Chimney Inspection

Chimney Sweeps vs. DIY for Chimney Cleaning & Service

Chimney Inspection in Fulton, MDWithin the fireplace and chimney services industry, the 2016 scuffle between the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and Angie’s List is fairly well-known. For those of you not familiar with the issue, here’s the thumbnail version.

Angie’s List, a popular article mill, posted a piece that implied that homeowners could properly clean their own chimneys. Knowing this was false, misleading and dangerous information, the CSIA got to work and forced Angie’s List to remove the article titled “How to Clean Your Chimney.”


In a letter to the president of Angie’s List, shown here on the CSIA blog, CSIA President Mark A. Stoner wrote:

“Encouraging the average homeowner, who does not meet the (National Fire Protection Association’s) definition of a ‘qualified agency’, to perform his or her own chimney service [. . .] is not only irresponsible and negligent but could lead directly to the loss of life or property due to a chimney fire or carbon monoxide intrusion into the residence.”

Stoner continued: “By posting this article to its website and promoting it via social media, Angie’s List has effectively endorsed this content and it should be held liable for any and all damages ensuing from a homeowner’s adherence to instructions therein.”

Why DIY chimney cleaning is not recommended

Mark Stoner of the CSIA was right in pulling out all the stops to get Angie’s List to remove that article. While there are some fireplace and chimney maintenance tasks the average homeowner can perform safely and effectively (cleaning the firebox; doing a general inspection of chimney masonry or some of the chimney’s components), cleaning creosote out of a chimney is not one of them.

Professional chimney sweeps go through a rigorous process to obtain valued certifications from the CSIA and other hearth-industry agencies. These include:

  • Certified Chimney Professional
  • Certified Master Chimney Technician
  • Certified Chimney Sweep
  • Certified Chimney Reliner

Chimney Sweep in Poolesville, MDIndividuals who hold these and other high-level certifications have demonstrated that they understand the multiple elements of a chimney’s operation and structure and have shown specific expertise in using the tools and equipment that are industry-standard in cleaning chimneys.

Don’t let a “handyman” work on your chimney

When you allow an untrained individual to clean or do other work on your chimney, you’re setting yourself up for some potentially serious problems.

Creosote, which forms in a chimney every time wood burns, is highly flammable and is the cause of most chimney fires in the U.S. each year. Cleaning creosote out of a chimney often is a challenging job – even for a professional. Creosote can present as a flakey, sticky or solid substance. Each form requires specific actions for effective removal.

Certified chimney sweeps make use of electric and hand brushes, specialized solvents, scrapers, vacuums and other equipment to safely remove creosote without damaging the chimney’s interior masonry or liner.

Just as you would only go to a qualified physician to perform an important medical procedure, you should only hire a qualified, certified chimney sweep to clean your chimney. This professional will know a lot more about the cleaning process and chimneys in general than any “average” person.

High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is staffed with trained, experienced, certified chimney professionals. When we clean your chimney, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing it was done correctly and in accord with all safety precautions. Give us a call at (301) 519-3500 for your next professional chimney service.


Warm Up with Your Fireplace Safely This Fall

Chimney Inspection in Fulton, MDThe warm days and cool nights that fall brings to southwestern Maryland, and the Capitol Corridor is a welcome respite after a warm summer. But with lows already dipping into the ’40s in some areas, many homeowners are already lighting their fireplaces and wood stoves in the evenings. Our weather is going to get even colder with the possibility of freezing temperatures arriving as early as Thanksgiving, according to the monthly weather forecast.

Chimney Inspection and Cleaning

When was the last time you had a professional chimney inspection and cleaning? If it has been more than 12 months, scheduling a qualified chimney sweep should be a top priority. A professional chimney inspection assesses its condition and recommends necessary repairs to ensure that it is safe to use your fireplace or heating stove. The technician will also advise the homeowner if there are excessive amounts of creosote deposits and recommend if cleaning is necessary before use. An inspection will also uncover any damages or obstructions that may expose your home and occupants to a higher risk of fire or carbon monoxide.

Repair or Replace Chimney Cap

Chimney Repair in Poolesville, MDThe chimney cap plays a vital role in protecting your chimney.  First, it covers the exposed flue to allow the venting of smoke and fumes while preventing pests, leaves, twigs, and other debris from obstructing the vent. Second, it helps prevent water from intruding into the flue during periods of rain and snow. Third, it prevents hot embers and sparks from flying out of the flue and onto the roof, where it can be a fire hazard. And finally, the chimney cap minimizes downdrafts, which can force smoke, soot, and carbon monoxide into your living space. A broken or missing chimney cap increases the risk of water leaks and fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. It should be replaced with a cap that contains a wire mesh screen and spark arrestor. For even greater protection, ask your chimney professional about a chase cover.

Install a Glass Fireplace Door

A glass fireplace door contains sparks and embers inside the fireplace, so they don’t fly out and stain or ignite nearby flooring and furniture. They are not only attractive, but they also help radiate the heat in your living space. You will have a beautiful view of the flames without the safety risk. It’s a must for any home with small children or pets.

Only Burn Seasoned Firewood

Don’t be tempted to burn fresh or “green” wood in your fireplace. The problem with green wood is that the moisture produces lots of smoke. It also creates more creosote, which is a fire hazard in excessive amounts. Only burn wood that has been seasoned (dried) for at least six months. And, of course, never burn Christmas trees or any hazardous materials in your fireplace or heating stove.

Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon monoxide (CO2) is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that is also known as the “silent killer.” National fire and health safety experts strongly encourage all homeowners using solid or liquid fuel heating appliances to install a carbon monoxide detector. The CO2 detector is the only way you may be able to tell if deadly CO2 gas is leaking inside your home. If the CO2 detector sounds an alert, immediately open windows and doors to bring fresh air into your home. Turn off all heating appliances and contact your chimney professional. If anyone in your home is complaining of nausea, headaches, or dizziness, immediately dial 9-1-1.

Don’t Leave a Fire Unattended

It may be tempting to leave your fireplace warming your home when you go out for a quick bite or go to bed. But a sudden downdraft, excessive creosote, hot embers, and other problems can occur at any time that increases the risk of fire. Always extinguish the fire before leaving your home or retiring to bed.