In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, hiring young children orphans as chimney sweeps was common. These ‘climbing boys’ risked death as they cleaned narrow chimneys. They were often so scared to climb they would have to be coaxed up the interior walls – hence the phrase “to light a fire under you.”
Chimney Sweep Clean helps improve heat distribution and energy efficiency. It can also help prevent house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning from clogged chimneys.
Chimney sweeps use a variety of tools to clean chimneys and smoke ducts. They are specially trained to identify and assess the risks of fires caused by chimneys and follow specific guidelines that ensure a thorough job. They also educate homeowners on proper burning techniques and recommend a schedule of regular cleanings. They are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute (CSIA) and carry business liability insurance.
The first step is to survey the area and prepare the work site. This includes laying non-permeable drop cloths or plastic to protect the floors and furniture of the living areas. The chimney sweep will then use brushes on long rods to scrape the coating of creosote from the chimney lining. This process is usually done from the roof if there is access or from inside the fireplace flue if the chimney is open at the appliance. Lastly, the chimney sweep will clean the firebox by hand.
In addition to reducing the risk of a chimney fire, sweeping removes toxic carbon monoxide gas from the home. This is a colorless and odorless gas that can be fatal if it builds up in the home for extended periods. It is often a result of poor ventilation caused by chimneys that aren’t properly cleaned.
A chimney that isn’t regularly swept and inspected can also become unsafe for family members and pets. This is because the creosote deposits in the chimney can crack and crumble, exposing combustible material to dangerous flames. The NFPA estimates that confined chimney or flue fires account for five percent of all house fires and seven percent of one- and two-family homes.
In addition to preventing fires, a clean chimney also helps the home operate more efficiently. Without the clogging of creosote, the flue can open and close with greater ease, allowing air to flow through the fireplace and into the room. In turn, this reduces heating bills. Additionally, it reduces the amount of odorless and tasteless carbon monoxide that is released into the home when the chimney isn’t functioning properly. The best time to have the chimney swept is no later than early fall, before the start of the fire-burning season.
Before a chimney sweep even considers sweeping your fireplace, they’ll conduct a thorough inspection. This will start on the exterior, where they’ll look at the top of the chimney and chimney connection, checking to make sure there are no loose or damaged bricks or mortar joints. They’ll also take note of any deterioration in the chimney liner, which can be a serious fire hazard.
The next step is a more in-depth look at the interior of the chimney. This will include the firebox, damper, smoke chamber, baffle, and as much of the flue as can be accessed from the bottom of the chimney. The chimney sweep will also look for obstructions such as birds’ nests, debris or corroded parts of the flue. The chimney sweep will also check for critical clearances to combustible material and, in the case of wood stoves, make sure the proper clearances are maintained.
Depending on the level of inspection, the chimney sweep may need to go into your attic or crawl space in order to examine parts of your chimney that aren’t easily accessible from the outside. This is usually done for a Level 2 inspection, which is recommended after any change in the way you use your fireplace or chimney, such as switching to gas. It’s also required when you sell your home.
As the chimney sweep works their way up the chimney, they’ll brush away any accumulations of soot and creosote from the chimney lining with brushes and extension poles. They’ll usually remove any animal nests as well, as these can be a fire hazard for the homeowner.
If the chimney is a metal fireplace, the chimney sweep will clean the firebox area by unscrewing and disassembling the appliance. They’ll then vacuum up the resulting mess using their vacuum cleaner. They’ll then wipe down the smoke shelf and smoke chamber, which is hard to reach from inside the firebox and often overlooked by homeowners. It’s a good idea to move any furniture away from the fireplace and cover it with a drop cloth before the chimney sweep arrives.
Chimney sweeps work with a variety of equipment to clean your chimney. Some of the equipment they use is large and bulky and can be dangerous if it comes into contact with anyone or anything. You can make their job safer and more comfortable by removing anything from around the fireplace area that is fragile. You may also want to move furniture that could be in the way or cover it with a sheet or blanket to protect it from dust and debris.
If you have pets, it is a good idea to keep them away from the fireplace area during the cleaning process. They may not be used to hearing the equipment and can be easily startled. Also, they may try to climb up the chimney and can be accidentally knocked off by the equipment. If you have a particularly curious pet, you can place them in another room during the chimney cleaning process.
The primary purpose of sweeping a chimney for wood burning fires is to remove dangerous formations of creosote. This flammable byproduct of incomplete combustion is highly toxic and can clog your chimney, making it essential to schedule regular chimney sweepings. To reduce the amount of creosote that is produced, your fire should be slow and cool. It is a good idea to avoid using your fireplace for 24 hours before the chimney sweep arrives to ensure that all of the debris and ash from the previous fire has had time to cool down and harden.
Your chimney sweep will need to have full access to the flue in order to complete the sweeping process, so it is important to clear out any logs that are still in the firebox. You should also empty the grate and remove any decorative items from your fireplace mantle. This will help them work more efficiently and prevent any items from being accidentally knocked over or broken.
Lastly, you should make sure that you have plenty of room to move any furniture in front of, to the sides, and above your fireplace. This will make it easier for the chimney sweep to get all of their equipment in and out of your home.
Chimney sweeps use specialized cleaning solvents, brushes, vacuums and scrapers to remove creosote, soot, ash and other contaminants from fireplaces, flues and chimney linings. Often, this work is conducted at or above ground level, and it’s important for these professionals to be properly attired, wearing gloves and protective eyewear. They also carry a variety of tools and other equipment for chimney and fire safety, such as spark arrestors to prevent dangerous backdrafts and chimney caps that protect the structure and surrounding combustible materials.
Chimney Sweeps also inform homeowners about the correct way to operate their fireplaces and chimneys, reducing the risk of fire hazards. They can advise you on the best fuels to burn and on how to light a fire that burns cleanly. They may also be able to offer tips on making your chimney and fireplace more efficient, saving energy and money.
Many of the chimney sweeps you might hire are members of organizations like the CSIA or the NCSG. These professional associations promote professionalism in the industry and require that their members maintain certain levels of training and knowledge of fire safety regulations. You can also check a chimney sweep’s credentials by visiting the organization’s website or asking for references from other customers.
The chimney sweep may have to climb up inside a fireplace, so you should prepare for this by moving any furniture away from the area and covering it with a drop cloth or plastic. You should also make sure that the fireplace is cold along its entire length and that it’s not alight when you have your chimney swept.
When choosing a chimney sweep, you’ll want to make sure that they’re properly trained and insured. This is especially important if they will be working above your home, where a fall could result in severe injuries or even death. In addition, if the chimney sweep finds an unsafe condition in your fireplace or flue system, they should report it to the local fire department.
Chimney sweeping is the best way to reduce fire hazards in your fireplace and chimney system. If you have a wood-burning fireplace and chimney, schedule an appointment for cleaning and inspection today.