Here’s How Often Your Chimney Needs Sweeping

A fireplace is used regularly; your chimney will end up becoming dirty, covered with ash, soot, along with other relatively small particles that come from the fire. As a result, you will need to clean your chimney more often.

However, checking whether or not your chimney needs to be clean is not an easy task. The fireplace might be clean, but this is not always the case with the chimney. Furthermore, when a chimney becomes dirty, harmful gases might not leave your home. This might result in chimney fires.

Therefore, to prevent such accidents from occurring, you will understand how often your chimney needs sweeping.

It is highly recommended to have your chimney cleaned or inspected at least once per annum. As an individual who regularly burns coal or wood in the fireplace, you will need to sweep your chimney each season.

Every chimney and fireplace feature different designs. As a result, it’s recommended that you understand the signs that indicate your chimney requires sweeping, why it requires sweeping, and the dangers associated with not sweeping the chimney.

How often should one sweep their chimney?

NFPA or the National Fire Protection Association states under Standard 211 (2019) for vents, fireplace, chimney, and reliable fuel-burning appliances; fireplaces, chimneys, and vents should be inspected a minimum of once per annum for free from deposits, soundness as well as correct clearances. Maintenance, cleaning, and repairs must be done whenever necessary.

As a United Kingdom resident, NACS or the National Association of Chimney Sweeps note that factors such as fuel type, chimney type, a period in which the fireplace has been in operation, appliance design, and wood’s moisture content will positively determine how often the chimney requires sweeping. 

Nonetheless, they recommend these cleaning frequency guide to be followed;

  • After every quarter, when you burn coal or wood regularly in the fireplace.
  • A minimum of once per year when using smokeless fuel.
  • Once per year when using gas and oil in the fireplace.

HETAS, reliable fuel safety, and standards organizations encourage cleaning the chimney a minimum of once per annum when using smokeless fuel; however, they recommended a minimum of twice per annum when using coal or wood.

How one can tell when the chimney requires sweeping

First and foremost, you should consider following the guidance discussed-above that recognized institutions in your area set. This way, you will rest assured that you have followed the advice recommended for maintaining a chimney.

You will probably use your chimney more often during the winter than other months throughout the year. As a result, you should consider setting a reminder for a chimney inspection or sweep every year before the winter season.

You should also consider sweeping your chimney if you have used it for an extended period before using it once again. Lastly, when you move into a new home, you should look for a document that shows when was the last time the chimney was cleaned. In case you are not sure, it best to have the chimney inspected and cleaned before you start using it.

What are the signs that your chimney requires sweeping?

  • When you smell smoke in the home after a fire.
  • When the fireplace starts turning black.
  • The fire isn’t burning intensely, and the wood creates a significant amount of smoke.
  • A strong smell from your fireplace.
  • Soot droppings present in your fireplace.
  • Presence of animal nets.
  • Black particles present within your chimney.

What occurs when a chimney isn’t cleaned?

When the chimney is used for an extended period, there will be soot and small particles build-up. As time progresses, these build-ups will force the chimney to reduce in size, becoming less efficient at removing harmful gasses and smoke out of your fireplace.

When used in a fireplace, gas and wood often produce harmful gases due to the combination process, such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. As a result, it is highly recommended that these gases be removed from the house since blocked chimneys will prevent them from leaving and making their way into your home.

Creosote which is a highly flammable material, also builds up in the chimney when burning wood. This increases the risks of a chimney fire that will lead to structural damage to the chimney. Other blockages might also be available such as a bird nest; this increases the risk of a chimney fire.

When the chimney is partially blocked, it will cause your fireplace to blacken due to the rise of soot from the fire into the house instead of exiting through the chimney.

Why does a lined chimney require sweeping?

Lined chimneys feature ceramic, metals, or clay cuts that allow smoke and gases to escape into the atmosphere. Lined chimneys are designed to operate just like an ordinary chimney and need to be cleaned by following the cleaning intervals discussed earlier. The type of fuel used will determine how often the chimney needs cleaning.

What is the cost of sweeping a chimney?

According to a survey by HomeAdvisor, $240 is the average cost of cleaning a chimney, with the price ranging between $126 and $356. In the UK, chimney cleaning can cost approximately £30 and £80 for standard cleaning. However, you should expect to pay more if you reside in London.

For chimney repair, in case of damage at the top of the chimney, you will end up paying more if a ladder is required. If the chimney sweeps extended further to reaching your home, you should expect the cost to be present in a quote.

The cleaning process takes around 20 minutes to 1 ½ hour. However, this will depend on how tall your chimney is, the presence of blockages, and the number of chimney stacks in the house.

How to prepare for chimney cleaning?

When cleaning a chimney, you will require clear access from the fireplace. Therefore, ensure the mantelpiece along with the hearth are clear of ornaments and essential items. You will also need to remove leftover ash, burnt logs, wood, or any other fuel in the fireplace to allow for an efficient cleaning process.

It would be best if you considered covering your carpets and furniture next to the fireplace to prevent them from becoming dirty.

Chimney sweep certificates

Once completed, you should be given a certificate of a chimney sweep. This is vital since home insurance might require one.

The mess caused by sweeping chimney

Mess often occurs when sweeping a chimney; however, the chimney sweep will take utmost precaution to minimize clutter during the whole process. While precaution might be followed, there might be some situation where soot will come from the chimney into your fireplace.

Sweeping chimney when using a gas fireplace

Yes, you will need to clean a gas fireplace chimney. Ensure that it is assessed often by a qualified engineer.

Tip for minimizing how often a chimney needs sweeping

  • The fireplace should be used less frequently.
  • Use harder wood as fuel.
  • Use well-seasoned wood.
  • Use more efficient fireplaces.
  • Maintain your fireplace.
  • Rely on registered chimney sweeps.
  • Have your chimney cleaned every year

This was written by Jamie Lin, who’s the Chimney Sweep Cleaning Guy of Vancouver. You can find him here:

Chimney Sweep Cleaning Guy
Vancouver, BC