What You Should Know About Chimney Cleaning

You need to know about chimney cleaning if you plan on using wood heat. At the very least, you need to understand the principles involved with the soot and creosote that can ignite and set off a chimney fire. Most people hire a chimney sweep to clean their wood stove chimney at least once a year which works well, as long as you use dry, seasoned hard wood and operate your wood stove properly. Find out more…

Avoid Chimney Repair

Use a knowledgeable chimney sweep

Is your wood stove is burning efficiently?

If your stove has a glass door you can easily tell if your fire is burning efficiently: the glass stays clear. When your fire is burning inefficiently, the glass becomes cloudy and is soon blackened with soot. Your stove pipe thermometer is a great help as well.

It is quite easy to monitor your stove pipe (flue) temperature with the handy thermometers that stick right onto the stove pipe. They are color coded with corresponding temperatures to tell you how hot your stove pipe is. Ideally, you get the fire burning very hot, in the 450 degree range. Let it remain there a while and then gradually reduce the air intake by partially closing the draft.
Once you have a good bed of coals you can close the draft and stove pipe damper to keep the heat in the stove and not going up the chimney.

One way to quickly tell if your stove is burning right is to tap on the walls of the stove pipe. The sound should be hollow, not muffled. In bad cases you can hear the flaky creosote fall off and build up in the inside of the stove pipe. This is a clear indication that your wood stove is not burning hot enough and thus allowing the gases to solidify and stick to the stove pipe.

You would think that everyone who uses wood heat knows how to start a fire in a wood burning stove, but they just don’t. Poorly started fires contribute to the creosote buildup that can cause so many problems.

The danger is when this energy rich creosote catches fire and goes off like a torch in the stove pipe and chimney. If it is hot enough for enough time the lining of the chimney can crack, leading to expensive chimney repairs.

avoid chimney repairs

A chimney fire is the last thing you need

Check your stove pipe installation

You stove pipe must be installed correctly to be safe. One very common mistake is that the sections are installed upside-down. This enables any smoke and creosote to drip down the inside walls and run out onto the outside of the pipe.

If this is happening, you know you have a problem and need to address it immediately. Reverse the stove pipe so the female end is on the bottom and the male end (crimped end) is on top, entering the piece below. The pipe must also be screwed together to prevent shifting and separation, which could be disastrous. This is an important part of the set-up and should be taken seriously. More than one house has burned to the ground because the stove pipe was not screwed together and came loose during the night, causing a house fire.

You really should take the pipes apart and clean them with a chimney brush to remove the build-up. Another method is to simply burn it off with a hot fire. This is a bit risky, and should only be done if you have lots of experience. Once you have learned how to properly use your wood stove this technique becomes almost routine. Don’t even consider it though if your stove pipe or chimney has excessive creosote buildup. You are only asking for a problem then.

Wood stove chimney cleaning with a brush

Cleaning the actual chimney can be a matter of running a chimney brush up and down the inside of the chimney, or is can involve some heavier duty tools to remove hardened creosote from the inside walls. If you are going to do it yourself, make sure you have the right chimney brush, long enough handles, good gloves, strong arms, a good a back, and sure footing once on the rooftop.

If the pitch of the roof is steep, you must have a helper to belay you with a rope in the event that you fall. This is not as complicated as it sounds, but does require a willing partner, a climbing rope, some climbing hardware and some spunk.

To clean the wood stove chimney with a chimney brush, start with the brush attached to a short piece of handle. Run it in and out of the chimney and once that area is clean, add another section and repeat. Do this until you have reached the bottom, or as far as you can reach.

Most chimneys have a clean-out door at the bottom, and you might be surprised at how much soot has fallen down. Simply remove this and dump it in a safe place. Some people use the ashes for sanding icy roads, but I don’t know of any other good use for this waste.

If your chimney is a stainless steel one that runs directly into the wood stove, you have to clean out the debris from the inside of the house, which can be a bit messy. You have to detach the stove pipe and catch the falling soot in order to remove it. Make sure you remove this soot and do not just leave it in the stove pipe. This creates a huge fire hazard that must be avoided.