Regular chimney cleanings are an essential part of maintaining your chimney and keeping it safe for use. Unfortunately, many homeowners go too long in between chimney cleanings or make the mistake of assuming that only burning a creosote log is “good enough.” In reality, professional chimney cleaning is highly recommended to protect your home and your loved ones from smoke and fire hazards caused by dirty chimneys.   We recently encountered a home in Ellicott city that needed chimney repairs. The repairs would not have been needed if the homeowner hired a chimney sweep every year.

Not sure if your chimney needs cleaning? There are some telltale signs to watch.  Here are four ways to know that you need your chimney cleaned:

  1. It has been more than a year since your last chimney sweep.
  2. There is noticeable creosote buildup
  3. There is excessive smoke in the fireplace
  4. Fire takes a long time to start

It has Been More Than a Year Since Your Last Chimney Sweep

First of all, when was the last time you had your chimney cleaned or swept? If it’s been more than a year, then it is time for a professional cleaning. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that chimneys be cleaned every year.  Even if you have not used the fireplace in the past year, there’s a good chance you have organic build-up in your chimney. Buildup should be cleared out before you use it again.

Noticeable Creosote Buildup
chimney clogged by creosote

After donning a pair of protective goggles and a breathing mask, grab a flashlight and take a peek inside the chimney. Specifically, be on the lookout for gray or black soot built up along the sides of the chimney. This is creosote, a flammable material that can cause chimney fires. If you have more than a quarter-inch of creosote buildup, it’s time to schedule a professional chimney cleaning.

There’s Excessive Chimney Smoke
smoking chimney

When you start a fire in your fireplace, do you notice that the room or even large areas of your home suddenly become smoky? If so, this could be a sign of creosote or other flammable buildups within the chimney itself. Check to be sure that your chimney’s flue is open (having it closed while burning a fire can cause excessive smoke, too). If it is, then you should refrain from using your fireplace until you can have it professionally inspected and cleaned.

Fireplace Takes a Long Time to Start
gas fireplace

Another red flag to be on the lookout for is noticing that it is taking longer to get a fire started in your fireplace. This could be due to a lack of oxygen reaching the wood, which could be indicative of a blockage or other problem within the chimney itself. This issue may also be accompanied by strange smells coming from the fireplace or chimney as well. Either way, it’s time to call a professional.

These are just a few of the most telltale signs that your chimney needs cleaning or sweeping. By having your stack professionally serviced at least once a year, you can enjoy greater peace of mind when using your fireplace. You may also be able to avoid more expensive repairs down the road!

2 Replies to “4 Ways to know you need your chimney cleaned”

  1. It has probably been over a year since I took a look at the inside of our chimney. I know this is bad, but I tend to forget about it when we don’t use it. I like that you mentioned you can experience confidence in using your fireplace when you know it is cleaned.

  2. It was really helpful when you brought up that taking a long time to start up is a sign that a fireplace needs cleaning. We were doing a test run at my sister’s luxury house to see if all her appliances and fixtures were working, and we were dumbfounded at the fact that her fireplace took more than an hour to start up. We thought that this was just a temperature thing, but now I’m convinced that we need to get a professional fireplace cleaning service to help us out.

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