A chimney maintenance person looking down a chimney.
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Chimney Maintenance Basics: How Do You Clean a Chimney?

How to Clean a Chimney

If you burn wood or coal regularly as fuel for your chimney, but you have not considered a thoroughly cleaned-out chimney as something to keep up with, then you should probably read this article, as we cover how to clean a chimney.

Why You Should Clean Your Chimney

The soot produced by burning coal or wood accumulates on the inner surface of the chimney. As more soot accumulates, the chimney's opening gets narrower, which can obstruct the passage of smoke out of the chimney.

Also, the accumulation of creosote can be very dangerous. According to some estimates, creosote accounts for about a quarter of fire outbreaks in homes. To avoid all of these, you should definitely clean your chimney!

Chimney Cleaning Tools

With the right tools and a mind to work, cleaning out your chimney is easier than you think.

The following are the tools to get started:

  • Ladder
  • Chimney brushes
  • Shop vacuum
  • Protective goggles
  • Plastic sheets
  • Tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Respirator dust mask
  • Fireplace cover
  • Mirror
  • Shovel and broom
  • Flashlight

Methods of Cleaning a Chimney

There are four ways to clean a chimney. You can make a better selection when you’re familiar with the processes involved in each of these methods.

Rod Method, Top Down

If you are scared of heights, either you can skip this method or decide to keep reading and make a mental plan for height lessons because this method requires that you climb on the roof of the building.

Take the chimney brush and insert it into the opening of the chimney. Holding the brush, clean the inside walls of the chimney by lifting and lowering it.

Connect the chimney brush to flexible metal rods. Keep adding more rods to extend the length of the brush as you clean further down the chimney.

This method minimizes the amount of clean-up inside the house because the fireplace’s inside opening can be closed to prevent soot or debris from littering the house.

Rod Method, Bottom-Up

This method is the opposite of the top-down method, but it’s quite messier. Here you have to work from inside the house, working from the bottom to the top of the chimney.

However, this method is safer. You don’t need to be scared of falling off the roof of your house but be sure to get a generous number of tarps and drop cloths so you can keep the surroundings around the fireplace clean.

Weight Method

This is similar to the top-down rod method, but instead of flexible metal rods, you use pull-rings, weights, and ropes to extend the length of the chimney brush.

Set up the rope and pull rings. Add at least nine kilograms of weight to the brush while lifting and lowering the brush to clean the inside walls of the chimney.

For this method, you’re on the roof of your house with the fireplace closed from the inside. This way, your fireplace and its surroundings are kept clean.

Dual Line Method

You will need two people for this method. A rope (and an optional pull ring for you to hold on to) is fixed to both ends of the chimney brush.

One person stays inside the fireplace opening, while the other remains on the roof. The person on the roof drops the rope setup down the chimney while holding onto one end of the rope. The other person in the fireplace opening takes hold of the other end of the rope. Both take turns pulling the rope, working the brush up and down, as it scrubs the inside walls of the chimney.

Since the fireplace opening is not closed, this method can also be very messy. A good number of drop cloths and tarps is highly recommended.

How Often Should You Clean a Chimney?

It’s recommended that you clean out your chimney at least once a year. Also, you can always look out for when creosote is present and clean it out.

If you use your fireplace year-round, then you should clean it more often.

Should You Hire a Professional?

You probably want to know if it's better to get a specialist to do the job or if you should stand up to the challenge and spare yourself some cash.

Well, if you want to reduce creosote build-up, cleaning the chimney yourself would not be a bad idea because you get to save some money.

However, the chances you would do a neat job are very low, considering that the dust and debris from the opening in the fireplace would make your cleaning all messy and grimy.

Now, while you may not do a neat job, professionals who do this daily are definitely going to ensure a better job.

However, you stand to gain by cleaning yourself because you learn how to clean a chimney and be better at it the more you do it. When you become very good at it, you can do it as well as or even better than a professional. The only clear disadvantage of using a professional is that you will have to pay for the service.