be cleaned anytime that more than 1/8 inch of soot is built up in the flue or chimney system. If glazing is visible, it should be cleaned even if there is not that amount of soot. Either of these situations can lead to chimney fires, which can damage not only the fireplace but the roof and home.

Season for Cleaning

The best times to have your chimney cleaned are in the spring, summer, or early autumn before you will be using the fireplace on a regular basis. Prior to building the first fire of the year, consider whether it has been inspected and cleaned recently. If not, it’s best to speak with a chimney sweep to have these things done before you set any sort of fire in the fireplace.