Chimney Sweep your Way to Safety

By Hannah Haseloff

For some people, the thought of cleaning a chimney may sound a little like a scene from a Mary Poppins movie. When it comes to chimneys, Mary Poppins makes an important point. Chimneys need to be maintained and cleaned. This week is Chimney Safety Week.

Believe it or not chimney maintenance is extremely important. Without proper maintenance, your chimney could be putting your family at risk for a house fire or an unhealthy environment. Chimneys and furnaces that are not cleaned properly release toxic gasses into your home and can cause property damage.

Here are some tips to keeping your chimney in tiptop shape:

Step 1: Minimize the Mess

Make sure the ashes are cool before beginning any cleaning. Wait until the night after a fire to clean your fireplace. Using newspaper or a drop cloth, cover the ground around your fireplace and move all furniture as far a way as possible. Wear clothes you do not mind getting dirty and latex gloves. Have a large trash can and vacuum handy.

Step 2: Remove the Ashes

Ash build up should not exceed 2 inches deep, especially during the winter. Using a flat shovel place ashes in a bucket or trashcan for disposal. For a simple removal you can also use a shop vacuum with a filter bag. For a green tip add the ashes to your compost pile.

Step 3: Remove Soot and Stains

Open your chimney flue, the small metal door controlled by a lever in your chimney. Using a mixture of soapy water, spray the walls of your chimney, and let it sit until the soot has a chance to soften. Then, using a wire brush, scrub the walls until clean. If you have difficult stains you may need to use an acid water mix. Mix 10 parts water with one part acid to properly clean. Handle acid with extreme caution and follow all safety instructions on the bottle.

Step 4: Cleaning the Outside

This step should be mostly left up to professionals, but there are a few things you can do yourself. Be especially careful when on the roof of your home, and take any safety precautions necessary. Make sure the wire screen on top of your chimney is in good condition and clean it if it has become clogged. Check the mortar in between the bricks of your chimney and make sure it is intact. Lastly, make sure the seal where your roof meets the chimney is undamaged. If necessary you can easily repair the seal with caulk.

Step 5: Enjoy your chimney!

Using your chimney is a great way to save on heating costs in the winter. Everyone loves a cozy fire! There are lots of fun activities you can do with your children that involve using your chimney. For example making s’mores, roasting hotdogs or even making old-fashioned popcorn can be a fun family activity.