Fireplace and chimney cleaning are very important in keeping your appliance looking good, running safely and operating at peak efficiency. You can do some cleaning tasks yourself; others are best handled by a professional chimney sweep. Let’s take a look.
Do it yourself
Glass fireplace doors: If your fireplace doors are smudgy and unsightly, you can use a household window cleaning solution and paper towels to remove the buildup and make the glass shine again.
Inside the firebox: This is a two-step process: first, shovel or vacuum out the ashes and small wood chips, then use a mixture of warm water and dish soap with cleaning rags to remove soot buildup on the inner surfaces of the firebox. Gas-burning fireplaces require only basic cleaning and wiping down with soapy water.
Cleaning the surround: If you have a surround made of brick, tile, rock or other material, you may notice some discoloration proximal to the opening of the fireplace. This is normal smoke stain and can be cleaned with soap and water. For all surface cleaning in and around the fireplace, you can purchase specially formulated cleaners at your local hearth store or most hardware stores.
Chimney sweep services
When you get deeper into your fireplace and chimney system, most cleaning tasks are best performed by chimney sweeps, who have the training and tools to do the job safely and correctly.
Fireplace damper: Over time, dampers become coated with soot and smoke byproducts and can stop functioning properly. When a certified chimney technician cleans your damper, a thorough inspection of the device also will be performed to spot signs of damage and ensure the seal is tight.
Cleaning the flue: Wood-burning fireplaces create a substance known as creosote when in operation. Creosote is sicky and flammable. If regular chimney cleaning isn’t performed, it can build up in the flue and lead to two serious problems:
- Chimney fire
- Air-flow obstructions
Both problems should always be avoided and, fortunately, with annual chimney inspections and cleanings, they will be.
Once inside a chimney, creosote can present as a soft, sticky substance, but it also can turn hard and slate-like, making it very difficult for the average homeowner to remove. Professional chimney technicians have special tools to break up solid creosote and thoroughly remove it from your flue without damaging the chimney.
Inspection during cleaning
Not only do chimney pros have the tools and skills required to clean creosote and obstructions (twigs, leaves, animal nests, etc.) from your chimney, they also have the expertise to inspect your fireplace system for early signs of damage. Areas and components covered during an annual inspection include:
Chimney crown – check for cracking/deterioration
Chimney cap – make sure mesh is intact and the device is securely mounted
Exterior masonry – inspect for cracks in bricks and mortar and areas of decomposition
Chimney flashing – check for warped or missing sections
Chimney liner – ensure the liner is sound and undamaged
Interior masonry – make sure no damage exists from chimney fires or long-term moisture
These and other parts of your chimney can be repaired, rebuilt or replaced, as needed.
Spring is a great time to work together with a chimney services professional to get your fireplace and chimney in clean, tip-top shape for the coming season. High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is ready to help with all chimney cleaning, inspection and repair tasks. Schedule an appointment, or get your questions answered at (301) 519-3500.