Why Hire a Professional Chimney Sweep?
By Karen Lamansky
Lindermann Chimney Supply
Almost every person who has a chimney has either attempted or thought about cleaning their chimney themselves. Taking this job on without the proper education and tools will likely result in a chimney that’s not-so-clean, a mess in your house and much frustration.
Do you know where to look for possible chimney trouble spots? What are the symptoms that could point to fire Hazards? Do you have the proper tools and equipment to take on this task? Even if you had the right tools, you could be missing very important warning signs.
Hire a professional chimney service specialist, or chimney sweep, who has been trained through the Chimney Safety Institute of America. It’s the recognized training center for chimney professionals in the United States. This program is so comprehensive that people in other countries are considering adopting their “Certified Sweep” program.
Most people think that since a chimney is made of masonry, it will never burn. A professional chimney service specialist knows that, while the brick itself doesn’t burn, it transfers heat and framing that abuts the chimney could ignite, causing a structural fire. Knowing where to look for structural problems, clearance problems and other fire hazards is an important part of a chimney professional’s training.
Anyone who has burned wood long enough knows that an accumulation of creosote in the flue means it needs cleaning. A professional chimney service specialist can inspect the flue to determine whether the residue is a result of normal burning or a dangerous form of glazed “third degree” creosote. This type of creosote is very hard to remove and can cause a high temperature chimney fire which can be sustained for long periods of time. Fires like this can ignite combustible materials next to the chimney, which may result in a house fire.
Since chimneys are usually constructed with 4” of brick, plus a 5/8” flue tile, they are not designed to contain a fire. Masonry fireplaces, that are designed to contain a woodburning fire, have a wall thickness from 10” to 12” or more depending on the firebox lining.
Even if you clean your chimney and are comfortable with the results, can you visually see potential problems? Doctors commonly use a scope to pinpoint suspicious problems. For instance, there are times when x-rays just aren’t enough and the doctor needs to visually see the tissue to determine the problem. Many professional chimney service specialists have video equipment that they use to scan the inside of your chimney. They can easily detect cracks and other problems by adjusting the lights and focus on the camera.
Ever try and read those little tiny lines on the chart at the optometrist’s office? Ok, for those of you with excellent eyesight, try to read those lines 30 feet away in a dark room holding a 60 watt light bulb. That’s what inspecting a chimney without a camera is like. Cracks, improper construction, and damaged pipe – all of these potential fire hazards can be revealed with a video scan. It can even be taped for review with an insurance adjustor or spouse at a later time.
Then there’s the equipment. Using a proper vacuum for chimney sweeping is necessary to maintaining a clean house. Use the wrong vac, or no vac, and fine creosote and ash dust will find its way into every nook and cranny of your home. Chimney sweep vacuums are designed to move a vast amount of air. They have large motors and finely detailed HEPA filters to catch the smallest of debris.
Creosote is carcinogenic. Birds and animals in the chimney may leave disease organisms in their feces. This is why professional chimney service specialists use respirators and wear special gloves, suits and goggles to protect themselves.
Your chimney is probably the most active system in your home. It’s exposed to the elements and is subject to deterioration from freeze/thaw cycles, creosote and acids. It may be host to animals or birds. Hire an educated professional with the proper tools to video scan and clean your chimney. It’s money well worth the investment in your health and your family’s safety.
Reprinted, with permission, from the May-June 2009 issue of The Chimney Sweep News, an independent trade magazine for chimney service professionals. Jim Gillam, editor/publisher. 541-882-5196. www.ChimneySweepNews.com