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Chimney Cleaning

How often should I have my chimney cleaned?

The general consensus among fire safety experts is that chimneys and fireplaces should be inspected and cleaned at least once a year. Even if you don’t use the chimney in your home that often, animals can build nests inside chimneys and prevent proper ventilation. There could be other hidden safety concerns, such as a damaged lining or flue. A chimney cleaning expert can provide comprehensive chimney inspections that include a thorough cleaning and repair services if necessary.

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Should I have my chimney cleaned if I have gas logs or a furnace?

Even if you don’t use wood or pellet stoves, you should have your chimney inspected and cleaned regularly. The chimney serves as part of the ventilation system for any heating system, so it is important to check for animal nests or debris blocking the airflow and to check the lining. If you have upgraded your furnace, it may not be compatible with an older flue or lining. Some new furnaces can cause problems in homes that have chimneys designed to vent other types of heating systems. Be sure to speak with one a certified chimney expert if you have any questions or concerns.

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Why is there a strong odor in my fireplace when it’s not in use?

Creosote is usually the cause of strong odors in a wood–burning fireplace, particularly in the summer when there’s more humidity in the air. Creosote deposits are a natural byproduct of burning wood, and a routine professional cleaning will solve the problem. However, if creosote continues to collect in your chimney, you could have a problem with the overall pressure in your home. This can be resolved with a few ventilation techniques, but you should have a professional chimney sweep assess the problem and give you recommendations.

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When is it necessary to use a video camera to inspect my chimney?

Video scans are necessary during a Level 2 inspection, or when a certified chimney technician needs to check the flue because of any warning signs or obvious safety hazard. The accessible parts of the chimney that are examined during an annual cleaning are only part of a full inspection. Video inspections provide a more comprehensive evaluation of the condition of the chimney components and fireplace.

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What is the difference between a Level 1, 2, & 3 inspection?

A Level 1 inspection is the most basic evaluation of the chimney; they are also referred to as a “preliminary inspection.” A chimney cleaning service should always include this basic type of inspection, in which all the accessible components are visibly checked to make sure there are no apparent structural or mechanical problems. After the technician sweeps the chimney, any blockages should be removed, and it will be easier to see if there are other issues affecting ventilation or creating fire hazards.

Level 2 inspections are a little more involved, and they use camera scans to check the parts that are not visible in a Level 1 inspection. If you are purchasing a home with a chimney, or if you are upgrading your chimney or fireplace parts, a Level 2 chimney inspection is typically required. Any time you’ve had a chimney fire or other damages, you should hire a certified chimney technician to perform a Level 2 inspection to make sure the chimney is safe to use. Level 3 chimney inspections are required whenever there’s a major structural hazard detected in a Level 1 or a 2 inspection. Level 3 chimney inspections may require the removal of certain portions of the chimney and advanced equipment to further investigate and resolve the issue.

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Chimney Repair

Do I need to replace the entire firebox if it is cracked?

Firebox replacement needs will depend on a few factors. First, it depends on what type of fireplace you have. If you have a prefabricated fireplace, your manufacturer will have certain requirements, so it’s best to check your owner’s manual or call the manufacturing company for advice. In many cases, only the cracked or worn refractory panels need to be replaced, but this should be done by a certified chimney technician. The panels will need to be cut and sized properly, and in some cases, multiple panels need to be fit together. If you have a masonry fireplace, you may need a service technician to re–point the mortar and bricks to repair and restore the original masonry work, but chimney fires may result in a need to replace or rebuild the entire firebox.

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Why does my chimney need water repellant?

Many masonry chimneys require some type of breathable water protection to keep water from penetrating the mortar joints between the brick or stone. Insufficient water protection will ultimately cause cracking over time. Once the mortar breaks down it can cause leaks and eventually lead to a leaning chimney, which is dangerous and expensive to repair. If your chimney was sealed with the wrong type of waterproofing agent, it can trap the existing moisture in the masonry causing the water to condense and expand as it freezes and thaws. Even small cracks will get worse over time, but especially if they are treated with a non–permeable sealant.

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How soon can I use my fireplace after a chimney fire?

If you’ve had a chimney fire, do not use your fireplace until the chimney has been cleaned and inspected by a professional. Tile and clay liners are particularly susceptible to extreme heat, so when there’s a chimney fire, they usually need to be restored or replaced. Stainless steel liners are recommended for wood burning appliances and gas inserts since they can withstand heat and will not crack. When there are cracks or holes in clay liners, the liner cannot protect the surrounding walls and ceilings. One spark can cause a dangerous house fire if it hits flammable insulation or other construction materials. Help prevent the potential for house fires and call an expert before you use your fireplace again. You could make the situation worse if your fireplace is not inspected by a professional.

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Fireplace Installation

Do I need a new flue liner installed in my chimney if I’ve just replaced my fireplace?

The best way to tell if you need a chimney flue re–lining service is to call a certified chimney technician for a cleaning and inspection. They’ll use the latest in video technology to fully inspect the inside of your flue and check the condition of your entire liner. If there are obvious issues in the preliminary exam, such as large cracks or pieces missing, you may want to think about installing a stainless steel liner.

Homeowners that use wood burning stoves and fireplaces as their primary heat source should always have a stainless steel liner. If you’ve had a chimney or house fire recently, or if you have upgraded your heating system, you may need a new liner. You should always have a technician inspect your entire chimney system after a fire or system upgrade. This inspection can provide a detailed assessment and recommendations for any new installations.

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Can I install my gas log insert myself?

For your safety, you should hire a qualified technician who is trained to work with gas appliances to install your gas logs. Faulty wiring, poor ventilation, and improper flue size are all dangers to consider when installing a gas log fireplace or insert. Prefabricated gas log fireplaces are manufactured as a single chimney and fireplace unit, and these should definitely be installed by a certified chimney technician. Gas and carbon monoxide can be a hazard if you aren’t familiar with gas piping and venting.

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Is it possible to install my factory–built wood stove insert into my existing fireplace?

Many prefabricated wood stove inserts are designed to work with a specific chimney that is factory tested and installed with your insert. However, some wood stove inserts can be installed in an existing fireplace. When you hire a reputable chimney contractor to install your insert, the technician will be able to determine if your new stove is compatible with your existing chimney system. Making sure that the insert is properly insulated and sealed within the fireplace is very important for a number of reasons, but most importantly for your safety. An unqualified contractor or homeowner could make the mistake of installing inserts with a flue that is the wrong size or material.

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