Fall is almost halfway over with the recent start of November. The cold weather has officially set in, with some parts of the country having already experienced snowfall. Everyone is looking to stay warm, especially with the upcoming winter forecasted to be frigid again like last year. For homeowners with fireplaces, keeping warm this winter might involve stoking a few indoor fires. A popular question among homeowners looking to take proper care of their fireplace or wood-burning stove and chimney is when the best time is to schedule a chimney cleaning. While this cannot be answered as simply as listing a month or season, the question of when to sweep the chimney does have some answers.
The first factor to deciding when to clean the chimney is safety. If the chimney is too dirty to use safely, it should be swept prior to the first fire at all costs. A chimney becomes dirty after burning wood in the fireplace. Burning wood creates a tarlike product called creosote that condenses and builds up along the flue lining inside the chimney. Burning wet wood or burning with inadequate oxygen supply can lead to higher creosote production. The problem with creosote is its high flammability, which can lead to chimney fires if the creosote is left to build up. A quick way to test the safeness of creosote buildup is to scratch a small area of creosote from the surface of the flue. If the buildup looks to be an 1/8 inch or thicker, a chimney sweep should be scheduled very soon. If the buildup is a ¼ inch or thicker, no fire should be lit until the chimney has been swept. If there is any question over the safety of the creosote levels, a chimney specialist should be consulted.
Another factor to consider is convenience. Most people only use the fireplace in the fall, winter, and early spring, so the most convenient time to clean normally occurs at the beginning of fall or the end of summer – just prior to needing the fireplace. However, chimney sweeps often offer an incentive to have the sweep done at the end of fire season, in the early spring, by reducing prices. This price differential may win some homeowners over in spite of the convenience.
The determining reason for when to sweep the chimney should be the safety of burning a fire with the chimney in its current condition. While money and convenience deserve some consideration, the wellbeing of the home and family always comes first. If you need to have your chimney swept before the upcoming fireplace season, get in touch with a chimney specialist near you. In the New Haven or Fairfield, Connecticut areas, you can contact Total Care Chimney for a professional consultation.