Updated: Jan 24
Have you ever wondered, just how often should I clean my chimney out? If so, then you are not alone. There are people all around the country that ask that very question on a regular basis. It is very important to keep your chimney clean. If you do not, you could be putting your home at risk any time that you light your fireplace. There are a lot of problems that can come along with a dirty chimney. Never wait too long before you get it checked out and cleaned. It is simply not worth the risk.
What Builds Up in the Chimney?
There are three things that typically build up on the inside of your chimney. The first is soot. This is the powder from the black smoke that comes off of the fire. Then, you have blockages. This is anything that sticks out or blocks any part of the chimney from the firebox on up. Simple things like leaves or sticks that fell in, plus soot, can cause a blockage and make it so the smoke has nowhere up to go. Plus, if this is the first time you used your chimney this season, you want to make sure nothing nested in your chimney since its last use. This could definitely cause problems, especially if something is still living in there.
Third, you have what is called creosote. This is the most dangerous part of what builds up inside your chimney. It is incredibly flammable. Any time you burn wood, this is released into the chimney. It sticks to the soot and makes it to where if the chimney itself gets too heated, the chimney could start on fire. You never want this in your chimney, and should always make sure it gets a regular cleaning to get it out.
How Often Should I Have Someone Inspect My Chimney?
You should always get an annual inspection done on your chimney. This is assuming normal use of the chimney during the year prior, too. If you used your chimney a lot, you may want to have someone come look at it a bit more often. There are a few other times where you should also inspect your chimney. Any time you buy a new home and move into it, make sure you have it inspected before you use the chimney. The same goes with a new rental. Unless you get documentation an inspection was done in the last few months, pay someone to come take a peek at it to be on the safe side.
If you notice any issues with your fireplace, you should also call in someone to inspect it, and do not use it until someone looks at it. You never want to think about using it if there is even a slight chance of a problem. Waiting means you do not risk the buildup starting a fire. If the smoke ever comes back into the house when starting a fire, stop and get the chimney checked. You don’t want that coming into the house as it can make it hard to breathe, and cause health issues. It is always better to err on the side of caution when dealing with anything fire-related.
Then How Often Should I Clean My Chimney?
Now that you know what is in the chimney, and how important inspections are, you can finally get an answer to, how often should I clean my chimney. The answer is, it depends. If you use your chimney once per year, then you do not need to clean it very often. However, if you use your chimney day in and day out for 3-6 months out of the year, then you need to clean it far more often. It also depends on what part of the world you live in. The truth is, there are specific guidelines as to when you need to clean your chimney.
First, the recommendation by means of the Chimney Safety Institute of America, or CSIA, says when you notice one-eighth of an inch of sooty buildup within the chimney system or on the flue, it is time for a cleaning. Second, if you happen to notice glaze anywhere on the flue, you also need to clean it. This is true even if that one-eighth of buildup is not there. So, if you hit either of those markers, the CSIA says it is time for a cleaning. If a lot of time passed since your last cleaning, whether or not you have used the fireplace, get it cleaned. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry.