What Does a Dirty Chimney Look Like?
If you use your fireplace at all, your chimney is going to get dirty. It needs to be cleaned on a regular basis, but it is important to know what your chimney looks like when it is dirty. When you burn a fire in your fireplace, creosote begins to build up. It starts on the inside walls of your fireplace and looks like black oily spots. It builds up all the way to your chimney. This material is corrosive to the chimney because it breaks down the lining and it can catch on fire. If you have heard the term chimney fire, often creosote catching on fire is the cause. As you go further up into the chimney, creosote begins to look like a flakey, bumpy material that sticks to the side of the chimney. It can also be a hindrance to the air flowing through your chimney. Your damper may also look black and dirty if your chimney is dirty. Creosote can build up on your damper, as well. If you can pull off chunks of black gunk from your damper, it is in need of a cleaning.
What is the Black Stuff in My Chimney?
The black stuff you find in your chimney is actually a substance called creosote. Creosote also includes tar and soot, in addition to creosote. Of the items contained in creosote, tar is the largest quantity. When you burn wood, the black stuff you see in your chimney is creosote. There are often three different types of creosote that you might find in your chimney.
The first type has a lot of soot in it and can be removed easily from the chimney with a brush. This tends to happen when wood combusts really well and there is a high temperature in the flue. This usually happens with an open fireplace. The second type of build up of creosote looks like shiny black flakes. These are dry and hard flakes of tar and there are usually a large amount of them. They can be removed fairly easily but you may not be able to brush them away like you can the first type. This usually happens in wood stoves when the air coming in is restricted. The final type of creosote is the most severe. This happens when the temperature in the flue is low or there is no combustion. When this type occurs, it looks like tar is running down the chimney walls. It is concentrated fuel that hardens and gets thick as it coats over itself repeatedly.
How Often Should You Get a Chimney Cleaned?
You should clean your chimney on a regular basis. You should have your chimney inspected once a year by a chimney sweep that is qualified to clean chimneys. These are individuals that are trained to look for the deterioration of the chimney and determine if there are venting problems. They are able to assess the condition of your chimney. If the majority of the wood that you burn are wet logs, you want to have your chimney cleaned and inspected every 50 times you use it. If there is moisture coming out of the ends of the logs when you burn them, the wood is wet. This type of wood does not clean and tends to send a lot of smoke up the chimney, which causes creosote to build up. If you are burning dry hardwoods, you should have your chimney cleaned and inspected every 70 uses, as these woods burn cleaner.
You can always tell if your chimney needs to be cleaned by running the tip of the fireplace poker on the inside of the liner of your chimney. If the buildup is thicker than a nickel, you should call a chimney sweep. If you wait too long to have your chimney cleaned, it will require extra cleaning. In extreme cases, the chimney sweep may need to use chemicals or special tools.
Can I Clean My Chimney Myself?
It is possible to clean your chimney yourself, especially if it requires regular cleaning. Even if you clean your chimney yourself, you should still have a chimney sweep to inspect your chimney once a year. A professional will also inspect for cracks in the chimney liner, as well as signs for water damage. They will also check for other obstructions and buildup. They will also check for gaps in the liner sections where the mortar may have fallen out. This happens often in older chimneys.
If you choose to clean the chimney yourself, you want to assess the chimney to make sure it is a job you can take on yourself. There are certain things you should do to protect yourself during the process. You want to make sure you have on goggles and a respirator mask to clean out the ashes from the firebox. You have to spend a little extra time to open each part to allow the heat out before you open the next part. For example, when you open the door, you must wait a few minutes to allow the pressure to equalize. With a flashlight and your poker, lean into the firebox and scratch the surface of the flu. If the soot is matte black and is less than the thickness of a nickel, you can clean it yourself. If the buildup is thicker or it is shiny or tar like, there is a lot of creosote buildup and you need a professional.
You should make sure that you clean your chimney on a regular basis using reliable fireplace cleaning equipment. Creosote can build up quickly and be dangerous in your chimney. Fire can be dangerous especially when combined with combustible materials. You should retain the professional services of the experienced and knowledgeable chimney sweepers at Chimney Draft Doctor. They specialize in diagnosing problems in your chimney, including draft problems. For those who really want to clean their own chimney, Chimney Draft Doctor is still the right company for you because they rent chimney sweeping equipment so you can take on the job yourself. Contact them today and see how they can help you.