Keeping your chimney clean is an oft-forgotten task, but if you use your fireplace regularly, it's vital in order to prevent fires. Creosote is the biggest threat because it's flammable and it gives off toxic fumes when it becomes hot. If you suspect that something is amiss, here are five signs it's time to call a chimney sweep.
When your fireplace is in use, you should notice a pleasant smell that comes from the wood burning. If you notice something different or unpleasant, that could indicate that creosote has built up, giving off a charred barbecue smell.
The presence of strange smells when a fireplace is not in use could also mean one of the following:
- Mildew is present
- A dead animal is trapped
- Leaves are collecting and rotting
When your chimney is clean, air is allowed to flow freely over the fire and up the shaft. But when debris and creosote build up, the chimney shaft narrows, preventing the proper flow of air. This will lead to weak-burning fires that may even extinguish altogether.
Black Soot and Creosote
One surefire way to tell if you need a chimney sweep is the presence of soot and creosote. The best way to check that is to reach inside the chimney and brush your fingers along the walls. If you see a black, greasy substance, you definitely need to call in the professionals for a cleaning.
There's nothing more frustrating than trying to enjoy an evening by the fire, only to be blanketed in smoke. If this happens, it could indicate a few different problems.
- Negative air pressure—your home may be airtight, preventing the right amount of air from reaching the fire. This results in excess smoke as the fire struggles to burn. Try cracking a window to see if that fixes the problem.
- Wet firewood—if the wood makes a hissing or "dull thud" sound, and there's smoke, this could mean you're burning wet wood.
- Damper is closed—your damper should be closed when not in use. But if you forget to open it, or it isn't open enough, it could lead to a smoky fire that doesn't burn correctly.
If none of the above seem to be the problem, the smoke could be coming from creosote buildup inside the chimney.
Even if you have a chimney cap that works properly, animals can sometimes find a way in, or they can nest over the cap, blocking the flow of air. Either way, if you hear animals squeaking, the flutter of wings, or scurrying sounds inside the walls, it's time to contact a professional chimney sweep, such as from A & A Chimney Sweep, to take care of the problem.