The chimney sweep is a person sweeps and cleans chimneys, smoke ducts, flue pipes and fireplaces in order to prevent chimney soot fires and gas emissions. The chimney utilizes the pressure difference caused by a hot column of gas to create a draft and draw air over wood enabling continued combustion. Chimneys may be straight or contain many changes of direction depending upon where they are located in the home.
MadeWell Masonry provides highly qualified chimney sweeps to perform your fireplace and chimney inspection. Our inspections can determine if you have built up chimney soot, excess creosote, a broken or cracked chimney crown, or issues in your chimney flue or chimney flashing.
During normal operation of a wood burning fireplace, a layer of creosote (a dark brown or black flammable tar deposited from especially wood smoke on the walls of a chimney) builds up on the inside of the chimney, restricting air and smoke flow. It is important to note, creosote can catch fire, thus setting the chimney and the home on fire.
It can be very difficult for the homeowner to determine if it is time for a chimney cleaning. Most homeowners are simply not equipped with the proper tools (chimney brush, brush rods, fireplace cover, tarp cloth, mirror, shovel, broom, and cleaning chemicals) for inspection. The National Fire Protection Association recommends at least one annual chimney cleaning. If your chimney is used nightly, you will need more frequent service than a neighbor who uses their weekly.
In Memphis, our average nightly temperature for the six month period (November through March) is below 44 degrees. This provides on average 180 days that a fireplace can be easily used. Based on your personal usage, it is best to contact a professional chimney sweep to determine the frequency the homeowner should have their chimney cleaned. It is critical that the chimney must be professionally swept to remove soot and to determine the overall safety of the fireplace and chimney.
What Are the Signs that a Chimney Needs Cleaning?
- Built-up chimney soot and chimney creosote: You can check this yourself but it is very important to have the proper tools for safety reasons. First, Make sure to wear a dust mask and safety goggles. Using a bright flashlight and shine it into the flue and scrape into the chimney soot attached to the walls of the flue. If the soot measures more than 1/8-inch in thickness, your chimney needs cleaning.
- Smoke Entering the room: If any smoke is coming into the room where the fireplace is located, there may be a blockage in your flue. This is potentially a serious fire hazard.
- Odor: A rich tar smell emanating from your fireplace is a sign you have a creosote build-up. This condition needs to be immediately addressed to prevent a creosote fire.
- Weak fire: If it is difficult to build and maintain a strong fire, it is highly likely your fireplace needs to be cleaned. A delay in cleaning increases the risk of faster creosote buildup because the wood is not sufficiently burned properly.
What Does a Chimney Sweep Inspection Include?
The chimney sweep service will include a fireplace inspection and chimney cleaning. The level of inspection will depend on the length of time since your last cleaning and if structural concerns are found.
Level 1 Inspection – This inspection is for chimneys that are regularly cleaned and functioning properly. Our chimney sweep will check the condition of the exterior of the fireplace and chimney and will inspect the interior as much as can be seen with a flashlight checking for any blockages or obstructions in the chimney flue.
Level 2 Inspection – This level of inspection is required before any work is performed on the chimney which might compromise its stability or functional use. A camera is send up/down the flue to obtain a detailed assessment and a thorough check of the surround structures. A level 2 inspection is required before a flue is relined or retrofitted.
Level 3 Inspection – The highest level of inspection is required when structural damage is found or highly suspected. Chimney repairs can be performed by MadeWell to correct any structural damage such as brick and mortar, chimney leaks due to cracked or broken chimney cap, or loose or damaged chimney flashing.
What to Expect During Your Chimney Sweep Fireplace Inspection
Very little is required by the homeowner other than insuring that any furniture is clear of the fireplace and it is also a good idea to remove any items on the fireplace mantel. The chimney sweep will generally take around one hour.
First your chimney sweep will survey your fireplace and chimney so that it can be determined what is required to properly clean your fireplace. A drop cloth will be placed in front of the fireplace to protect the floor from dust and soot. Normally, the cleaning is performed from the roof, or from below through the fireplace. Under normal conditions, all of the chimney soot, dust and chimney creosote will be captured before it enters into your home.
At the end of the cleaning, the homeowner will be provided with a condition report of your chimney inspection and if there are any hazards found during the inspection and cleaning along with a suggestion of your appropriate time for your next cleaning and inspection appointment.
Now is also a perfect time if you have questions to present those to the chimney sweep.