Cleaning Your Chimney

by April Reinhardt
(last updated June 5, 2015)

Years ago I lived in an old home heated by two wood-and-coal-burning stoves, with stovepipes elbowed to one central chimney. Each year we replaced the stove pipes because experienced neighbors told me that soot and creosote build up inside pipes and chimneys, causing a fire hazard. Because I had never experienced a chimney fire, I didn't understand the importance of cleaning a chimney and opted, instead, to simply replace the pipes.

One cold winter morning, I left the damper of the stove completely open while I went into the kitchen. Walking back through the living room about twenty minutes later, I was horrified to see the stove pipe glowing cherry red, and the paint on the wall abutting the chimney blistering. I slammed the stove damper shut and latched it, heard the stove pipe contract, and held my breath waiting for the stove pipe color to return to black.

Later that day I learned that not only was the chimney full of soot and creosote, the pipes—although new—had developed dangerous deposits of the stuff, as well. Subsequent years had me cleaning the chimney before each winter, ensuring against fire hazards.

While you can hire a professional chimney sweep to clean your chimney, you can very well do it yourself. Follow these guidelines if you want to clean your own chimney:

  • Put it out. Make sure that the chimney and fireplace or stove are completely cold before you attempt to clean them. Wait at least two full days after you've had a fire in the fireplace or stove before you begin to clean your chimney.
  • Remove. Remove everything from your fireplace or stove, including ashes, wood, coal, fire grates, ash bins, and cracked or broken fire bricks. Place everything outside, away from your house.
  • Vacuum. While wearing a mask or respirator, use a shop vac and completely vacuum your fireplace or stove, and all attached ash bins.
  • Room preparation. Prepare your room by laying tarps or old sheets on flooring around the fireplace or stove, and cover all furniture. Seal off the fireplace opening with plastic or a tarp, and completely shut the stove doors.
  • Climb. Using a safety ladder, climb to the roof of your house and remove the chimney cap, if you have one.
  • Brush. Use a chimney brush to brush the inside of the chimney thoroughly. Replace the cap when you are finished.

Once you're back inside the house, unseal the fireplace or stove and remove all of the soot and debris. Carefully remove the tarps, plastic, or sheets and use the shop vac again to remove all traces of soot from the fireplace or stove. Remember to clean your chimney at least once a year. The best time to clean your fireplace and chimney is before using your fireplace or stove the first time of the season.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

MORE FROM APRIL

Growing Cucumbers

As simple as placing a few seeds in the ground and covering them with rich soil, cucumbers typically grow to maturity ...

Discover More

How to Shape Eyebrows

Shaping your brows is fairly easy and should be done about once a month. Over-tweezing is a common mistake you should ...

Discover More

Cooking in a Small Kitchen

If you have a small kitchen, consider storing pots and pans, as well as dinner ware, in another room in order to give you ...

Discover More

MAX Power! A powerful lithium-ion drill/driver that delivers 0-to-650 RPM and 115 inches-per-pound of torque in a lightweight, easy-to-use package. An anti-slip soft grip and LED worklight makes this tool a delight to use. Check out Black & Decker 20-Volt Cordless Drill/Driver today!

More Home Improvement Tips

Fireplace Safety

Fireplace safety is simply a mixture of common sense and forethought. Here are some simple guidelines to ensure that you ...

Discover More

Preparing the Fireplace for the Season

Fireplaces, particularly wood burning ones, can add a touch of comfort and elegance to just about any room. The trick ...

Discover More

Fireplace Removal

Whether you are looking into getting rid of your old fireplace due to crumbling bricks, a need for new space, or you want ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured home improvement tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 2 + 2?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured home improvement tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)