TEN REASONS TO CALL CHIMNEY SWEEP NOW INSTEAD OF WAITING
By Jay Hensley
1. To have your chimney cleaned before moisture mixing with the creosote
and soot form sulfuric and hydrochloric acids that eat into the chimney
structure. Chlorine comes from cleaning compounds used in the household
and is in the air rising up the chimney. Sulfur is present in soot deposits
from the burning of coal.
2. To get rid of sour, sickly smell of damp creosote in your flue and smoke
chamber. Warmer weather with rain and high humidity increases the
strength of the odor, which is always there in your chimney, but which you
don't usually notice during the heating season. The draft helps carry the
smell away in winter, and the flue also stays drier. Cleaning out the
creosote or soot should eliminate the smell. But your sweep might also
recommend treating the chimney with a special deodorizer.
3. To evict unwelcome occupants from your chimney and smoke
shelf--birds, squirrels, raccoons, and even snakes will often slip in and
settle down to raise a family there as soon as the winter time fires are out.
Migrating chimney swifts using your flue as a motel can make an awful,
4. To install a chimney cap to shield your chimney from rain and snow. One
fitted with a spark arrestor will keep out birds animals, too, as well as
prevent sparks from flying out onto the roof.
5. To give your sweep time to reschedule you if there's additional work
needed on your heating system.
6. To determine the structural condition of your chimney. Is it still safe to
use? Deteriorating mortar, missing or broken bricks should be replaced;
missing, broken or cracked tiles should be replaced. A so-called "hairline
crack" in flue tile looks quite harmless. But this crack will open up under
high temperatures, allowing heat and flame to escape, and can endanger
the whole house.
7. To have your chimney safely lined, if it needs this. Damage from a
chimney fire or just the deterioration of the years may mandate that your
flue be completely relined before it can be safely used again. High quality
rigid or flexible stainless steel liners are available for this and many
modern day sweeps have been trained in the necessary installation
techniques. Cast-in-place liners are available, too, and can be a good
choice for some weakened, oversized chimneys once serving a fireplace, but
now venting the flue gases from a free- standing wood burning stove or
fireplace insert. These units require a smaller- size flue for proper venting.
If you can pinpoint the date of a chimney fire, and have some witnesses,
your insurance carrier may pay for a relining under your home owner's
policy. (Some insurance underwriters will just take your word for it; others
won't) Ask your sweep about this. Many of them work with insurance
companies on a regular basis and are accustomed to supplying estimates for
insurance claims that involve rebuilding, repairing or relining a chimney.
Some sweeps are now video- scanning chimneys to detect problems and can
give evidence of damage and defects inside the chimney.
8. To make sure that your stove or fireplace or insert is installed right.
Many are not! They're like time bombs, ticking away, threatening your
house and family. The connector pipe may need to be replaced, with
sections screwed together so they will not rattle apart and spill burning
creosote on the floor in case of a flue fire. Safety standards from the
National Fire Protection Association require solid fuel stoves and inserts to
be properly connected to a stainless steel flue liner in an oversize chimney
(see drawing) or to the flue tile in a not too large chimney, right above the
smoke chamber. The NFPA 211 standard addresses this.
9. To avoid the fall rush, when most sweeps are dreadfully overworked and
may have to put customers on a waiting list that stretches into the winter
10. To take advantage of any special rates many chimney sweeps offer to
space out their work, keep them off those steaming hot roofs in
mid-summer, and make possible a reasonable work load come September.