How Often Should I Have My Chimney Cleaned?
The recommended chimney-cleaning schedule is stated in different ways by different fireplace/safety institutions, so it’s not always easy to know exactly how to proceed if you’re a homeowner who operates a fireplace. Here are some guidelines in simple terms.
Why is it so important to have your chimney cleaned?
Using a fireplace – particularly a wood-burning fireplace – sends gases and toxins up the chimney. Over time, smoke and other elements create a buildup in the flue walls that must be dealt with. The most pressing concern is the presence of creosote, a highly flammable substance that’s produced by smoke and sticks to everything it touches.
The majority of house fires begin in fireplace systems, and the vast majority of these happen because the homeowner neglected to keep the chimney clean and in good repair.
Cleaning is also important because a certified chimney sweep can perform a thorough inspection to determine if any part of the system is damaged or not functioning properly during the appointment. A typical inspection covers construction materials, the chimney liner/flue, the flashing that creates a water seal between the chimney and the roof, the chimney cap, and inside the house, the firebox and damper.
Any of these parts or systems that are compromised can lead to expensive and potentially dangerous situations down the line.
So, how often should my chimney be cleaned?
The Chimney Safety Institute of America states that a chimney needs cleaning when an eighth of an inch of creosote or other buildup is present. Of course, most homeowners have no way of telling when the buildup reaches that level, so we turn to the National Fire Protection Association, which recommends having your chimney cleaned once per year.
Now, “once per year” is a guideline generally established for “typical” fireplace/chimney systems run in average circumstances. Still, it errs on the side of caution. Depending on the way and frequency you use your fireplace, a tighter schedule may be required.
Fireplaces that are operated for long periods of time on a daily basis all through the winter will experience a quicker soot and creosote buildup than units that are run three or four evenings a week. Also, burning wood that isn’t seasoned (dry) produces much more smoke, so if you regularly use this kind of wood, more attention will be needed for your chimney.
How to be on the safe side
If you’ve just moved into a home with a fireplace or if you’ve used your fireplace for years without cleaning and inspection, the smart move is schedule a cleaning right away. Then, about mid-way through the first winter, have it looked at again to estimate the buildup level for a full season. This will let you know if annual cleaning or more frequent cleaning is necessary. Once you know, you’re good to go.
Guardian Chimney Sweep wants you to be safe. We provide the greater Houston area with full-service chimney cleaning, inspection and repair for all types of wood and gas home-heating appliances. You can schedule an appointment or get your questions answered by calling (713) 401-2011.