Spring cleaning is just around the corner and there is one part of your home that often gets neglected during this time, the fireplace. Now that winter is (almost) over, you probably are not giving your fireplace much thought. It has served its purpose another cold season, housing beautifully kindled fires that warmed up your home and soul. You’re ready to deep clean and start planning your summer vacation, but, the truth is, you should be thinking about your fireplace still and it should be added to your cleaning list!
While there is no regulation on how often your fireplace should be cleaned, spring is a great time to schedule a cleaning. Chances are there will not be a long wait and you will save money because you will avoid the in season premium. While spring is a great time to have your chimney cleaned, it is not the only time to have it done.
Like we mentioned above, there is no set time to have your fireplace cleaned. For example, there is no suggestion to have it done once every 45 days or after a x number of uses. This is because it depends on how often you use your fireplace. If you are someone that uses it here and there throughout the winter months, a spring cleaning might be all you will need. However, if you use your fireplace daily and it is the only source of heat for your home, you will want to have it cleaned more often. How do you know if it is time to have your fireplace cleaned? By checking for creosote build up.
What is Creosote?
You don’t know what creosote build up is? Don’t worry, we have the 411 on it. Creosote is a black or brown residue that can stick to the inner walls of your chimney. It can vary in textures, from flaky and crusty to drippy and sticky to shiny and hardened. Regardless of the texture, it is highly combustible and can put your home at serious risk for a chimney fire. Now that you know what it is, you need to know how to check for it. But first, we have to go over the anatomy of your fireplace so you know exactly what you are doing.
The anatomy of your fireplace: Firebox – where fire is built/visible, Damper – a small flap before the smoke chamber that allows smoke to escape or air to enter, Smoke Chamber – located above the damper and firebox to allow smoke to mix and exit through the flue, Flue – above smoke chamber, allows smoke to exit the home.
Check it Out
Back to learning how to check for creosote. You will need a dust mask, safety goggles, a flashlight and your fireplace poker. Once you have your safety gear, make sure there’s no downdraft from the chimney. If you feel an airflow, open a door or window on the same floor as the fireplace until the downdraft stops or reverses and air flows up. You can tape tissue to the fireplace opening and watch its movement. Then, while wearing the goggles and a basic disposable dust mask, take the strong flashlight and your fireplace poker and scratch the black surface above the damper, the smoke chamber. If the groove you scratch in the creosote is paper thin, no cleaning is needed. If it’s 1/8 in. thick, schedule a cleaning soon. If you have 1/4 in. of creosote, do not use the fireplace again until it is cleaned because a chimney fire could occur at any time.
Leave it to the Pros
While there are ways to remove creosote yourself, it is best to hire a professional. This ensures that the cleaning is thorough and significantly reduces the risk of chimney fires. The average cost is about $150 to $200. You should budget for at least one cleaning per year. If you use your fireplace quite a bit, maybe you should budget for two to three cleanings per year. Remember, the best way to know if it is time for a cleaning is to check the thickness of the creosote build up in the smoke chamber. Depending on how much you use your fireplace, you may check weekly or monthly during the winter months. Can you prevent creosote?
Creosote Sweeping Log
While creosote build up is not totally preventable, you can reduce it by up to 60% by using a chimney cleaning log. The chemical in these types of logs help reduce the accumulation of creosote on your chimney walls. You are supposed to burn one to two logs for about one to two hours. Depending on how often you use your fireplace will determine how many times you should use a chimney sweep log, CSL.
If your fireplace is for weekends only, you would only need to use a CSL once per winter season. If you light one fire per day, you should use a CSL twice in the winter season. And, last, but not least, if you have a continuous fire, you would use a CSL every two months until the season is over. While these logs can help reduce build up and make professional removal easier, they are not an alternative to professional chimney cleaning. You should use these in addition to a professional chimney sweep.
Now that spring is upon us, call up your local chimney sweep and schedule a fireplace cleaning. Ask them what type of maintenance would fit your needs and be sure to follow the recommendations. This will keep your house safe and warm for a long time. And remember Woodchuck Delivery when you’re ready to use your fireplace again. Give us a call at (512) 387 -7270 or order your premium firewood on our website.