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Three white birds sit on top of the chimney of a wood burning fireplace.

Why fireplace safety and cleaning your chimney matters

You probably don’t want to interrupt a romantic evening by a lit fireplace with a call to the fire department. Having to frantically open up all your doors and windows is also likely to kill the mood. However, if you don’t regularly clean your chimney, you may end up having to do just that.

An unclean chimney is both a fire hazard and a frequent cause of carbon monoxide (CO²) poisoning. However, you may not know how often to clean a chimney or even how to clean a chimney. Read on to learn more about these specifics.

Why Do You Need to Clean the Chimney?

Chimney cleaning is more a matter of safety than a matter of aesthetics. Over time, a chimney will build up certain blockages. These can catch on fire and destroy your home or make it easier for smoke and CO² to flow back down into your home.

What Causes a Dirty Chimney?

There are a lot of factors that can cause your chimney to become too dirty for safe operation. The most common of these is creosote. This is a substance that is created after you burn wood in your fireplace and attaches itself to your chimney’s inner walls.

Six Signs It’s Time to Clean Your Chimney

Due to lack of funds and/or time, you may prefer to only clean the chimney when it is necessary. If so, you need to keep all your senses alert to the signs that immediate chimney cleaning is necessary. Here are some of these.

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  • Your chimney smells different than normal
  • You’ve recently banished animals from your chimney
  • Your chimney is making abnormal sounds
  • You can’t get your fireplace to start properly
  • CO² gas gets into your home when the fireplace is lit
  • Fires start on the inside of your chimney

When’s the Best Time to Clean Your Chimney?

Wondering when and how often to clean a chimney? Most experts recommend that you clean your chimney or hire chimney cleaning services at least once a year. The best time is before you begin frequent burning, so during the warm season in spring and summer.

Do I Need to Clean the Chimney if I Don’t Use It?

You can probably get away with less frequent fireplace chimney cleaning if you don’t use your chimney. However, you should clean it to get rid of any mould, spider webs, animal nests, animal droppings, or other debris that may get into your chimney. You don’t want that to be in there should you ever light your chimney.

How to Perform Chimney Cleaning Yourself

It is possible to clean your chimney and avoid the chimney cleaning cost. However, keep in mind that hiring a professional will likely get you the best chimney clean. If you insist on cleaning your chimney yourself, follow the steps below.

Inspect Your Chimney

It’s important to first inspect your chimney to see what kind of debris you’ll be dealing with.

Using a flashlight, look inside your chimney flute. With a pencil or a plastic knife, scrape off the creosote or soot buildup. If the layer is 1/8-inch thick or thicker, it’s time to clean your chimney.

Don’t forget to check for animals living in your chimney. If you find animals, call a local wildlife control company to safely remove the animals from your chimney.

Measure the Chimney Flue

Use a tape measurer or measuring tape to measure the length of your flue. This will help you choose the best length of the chimney brush. If you can’t get an accurate measurement, overestimate the height.

Prepare Your Home

To protect your interior, cover the fireplace entrance as much as possible with the poly sheeting and place the drop cloth on the floor. Place a shop vac at the entrance of the fireplace and turn it on to collect what ashes it can while you work.

Remove the Damper

Remove it to start cleaning the chimney. Before you can start cleaning the chimney, you need to remove the damper so it won’t obstruct the path of the chimney brush.The damper sits at the top of the chimney.

Find the damper handle inside of your chimney. Clean it with a small wire brush before detaching it from the chimney. Once removed, set it aside on a drop cloth.

Clean the Chimney From the Top Down

Gather all the necessary chimney cleaning tools. These include safety glasses, a safety harness, a dust mask, a broom, and chimney brushes. Once you have these, put a brush into your chimney and push down until you feel no resistance.

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For the rope-and-weight method, attach the weighted rope to the brush. Lower the brush into the chimney while holding the end of the rope. Then lift it up and down so you scrub the entire length of the flue.

Once you have packed up and climbed down the ladder, clean any spots you missed at the bottom of the chimney with the small brush.

Clean the Chimney From the Bottom Up

Your work at the chimney top should’ve pushed all the creosote and other debris down. You can now return to the interior of your home and start cleaning the chimney bottom.

You can also use this method if you don’t feel comfortable climbing up to your roof.

Attach the brush with one section of pipe and insert the brush into the chimney through the fireplace. Scrub up and down along the flue. Keep adding pipe and scrubbing until you have reached the entire length of the chimney.

Clean the Flue’s Entrance

Your flue’s entrance is a small door to an area under the flue. This door is located at the bottom of the chimney, usually in the basement. Use a small spade to shovel any soot and creosote from this area into a bucket. Then reattach the damper handle.

Clean the Fireplace

Finish the job by brushing the ashes and debris out of the fireplace. You may want to save the ashes for later.

Hire a Professional

Again, it’s probably best to hand the work off to the best chimney cleaning services Ottawa has to offer. This is especially the case if you see heavy creosote buildup on the interior walls of your chimney. It will be very hard to get this off yourself.

What to Do With Your Leftover Wood Ash

As a final tip, don’t feel like you have to throw the wood ashes leftover in your fireplace away. There are several ways that you can use these ashes around your home.

Handling Wood Ash

It’s important to handle wood ash safely, though. Be sure to wear gloves, a dusk mask, and eye protection when handling wood ash. Store them in a metal container outside and away from combustible materials.

Common Garden Uses

Ashes make a great slug and ant deterrent if you sprinkle some in your garden. It’s also great for melting ice on paths and making it less slippery.

Using Ash as Tree Fertilizer

You can also use wood ash as fertiliser for your garden. Just make sure that the pH of your soil is right for it.

Other Uses for Wood Ash

You can also use ash in the making of soap and other cleaners. Thus, it’s highly wasteful to just throw it away.

Call Us to Get Your Dream Fireplace Installed

In sum, it’s best to hire an expert for chimney cleaning services at regular intervals. However, if that isn’t possible, you can keep an eye on the signs of a dangerously dirty chimney and clean the chimney yourself.

Also, if you want to add a chimney to your home or replace your already existing chimney, consider our services. We have the best selection of wood, gas, and electric fireplaces and fireplace parts in Ottawa. Contact us today for a quick quote.

Read More: The Ultimate Wood Fireplace Buying Guide