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sweeping a chimney
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, stinking mess.

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 months.

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.

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