Tag Archive for: Northern Virginia Chimney Cleaning

Avoid Chimney Cleaning Logs, logs burning in indoor fireplace

6 Reasons to Avoid Chimney Cleaning Logs & DIY Fireplace Care

When money’s tight, homeowners look for savings, and cooling and heating costs are generally a significant component of the household budget. At such times considering DIY fireplace care can be tempting. Homeowners often think chimney cleaning logs will help reduce maintenance costs. When the logs are set in the fireplace and burnt, they reduce creosote, a significant culprit in chimney fires. But is this a false economy? And are there hidden dangers in this fireplace cleaning method? Here are six reasons to help explain why you should avoid chimney cleaning logs.

1.  Loose Creosote Goes Undetected

Chimney cleaning logs work by releasing chemicals into the fireplace and up through the flue as they burn. The cleaning compounds interact with creosote, helping loosen this flammable tarry substance from the walls of the chimney and fireplace. After a week or so, the creosote flakes off the chimney lining, falling into the fireplace where you can sweep it up.

The problem with this method is two-fold. First, many chimneys are not wholly vertical open stacks. Instead, chimneys may be constructed with elbows or bends and have other nooks and crannies within their structure. These areas within the chimney can allow ash, soot, and creosote to fall from the sides into small heaps that go undetected by the homeowner. These heaps then actually raise the risk of a creosote fire.

Secondly, chimney sweeping logs only work on relatively new creosote deposits. Called Stage I, this thin, flaky layer of creosote can be brushed or cleaned away without too much effort. Chimney cleaning logs cannot remove hardened creosote that has gone beyond Stage 1.

2. Why You Should Avoid Chimney Cleaning Logs for Built-up Creosote

Aged, hardened creosote is probably the number one reason to avoid using chimney cleaning logs. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security that cleaning logs reduce Stage 2 and 3 creosote. In Stage 2, the creosote is becoming a solid tar, requiring hard scrubbing and possibly rotary tools to remove it.

In Stage 3, the creosote is so hard and thick that it is extremely difficult to remove and is a serious fire hazard. Professional chimney cleaners may have to use heavy-duty tools with chains or highly specialized chemical treatments to attempt the removal of the hardened tar-like substance. At worst, they may have to replace the chimney liner.

3. Are Chimney Cleaning Logs Dangerous?

Cleaning logs contain toxic chemicals. Therefore, they should be handled carefully, used strictly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and kept a careful eye on while actually burning.

You should also exercise caution when removing the fallen ashes. These may still contain full-strength creosote, which is harmful to breathe in. In addition, the creosote is still highly flammable, so it must be carefully handled.

4. Fireplace Cleaning Requires Specialized Tools

Professional chimney sweeps use specialized fit-for-purpose tools, including wire chimney brushes and connectable long flexible cleaning rods. They also use cameras or inspection mirrors to identify where creosote has been collected. If you have to buy this equipment, up go your maintenance costs.

5. Obstructions and Damage

Unlike chimney sweeps, cleaning logs can’t check for obstructions such as bird and rodent nests within the chimney structure. Unfortunately, neither will inspection of the chimney’s physical structure occur so that you will be unaware of any damage and necessary repairs.

6. Experts Advise Chimneys Should be Professionally Cleaned Every Year

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) clearly states that professional chimney sweeps should be engaged every year to inspect solid fuel venting systems. Experts also caution that chimneys should be swept and repaired whenever needed.

National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 reiterates the requirement for yearly inspections for chimneys, fireplaces, and vents.

So are Chimney Cleaning Logs Worth Using?

Let’s look at where you could end up if you’ve opted for the DIY fireplace care option. Well;

  • You may have missed finding some of the creosote deposits.
  • You have to clean the filthy and toxic creosote out yourself.
  • You’re unlikely to have the right tools to clean the chimney thoroughly.
  • The cleaning chemicals from the log are toxic.
  • You can’t confirm the physical state of your fireplace and chimney, and
  • You’re going against the advice of experts in the fire prevention field.

Given these circumstances, perhaps you should avoid chimney cleaning logs and leave this dirty chore to the professionals.

Northern Virginia Chimney Sweeping and Fireplace Cleaning Services

The professional chimney cleaning services of Six Penny Chimney will leave you with peace of mind, knowing that your fireplace has been cleaned to exacting standards. We make life much easier for you than the DIY experience.

