When Should You Clean Your Chimney?

Apr 12, 2024

Chimneys accumulate soot and creosote over time. These particles and chemicals are toxic They also pose a safety hazard because they’re flammable. So, how often should you clean your chimney to keep your home healthy and safe?

General Guidelines

There are many rules of thumb out there that you should take with a grain of salt.

A commonly cited one goes like this. If you burn wood every day during the winter, you should schedule a chimney sweep every year. However, if your usage is less frequent, such as every other day, cleaning every other year may suffice.

Another common rule of thumb suggests that you take the amount of wood burned into account. For example, you may come across advice to sweep after every two cords of oak firewood or every 200 fires, and so on.

These rules serve as rough estimates. The ultimate guideline is to have your chimney inspected annually by a professional chimney sweep, who will then recommend cleaning if necessary.

How Different Types of Wood Affect Your Chimney

The type of wood you burn significantly impacts the cleanliness and safety of your chimney. While there’s a variety of wood types available, not all are suitable for use as firewood. Understanding which woods are optimal for burning can help you maintain a healthier chimney and a more enjoyable fire experience, so let’s look a little closer at some examples:

  • Oak: Widely regarded as one of the best firewoods, oak is relatively easy to ignite and provides good heat output.
  • Madrone: This smooth wood is easier to start than oak and is often mixed in with oak for a balanced fire.
  • Almond: Offering similar heat output to oak but usually at a lower cost, almond wood is a popular alternative for those seeking efficient and economical firewood.

We also want to warn you against using certain types of wood that may have adverse effects on the cleanliness of your chimney:

  • Eucalyptus: Known for its oily nature, eucalyptus burns intensely hot but leaves behind a stubborn residue inside the chimney that’s challenging to remove.
  • Redwood: Burning redwood, often sourced from old fences or decks, results in a residue akin to eucalyptus, posing cleanliness issues for your chimney.

Additionally, softwoods like pine, spruce, and fir can be used as firewood if they are properly seasoned. However, they produce less heat per log compared to hardwoods. If you opt for softwoods, remember that your chimney should be cleaned regularly.

When it comes to selecting firewood, it is important to ensure that your firewood is adequately seasoned, meaning that all moisture has had adequate time to evaporate. Proper seasoning reduces smoke and improves burning efficiency.

Pre-made logs like Presto or Duraflame logs can be convenient but may emit chemical odors and still require regular chimney cleaning.

Signs to Watch Out For

Have you noticed any pungent odors lately? Creosote is renowned for its awful, sharp smell. If you cringe every time you pass by your chimney, you need to call a chimney specialist right away.

Do you live in the South Bay area? Our team at Chimney Clean Company, Inc. can take care of your chimney for you. Contact us today!

Smoking back

There are many fireplaces that seem to smoke back into the house no matter what is done. In our experience, the most common cause is that the fireplace simply needs to be cleaned. This is especially likely if the fireplace has gotten worse over time, that is, the smoking back is worse now than it used to be.

Several other possible causes of smoking back are problems with the damper, chimney cap, grate, firewood, or structural problems with the chimney itself. At Chimney Clean Company, we do a full inspection with every cleaning, or we can also do just the inspection if the chimney doesn’t need to be cleaned. This inspection is designed to reveal any causes of smoking back.

Broken chimneys

In the Bay Area, many chimneys were broken in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Usually, these chimneys are broken at or near the roof line, although sometimes they can be broken further down, even at the ground level.

We are fully licensed masonry contractors. We rebuild broken chimneys. If they are broken at the roof line, this usually entails taking the chimney part of the way down brick by brick, installing steel reinforcing bars, getting an inspection from a city inspector, then rebuilding the chimney back up around the steel rebar.

Missing mortar or damaged bricks

Over time, many chimneys develop places that are missing mortar between bricks, or damaged bricks, either inside the firebox or on the outside of the chimney. These areas can usually be repaired, either by replacing the missing mortar or replacing the bricks themselves. Items such as these can be dangerous because they can allow flames, sparks or hot gases to enter the structure of the house.

Water entry

Sometimes the metal that seals the chimney at the roof, called “flashing”, will come loose or develop leaks. In this case, water sometimes comes into the ceiling of the room and causes water spots and stains on the sheet rock. This flashing should be repaired before the water causes more damage.