Q&A

Professional chimney cleaning in the Triad Area

The team at The Chimney Sweep is happy to take care of all of your chimney inspection, cleaning and repair needs. However, we also want to provide you with some information about how to take care of and maintain your precious chimney so that it's functioning properly when you need it.
How often should my chimney be cleaned?
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends a yearly inspection and cleaning and repairs done as necessary. Free standing wood stoves or fire place inserts used to heat the home should be inspected and cleaned if needed every year. Regular open fireplaces need to be maintained and cleaned on a consistent basis as well. Usually a cleaning is needed for every cord of wood burned or at least 2- 3 years. 

How long will it take to clean my chimney and is there any mess?
It usually takes less than an hour to clean most masonry chimneys.

Pre-fab fireplaces typically take about 35-45 minutes.

Inserts can take from 1-3 hours depending on how often they are cleaned, the type of woodburned, and the way the stove is operated. 

There is no mess. We have tarps, vacuums and brushes to clean your chimney without making a mess in your house. 

How do you clean a chimney?

We clean most chimneys from inside the home. Upon entering your home we are careful to find the best way for us to get equipment and personal in and out of your home. We need some space in front of the fireplace to spread out the 9 x 12 ft tarp that covers the carpet and hearth.
"Special Stuff" on the mantel or walls above the fireplace is safe. If you want to remove items on the mantel please do. We set up all needed tools and our special chimney vacuum to aid in dust control. We wear coveralls, gloves and a respirator to protect us from harmful creosote dust and ash in the chimney. We assess the chimneys condition noting any problems and proceed with cleaning. 

We start by removing the grates and any ash from the firebox. The walls and damper plate are brushed with a hand brush to remove any soot and creosote from this area. 

We remove the damper plate and handle (if possible) to check for rust and missing parts. While cleaning the firebox area we are checking for cracks in brick and missing or severely eroded mortar joints.

On "Pre-fab" models fireplaces we are checking for cracks in the back and side refectory panels in the firebox. Some hairline cracks are acceptable and a part of normal operations, however we are looking for larger cracks and gaps that will allow fire to reach the metal box enclosure of the fireplace. This can cause damage to the firebox making it unsafe for use. These panels are replaceable so do not fear. We can most likely find and replace old damaged panel making your fireplace usable again.

On masonry chimneys we reach up inside the smoke chamber area with a hand brush to clean the breast area and the sides where the larger brush misses. Next, we insert a steel wire brush attached to a flexible fiberglass rod and clean the upper smoke chamber area. The brush is pushed up into the flue, working in a scrubbing motion with
sections of fiberglass rods added until the brush exits the top of chimney. 

The process is reversed, and the liner is checked for cracks, gaps and missing mortar joints using a spotlight. We clean off debris that has fallen onto smoke shelf, the damper plate, handle and cotter pin is put back in place and dust is swept out of firebox. We vacuum off the hearth, and remove all
equipment and tarp from your house, complete the invoice, get payment for the amount due, thank you for the business, sprinkle some good luck around and look forward to the next customers dirty chimney. The whole process takes about 1 hour more or less depending on conditions and such. 
What can I do about birds in my chimney?
The chimney swift, a colony bird from South America, spends the summer in your chimney nesting, raising their young and getting ready for the long flight back to the forests of Peru. Chimney Swifts on average eat several times their weight in flying bugs such as mosquitoes. Being a colony bird they will return to the same chimney they hatched in each year. We start seeing the birds in this area mid-to-late April. They stay until mid-Sept and are usually gone by the first cold snap. We like to wait until the birds are gone or between nesting activity to put out the "No Vacancy" sign. These birds can have 1 - 2 nestings a year depending on weather and other factors. The hatching period usually lasts 4 - 5 weeks with a 1 - 2 week period between hatchings. We recommend cleaning the chimney if to remove the bird debris and any flammable material that may be in the chimney area. Next step is to install a stainless steel chimney cap. This will prevent birds, squirrels and other animals from entering the chimney along with rain and leaves.

What is the difference between vented and non-vented gas logs? What else is there? 
There are several different types of gas logs. We deal with the most popular types, vented and non-vented or heating logs. The differences between these two logs sets is very technical. But to boil it down, vented type logs can only be used in fireplaces with a working chimney that meets 
current codes. The damper is locked open upon installation and must be kept open when burning. Placement of the logs can be changed to make the fire look different. The flame has a more orange look and soot is more prevalent in the chimney. A chimney cap is HIGHLY recommended when using either type of log set to prevent water and other debris from falling on the log set. Water can rust the burner, grate and also damage the logs in a short amount of time.

Non-vented logs can be used in fireboxes, when approved, with or without a chimney flue and
still meet current building codes. The damper (if there is one) is only cracked open (1/4" to  3/8") allowing most of the heat to enter the living space. If you are using a vent free fireplace a window needs to be cracked open during use to allow for fresh air into the home. Once vent-free logs are set up they must stay in this configuration throughout their life. The flame is more blue with yellow tips and these logs produce no soot. In some cases they don't look that great in the fireplace. However, most of the newer models have come a long way in the looks department.

What is the difference between a Pre-Fab fireplace and a masonry fireplace?
The quickest way to tell is by the chimney outside. If its covered in wood or vinyl siding like the house it's most likely a pre-fab. Pre-fab fireplaces are installed on site from UL listed components made in factory, while a masonry chimney is constructed on site by brick masons. A pre-fab chimney has a metal pipe flue to vent smoke out of the house. Pre-fabs are smaller and some have blowers built in. All pre-fab fireplaces are UL listed. The pre-fab chimney is encased in a wood chase covered by a metal cap to prevent water and provided with a termination cap on top.
A masonry/brick chimney is built on site using brick and terra cotta tile for liners and is more expensive to build and maintain. Most masonry chimneys do not have chimney caps installed allowing water and animals to get inside the structure and sometimes inside your house. A pre-fab fireplace can be removed if damaged and replaced with a new unit for less cost than a masonry chimney. Pre-fab fireplaces are not any more or less safe than masonry fireplaces. They are just different but both will help keep you warm and they are romantic!
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