Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How often should I have my chimney cleaned?

This a tougher question than it sounds. The quick simple answer is: The National Fire Protection Association standard 211 says, "Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary." This is the national safety standard and is the correct way to approach the problem. It takes into account the fact that even if you don't use your chimney much, animals may build nests in the flue or there may be other types of deterioration that could make the chimney unsafe to use.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be cleaned at 1/4" of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. Factory-built fireplaces should be cleaned when any appreciable buildup occurs. This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home.

Q. When I build a fire in my upstairs fireplace, I get smoke from the basement fireplace.

This has become quite a common problem in modern air tight houses where weather proofing has sealed up the usual air infiltration routes. The fireplace in use exhausts household air until a negative pressure situation exists. If the house is fairly tight, the simplest route for makeup air to enter the structure is often the unused fireplace chimney. As air is drawn down this unused flue, it picks up smoke that is exiting nearby from the fireplace in use and delivers the smoke to the living area. The best solution is to provide makeup air to the house so the negative pressure problem no longer exists, thus eliminating not only the smoke problem, but also the potential for carbon monoxide to be drawn back down the furnace chimney. A secondary solution is to install a top mount damper on the fireplace that is used the least.

Q. I heat with gas. Should this chimney be checked too? Without a doubt! Although gas is generally a clean burning fuel, the chimney can become non-functional from bird nests or other debris blocking the flue. Modern furnaces can also cause many problems with the average flues intended to vent the older generation of furnaces. We suggest you check the areas on gas and carbon monoxide for more information.

Q. How often should I clean my chimney?

An annual inspection of all chimneys should be a part of your home maintenance plan. This will determine if a cleaning is needed. ALL chimneys are exposed to drastic weather conditions, no matter what the fuel type. Most homeowners schedule a chimney sweep based on the amount of wood they burn in their fireplace or woodstove. For wood burning appliances a general rule is after every cord of seasoned wood that is burned. Those that no longer use their fireplace or may only burn during the holiday should not overlook this important home maintenance. Mild winters may cause smokier fires and creosote build up is often heavier.

Don’t forget your furnace chimney is being used continuously with water heaters and boilers all year long. They should be swept also. We offer a multi-flue sweep discount. Just let us know when you schedule your appointment that you have more than one flue to clean.

Q. What is a chimney inspection and when do I need one? An annual inspection is required by the National Fire Protection Association. It is a complete evaluation of the interior and exterior. From top to bottom, your chimney will be visually examined. Any deterioration to mortar joints and your flue will be noted. The crown is checked for any cracks. The firebox area, including the damper and smoke chamber are also examined. NFPA codes require inspections when replacing heating appliances or at the time property is transferred. Insurance companies may require inspections for lightning or fire claims as well.

Q. Should I have chimney caps? Yes. All chimneys should be capped per NFPA code. Often we see only fireplace chimneys with caps. Caps work for you, even when your fireplace isn’t working. Caps will prevent the elements and animals from getting inside your chimney. Most homeowners worry about chimney fires and the damages they cause, but water and moisture damages are far more common. Waterproofing, crown sealer and caps play a vital role in chimney preservation. In some cases, a cap will help prevent downdraft and/or increase your draft.

Q. What is a flue? A flue is the passageway inside the chimney that allows gases to pass from the home to the outside atmosphere. You may have one chimney with multiple flues. Your furnace and fireplace can not share the same flue. Codes require flues to be properly lined with approved materials.

Q. Do you clean out the ash pit too? I’m sorry, we don’t. Many ash pits are cavernous and are not easily accessible. They are considered homeowners maintenance.