Fireplace Chimney Sweeps
A full interior and exterior inspection is conducted with every fireplace sweep; at no additional cost.
The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) code 211 says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.”
Chimneys must be swept annually to remove soot/creosote that can cause chimney fires. The complete exterior of the chimney, including the bricks, mortar, flashing, roof saddle, concrete crown and everything else will be inspected with every sweep. The fire box, damper, smoke chamber and flue will then be assessed for cracks and breaches in the flue liner. Should a more thorough assessment of the flue be required, a video inspection can be carried out upon request.
Assessing Integrity – Once an inspection has been completed, one of our fully trained professionals will be able to visually assess the chimney looking both up and down it, but as they are not able to climb inside, an integrity test will be performed. We will push the rods and brushes through the chimney, and if there is an issue with integrity you may see parts of brick, mortar or tile become compromised and fall down the shaft. This will suggest an integrity issue, which is vitally important to address as soon as possible for optimum safety
Cleaning – This will clear creosote/soot deposits within the chimney therefore reducing the risk of a chimney fire which allows for proper ventilation of dangerous combustion gases. Creosote is a highly flammable substance, which is caused naturally through regular burning of wood and other fossil fuels. Creosote will be carried upwards with the smoke and will coat the inside of the chimney as it cools, which can compromise the safety of the structure over time. It is essential that a full sweep is performed annually to dislodge any obstructions and remove this creosote. Our professionals provide a full manual or roto-mechanical (the use of a wire whip, attached to a powerful, high-speed drill) sweep to ensure your chimney flue liner, smoke shelf, damper and firebox are all fully cleaned. Leaving no mess guaranteed.
Removing & Preventing Obstructions – Obstructions to your chimney might include: small animals, nesting, collapsed chimney liner and excessive creosote build-up – including creosote bridging. There may be more steps taken to fully ensure the removal of all obstructions, as traditional sweeps may not alone remove all blockages. It’s imperative for you and your families’ safety that these procedures are carried out annually or when needed due to unforeseen circumstances such as: high winds, lightning, large tree branches falling and hitting the chimney, etc – which could compromise the integrity of your chimney.
Rule of thumb – A sweep needs to occur per every face cord (a stack of wood that is 4ft tall by 8ft long) burned, if there is 1/8 creosote buildup on the inner liner or smoke chamber or even if you’ve never burned and wish to burn for the first time.
Many assume if they have never burned that it is safe to do so but homeowners need to keep in mind that structural damage can occur even without burning for years. Lightning may have struck a side of the chimney, causing structural damage. Rain, snow, sleet, ice, and freezing Chicago temperatures cause havoc upon chimneys. Be safe and have your chimney inspected by one of our highly trained professionals.
Second and Third Stage Creosote Build-up
Let me start off this section with an analogy because there seems to be many people that still don’t understand the differences between a typical standard sweep and why they may need a deeper, more aggressive form of treatment.
If you think of your fireplace or wood-burning appliance as your teeth, you will understand the importance of regular chimney sweeps. If you don’t see a dentist for a long period of time, chances are – you will need a deeper cleaning, even repairs done to your mouth. The same exact concept applies to fireplaces.
If you forgo standard sweeps and don’t follow the rules of thumb (mentioned above) then there is a high chance that you will need a different, more expensive service done to insure your chimney is safe.
Second and third stage creosote build-up is the manifestation that occurs when you don’t have your chimney regularly swept out.
Second stage creosote: This creosote buildup is generally in shiny black flakes. Imagine dry, hard tar corn flakes, and in greater volume than first degree creosote. It’s not as easy to brush away, but still fairly removable. It would be difficult to describe all the situations where 2nd degree creosote develops. To remove this creosote, the normal method of sweeping a chimney will not suffice. A rote-mechanical sweep will be needed. Basically a wire “whip” attached to a high-powered and high speed drill will be used. This combined with the expertise and knowledge of our technicians will then knock the lodged, tar-like creosote from your smoke chamber and the tiles above – reducing the risk of a chimney fire.
Do keep in mind that all creosote is combustible. But when it gets to the 2nd and 3rd stages of build-up, the risk is much higher for combustion. And if it should start ablaze, it is a very slow, long-lasting fire that can reach temperatures over 2000F.
Third Stage Creosote:
Third degree creosote buildup is the worst of them all. This occurs when the flue temperatures are low and/or combustion is incomplete. This is common when any of, or a combination of, these conditions exist:
Un-insulated, exterior chimneys (or any other reason the chimney is cold)
When using unseasoned wood.
If the flue is oversized for the appliance.
When the house is tight and can’t draw sufficient combustion air.
Third stage creosote is a very tough substance to handle and in some cases, we will not recommend cleaning it at all – we will suggest removing all of the tiles that are affected and installing a new liner system that will be stainless steel and come with a lifetime warranty.
The cases where we feel that a cleaning of any sort will not be justified are: the 3rd stage creosote is too thick to remove, the entire system has a black “glass-like appearance” or your tiles are shifted a lot. If the tiles are shifted a lot, that means that the creosote can easily form outside the designated zone of the liner system and be corrupting the chimney and not just the flue.
Costs: The costs will vary but they often will be much more expensive than a standard sweep (which you still have to do, as well as the mechanical sweep). At the lowest point, on a short chimney, you may be looking at around $425. If you have a very tall chimney and it has a thick build-up (but we think we can remove most) you can be looking upwards of $800-900.
We really HATE informing customers of this news and we can understand the stress it will cause. That being said, we are absolutely obligated to inform you if this highly dangerous situation and we will do everything we can to make sure we give you the best and cheapest route possible. We encourage all fireplace users to simply check themselves. You can open the damper, look up into your system with a flashlight and if you see ANY shiny, tar-like material then you more than likely will need a sweep that will beyond that of a standard sweep.
Below I am going to post some more information of common questions and links to their sources. There is also much more on the topic if you look through Google and we suggest informing yourself as best you can. If you EVER are not sure the safety of your fireplavce, have an experienced chimney technician come and inspect it.
With repeated heating and high moisture content, the ignition temperature of creosote is generally considered to be 451 degrees, the same as paper (also why the book is called Fahrenheit 451). As little 1/8? to 1/4? is needed to cause a significant creosote chimney fire. source: https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/chimney-bombs/
Chimney fires occur when deposits of carbon and dust accumulate in a chimney and are set alight by sparks or flames from an open fire. Most solid fuels create some kind of soot which without regular cleaning of chimneys builds up in the flue and eventually catches fire. source http://www.meath.ie/CountyCouncil/FireDepartment/FireSafetyintheHome/HowtoAvoidaChimneyFire/
As the smoke rises through the chimney it cools, causing water, carbon, and volatiles to condense on the interior surfaces of the chimney flue. … In order to properly maintain chimneys and heaters that burn wood or carbon-based fuels, the creosote buildup must be removed. source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creosote
Breathing the tiny particles can cause coronary heart disease, asthma, bronchitis, and many other respiratory illnesses. Research has also shown that many premature deaths are directly related to soot in the environment. Source: http://blog.cashins.com/blog-0/bid/191511/Industrial-Hygiene-What-is-Soot-and-Why-is-it-Dangerous
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