Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to have my chimney serviced?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety commission reports that in one year, 5,500 fires were attributed to chimneys. As a result of these fires, 130 people died, 230 people were injured and property loss was at more than $185 million. In addition, there were a minimum of 119 deaths from carbon monoxide and at least 4,700 injuries were reported for the same time frame, through most estimates range higher.

The root cause of most of these losses is that most U.S. homeowners are unaware that a chimney is an integral part of a home-heating system and that they require regular evaluation and maintenance. Most homeowners in this area have little working knowledge of chimney and venting systems.

This situation is complicated by the fact that damage, build up and problems are rarely visible to the casual observer. The threat of chimney fires and unsafe indoor air quality conditions can be greatly reduced, perhaps even eliminated, if homeowners only understood that chimneys require regular maintenance.

How often should I have my chimney inspected or cleaned?

According to N.F.P.A. (National Fire Protection Association):

1) Fireplace and woodstove flues should be cleaned or inspected once a year or per cord of wood burned;
2) Pellet stoves should be cleaned once a year or per ton of pellets burned.
3) Oil Furnaces should be cleaned every 3 years, gas furnaces should be cleaned every 7 years. Oil and gas furnaces flues should be inspected annually for structural integrity.

What is involved in a safety inspection?

The chimney sweep technician will check the condition of your firebox, as well as your damper and flue to determine typical problems such as creosote build up, mortar deterioration and obstructions inside the flue and malfunctioning damper parts.

The technician will check the crown for cracks, check the chimney for deteriorating mortar and brick, make sure flashing is sealed and check flue tiles for cracks or damage. He will alert you to any problems that he finds and provide you with a written estimate for any needed repairs; however, it may not be safe to continue using your fireplace until those problems are addressed.

What causes creosote or "soot"?

Creosote or "soot" is caused by simply burning materials in your fireplace, such as wood. Creosote is basically unburned fuel that gathers in the form of black powder, flakes or a baked-on glaze, depending on the degree of build up.

Creosote build up is one of the main causes of chimney fires. When there is an excess build up of creosote on the chimney flue and the temperature rises, the soot is ignited and an actual fire is started inside your flue, showering your roof with sparks. Using wood that has been well seasoned along with burning hot fires can help slow the accumulation of creosote, but there is no way to prevent the build up of creosote.

What causes smoke problems?

Smoke problems may be caused by:

  • Dirty flue preventing draft
  • A bigger or smaller flue than needed
  • Improper air pressure in the house
  • Wind direction
  • Obstructions in the flue
  • Damper not operating properly

Sometimes more than one thing can contribute to the smoking problem.

What is the chimney sweep's role?

The primary job of a chimney service technician is to monitor your chimney, clean and maintain your chimney and to advise changes to improve its performance and safety.

I was told I need my flue relined. Why would I need a relining?

A chimney sweep technician performing either a visual inspection or a chimney scan can see if your flue tiles or chimney liner is damaged, which require that the flue be relined.

Cracks in flue tiles allow gases, creosote and heat to leak out between the flue and the chimney, even possibly into other parts of your home. We now know that all gas furnaces and hot water heaters should be vented through a listed metal liner, especially if used with a High-Efficiency furnace. Current codes require it for all new furnace installations.

Industry experience over the last few decades have conclusively demonstrated that venting gas appliances into masonry chimneys results in the rapid break-down of clay tile liners and the eventual destruction of the overall chimney structure.

What is a chimney crown?

A chimney crown is a concrete mix which is intended to protect the area between the chimney and the flue from water damage. If a crown is inspected regularly and maintained properly, any minor deterioration can be caught and patched or repaired before it becomes a major project. Any cracks or deterioration compromise this protection and will lead to more extensive and expensive repairs to the chimney, requiring either tearing down and relaying of bricks and/or repainting. Also be aware that repaired chimneys can never look the same as the original, properly maintained chimney.

I keep getting birds and squirrels in my chimney. What can I do to keep them out?

We recommend that all flues have a flue cap. Flue caps keep out animals such as birds, squirrels and raccoons. They also help to keep out rain and debris such as leaves and bird droppings, which can lead to plants and trees growing out of your chimney!

Generally, we install stainless steel flue caps with a lifetime warranty against rust. But we can also install standard copper caps, European copper chimney pots and custom caps.