If you are new to the home and have not yet had a WETT certified professional look at it, then yes, you need a cleaning. Not only is it a good idea to remove the soot. It helps to have a professional go over the system, let you know what you need to know about your system, and teach you how to use it properly. Most issues wood burners face are due to the fact that they just assumed they know how to use their system properly.
Typically we use the rule of thumb of 50 fires or 3 years, whichever comes first. 3 years is an important time frame for two reasons. First, deterioration occurs whether you use the chimney or not. This deterioration must be identified and prevented before your system becomes unsafe or too expensive to fix. Secondly, it helps to have an invoice from a WETT certified chimney sweep in your files to help you with any claims you might make against your insurance. Due diligence is important. Why 50 fires? Well, to be honest, we need a number. Not all wood burning units burn with the same cleanliness; and certainly, not all users pay enough attention to the quality of their wood or know how to burn as clean as possible. 50 fires is a good number to start. After I see your system and how well you take care of it, we can revise that number upward. If in doubt, book a cleaning during which we can talk about your habits and perhaps steer them towards cleanliness, efficiency, and safety.
Only the ones that say they are 100% wood with no additives or binding agents. If the logs are made entirely out of pressed wood chips with no binding agents holding them together, then they will burn quite clean. Binding agents are very destructive to the clay and brick interior of your fireplace and chimney. Also, these fake logs burn very sooty. They do not ‘burn cleaner than hardwood’. I don’t care what it says on the package. Avoid these fake logs at all costs
Only good, dry hardwood and lots of it. You can use softwood and paper for kindling, no problem. Get the unit burning nice and hot as quickly as possible and try to maintain a high temperature until you are ready to let the fire die out. A high chimney temperature is important to help minimize the amount of creosote that gets deposited.
Ideally, no. The problem with burning any garbage is that it burns extra dirty and the soot is really nasty. It is highly corrosive when it contacts any metal and highly damaging to bricks and clay. I’ve seen many fireplaces ruined because of this bad habit. I also get a lot of calls after Christmas, due to the fact that some people will burn their wrapping paper and cardboard boxes and they had a chimney fire.
Creosote is a thick, tar-like substance that is found in all wood. Typically, the combustion temperature is too high for it to burn, so it evaporates and goes up the chimney. If the chimney is too cool, then the creosote condenses inside the chimney. It mixes and gets covered in soot which has a much lower combustion temperature. At a later date, the soot catches on fire and then proceeds to ignite the creosote. When this happens, you have a chimney fire.
No. In fact, it is considerably worse. Perhaps as much as 10X worse. Small fires are a guarantee that you are gumming up your flue with creosote and creosote usually guarantees that are going to need to spend a lot of money fixing your chimney soon.
Zero. Before any job, we assess the best way to clean. This, of course, involves ensuring that no mess happens inside the home. In addition to sealing off the unit, we use tarps and an expensive vacuum with a top of the line filtration system.
Wood Energy Technology Transfer is an organization that develops standards for building codes. They educate and test their members about building codes, but also provide forums for sweeps to learn about new techniques and technologies. Its membership is purely voluntary, however, your insurance company may insist that WETT certified sweeps are used. Almost all municipalities have adopted the WETT standard for building codes.
We will need to get into the home to do a proper job. It’s easy to find chimney sweeps who only brush the flue, but that is only half of the job, the most important part is the removal of the brushed soot. Otherwise all you get is a chimney with a lot of soot at the bottom where it is hotter and more likely to catch fire. Essentially, if the brushed soot is not removed, then you are only paying for the illusion of safety.
There are many ways to work around this. If you can have a relative or friend at the house to let us in, then we can call you after the job is finished and let you know how it went. We can also minimize the time you are away from work by calling you in advance and letting you know the exact time we expect to show up for the job.
If the job does not require any inside work, like installing caps or masonry repair, then all we need is a credit card number and we will leave the paid invoice in the mailbox. No credit cards are charged until the job is complete and all charges are agreed to before any work is performed.
We would like to get to the top of the chimney somehow. This allows a more thorough inspection and allows us to use a broader range of tools. Normally a chimney runs up the outside wall of the house, so all we need is to put a ladder up to the top without stepping on the roof. Of course, we will do no damage to the roof and have all the necessary tools to do the work safely.
Depending on the animal, we either sauté them or bake them in a pie. OK, jokes aside, it is illegal to remove any wild animal from its territory. We can kick them out of your home, but we cannot legally relocate them. So we will remove them from your home and animal proof your chimney or vent. Adult animals are quite capable of building a new home and recovering the babies we’ve left in a safe place for them to reclaim. Birds are another story. Eggs and hatchlings will not survive any disturbance and the Humane Society won’t take them. Please see our Animal Removal service Page.
Typically, smells from the fireplace are either from dead animals or your fireplace is dirty and has a nasty downdraft. Either way, you need a cleaning. During the cleaning, we will review your wood-burning system and make suggestions on how to minimize this issue.
At best, the answer is maybe, but in most cases you are trading your time and money for the illusion of safety. Their claims are that the creosote will become less flammable and flake off and fall. Let’s deal with the last part first. Anything removed from the sides of the chimney need to be removed, otherwise is just falls down into a hotter part of the chimney. It needs to be removed with a vacuum or by hand as very few fireplaces have the chimney directly above the firebox. Chimney cleaning logs can’t do this. It doesn’t matter if this claim is true or not. My opinion is that it isn’t. Secondly, it makes the creosote less flammable. This could be true, but there are better chemical treatments that you can do. Please see our Creosote Conditioning page.