We’ve been providing Northern Virginia homeowners with chimney cleaning and repair services since 1980.

Chimney cleaning

5 Signs Your Chimney Is Due for a Cleaning

As fall colors deepen in Northern Virginia, fireplaces roar back into life with the end of warm days and the beginning of chilly evenings. At this time, homeowners may find problems getting their fires to burn cleanly or notice that smoke and odors are not drawn effectively out of the room through the chimney. As the Chimney Safety Institute of America says, maintenance of your chimney should be done every year. Here are five signs that your home is overdue for an inspection by professional chimney sweepers.

1. Difficulty Starting or Keeping a Fire Burning

For a fire to light and burn properly, heat, fuel, and oxygen in the right proportions are essential. Your chimney stack works by creating a draft, drawing combustion air into the firebox, and exhausting combustion gases to the outside. Blockages within the chimney affect the draft and the burning process, as less oxygen gets through to the fire.

If your kindling is dry and wood seasoned, but you’re still having trouble lighting and keeping the fire burning, that’s a strong indicator of blockage in the stack or at the cap. The cause could be debris such as fallen leaves, small animals getting in, or a severe buildup of grime.

2. Smoke in the Room

Smoky rooms can happen for several reasons. High winds may enter the chimney cavity, causing backdrafts. Damp wood in the firebox can cause excessive smoke. Exhaust fans in use throughout the home can cause downdrafts through the chimney. However, if none of these factors apply, and smoke is a recurring problem, chimney blockage is a likely cause. This situation is one you can’t tolerate for long.

Calling in a Northern Virginia chimney cleaning service will soon identify and remedy the problem. Firstly, any birds or rodents found will be removed. Then rods and brushes used by the chimney sweepers will clear remaining obstructions and grime buildup. Finally, a chimney-vac gets rid of the dislodged soot and other debris from the sweeping.

3. Strong Burning Odors

Every time you light a fire, by-products occur. Noxious gases are released and vented to the outside, and creosote and soot form. Soot is a black powdery substance that coats the chimney’s inner sides. At the same time, creosote, an oily tar, similarly adheres to fireplace and chimney walls. Both these substances contain toxins harmful to humans.

As soot and creosote build over time, you may notice a strong acrid smell as your fire burns. The stronger the odor, the higher the concentration of toxins in the air. A strong odor can also indicate that the highly flammable creosote may be building to a level where a chimney fire can occur. It’s time to call in the chimney sweepers!

4. Signs of Small Animals and Birds

If you hear cheeps, squeaking, or rustling noises through the fireplace, you may have uninvited guests. Birds and rodents often find chimneys irresistible nesting spots as they provide a sturdy buffer from wind and rain. So, keep an eye out for the comings and goings of birds on your roof and signs of nests in chimney tops. You might hope to discourage the pests from staying by smoking them out, but this could be dangerous. Restricted airflow from blocking nests could cause smoke to flood your house, or worse, a buildup of fatal carbon monoxide could occur.

5. Debris and Grime are Dropping into the Fireplace

Another clear indicator that you’re overdue for a chimney sweeper’s visit is when you’re able to see debris and grime have dropped down through the chimney to the fireplace. Debris such as crumbling masonry, leaves, twigs, or feathers means you could have animals nesting, blown-in vegetation, or damage to the chimney’s structure. Any of these could cause an obstruction affecting your air quality.

Worse, if you see soot flakes and creosote tar-like drips down the walls and around the fireplace, you may not be far from a potential chimney fire. At this level of visible grime, the concentration of noxious gases breathed in is a genuine concern.

Northern Virginia Chimney Cleaning Service

Chimney obstructions and the buildup of soot and creosote are the key causes of most fireplace-related problems. Regular chimney cleaning will prevent serious air quality issues and reduce the risk of chimney-related fires.

At Sixpenny Chimney Services, we’ve seen and dealt with every issue you’re ever likely to encounter with your fireplace and chimneys. Based in North Virginia, we provide affordable, friendly, and reliable chimney cleaning services and repairs. We’re always happy to discuss our services and offer free quotes to you. And if you have an emergency, we’re available for after-hours services.