Spring is a good time to do a cleaning and inspection of all accessible areas of your chimney interior and exterior. While there is no simple rule on how often or when to clean your chimney — there are a number of factors that will determine that, and no two chimneys are alike — recommendations from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are to have the chimney, fireplaces and vents cleaned and inspected annually.
Presumably you have completed your winter burning, and now is the time to remove any creosote accumulation. Creosote is corrosive, and removing it now will prevent the acidic acids from doing harm to your flue.
Creosote forms when smokey tar vapors from unburned wood cool and collect on the flue liner. If left alone, it will continue to build up and deteriorate your clay flue tiles and mortar. It is recommended that when an accumulation of 1/8" or more of creosote is detected, you should remove it. The primary reason to have creosote removed is to reduce the possibility of a chimney fire. Creosote can be ignited from flames or high temperatures in a hot fire box. Fireplace odor, usually more noticeable in the spring and summer, is actually the smell of creosote in the fireplace and chimney — another good reason to clean the fireplace!
Helpful Tips for Spring Chimney Cleaning
Cre-Away is an effective, patented, powered creosote modifier that greatly reduces the amount of creosote that builds up in the chimney. Anti-Creo-Soot is a non-toxic and environmentally safe liquid that chemically breaks down and destroys dangerous creosote and soot.
Creosote is not the only thing to look for. Your chimney should be inspected inside and out.
Starting from the exterior: at the top of the chimney, you should inspect your rain cap (and yes, all chimneys should have a rain cap). The cap should have a spark arrestor to help contain sparks exiting the flue. The screen will also keep unwanted pests and debris form entering the flue. Check its condition and cleanliness, as creosote will collect on the screen and cause poor performance. Also look down the flue and inspect to see if any blockage exists from fallen flue tiles, debris or animals.
Next: the crown is the concrete cap below the rain cap. Quite often it will be cracked, as the expansion of the brick is different than the concrete. Any cracks should be filled and the crown sealed to prevent further cracking during the winter. EverGuard 400 Degree Silicone Adhesive and Chimney Saver Crown-Coat or Crown-Seal are designed for this application. Check the chimney itself for cracked mortar, bricks or loose flashing before leaving the roof area; these will need to be repaired as well.
Be sure to exercise caution when on a ladder or the roof. Learn more about rooftop safety.
Inside the house, remove the ashes from the firebox or stove, making sure there are no hot embers remaining, and dispose of them safely. If there is an ash pit door, verify that it is intact. This would be a good time to check and clean the ash pit if needed. Inspect the firebrick for excessive cracks or missing mortar joints. Check the damper and handle for proper operation and sealing. Also look up through the damper, checking for blockage or debris. If there is an offset in the flue, you may not be able to see the top.
Spring is a great time for chimney cleaning and repairs. It is possible to do chimney maintenance and repairs yourself, and Rockford Chimney Supply has all the necessary tools and cleaners to make the job easier. But if you don't feel comfortable doing this job, don't hesitate to hire a professional to help you out! The most important thing is for you to have a clean and efficient chimney.