Home heating equipment leads to 15 percent of all house fires in the U.S, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. Twenty-seven percent of those are started by chimneys. That’s about 14,053 fires annually.
To say American homeowners don’t clean their chimneys enough would be an understatement. If the phrase “chimney sweep” conjures images of a dirty dude doing a jig in London, you’re probably one of them.
To clear up some of the myths (or ignorance) surrounding proper chimney maintenance, read on.
Chimneys are self-cleaning
Nope. There are people that think chimney sweeping is an antiquated practice that has been overcome by technology and the passage of time. Try again.
Your chimney is made of the same material or is the actual chimney that existed during the early 1900s (depending on when your house was built). Nothing much has changed.
Many homes in America feature the classic masonry chimney. Built of concrete or clay, covered by bricks. These and other newer chimneys still have one thing in common: they don’t clean themselves.
As smoke passes through any chimney, a layer of extremely flammable creosote (smoke residue and wood particles) builds up. Chimney fires are either massively explosive or slow-burning, but equally as dangerous.
Cleaning logs fully clean your chimney
While chimney cleaning logs reduce and loosen the creosote build up, they do not fully clean the chimney. Only chimney sweeps can do that. You still may be at risk for a chimney fire after you use a cleaning log.
I can clean my chimney myself
Technically, yes you can clean your chimney yourself. There are 56,000,000 search results for “how to clean a chimney” on Google. But that doesn’t mean you should do it.
A proper chimney cleaning requires special brushes, a respirator, dangerous chemicals, and several 5-gallon containers to dispose of the creosote. Sound like a fun Saturday to you?
Unlike a professional chimney sweep, you also may not know what you’re looking for in a sound chimney. It’s not just the creosote removal that’s important. Your fireplace may have critical damage that affects its ability to keep you and your home safe. A professional will recommended what to repair and replace.
I never use my fireplace so I don’t need an inspection/cleaning
Wrong. There are a variety of factors that chimney problems including house settling, cracks in outside masonry, moisture penetration, and nesting by birds.
Even if you only light a fire each Christmas Eve, an obstructed fireplace can start a fire or put carbon monoxide back into your home among other issues. We recommend having your chimney inspected at least once per year.
I got this magic metal liner so I don’t need an inspection/cleaning
Sorry, metal liners don’t stop the build-up of creosote. They do offer a safer fire burning in some regards but your chimney still needs to be inspected and cleaned on a regular basis.
In fact, most metal liner companies require regular inspection and maintenance for their warranties to be honored.
Now that we’ve busted some common chimney myths, we hope you take the health of your chimney seriously and get a professional inspection in the books.