Chimney Sweep

Chimney Cleaning – How to Tell If Your Chimney Needs Cleaning

The best way to determine if a chimney needs cleaning is to look inside the flue with a flashlight. This means climbing ladders and being on a roof, which is a challenging job for everyone.

Chimney SweepA wire chimney brush for your flue and extension rods are needed to clean the chimney. There are four general methods for doing this task. For professional expertise, consult Chimney Cleaning Charleston SC.

As smoke travels up through a chimney and flue system, it cools, leaving behind an oily creosote residue. This is a byproduct of burning wood, fossil fuels, and gas-burning appliances. It is highly flammable, and if sufficient amounts build up, it can cause a chimney fire that re-enters the home and could damage the flue liner or structure of the chimney.

Creosote can accumulate in your chimney and fireplace due to a number of factors, the main one being inadequate airflow. When a fireplace or wood stove isn’t well-ventilated, the combustibles in the fire aren’t completely burned, and the unburned combustibles — including natural gas vapors — escape through the chimney instead of going up and out the flue. The oily tar of the unburned combustibles mixes with moisture to form the creosote.

At its first stage of accumulation, creosote is a flaky, powdery substance that can be easily brushed away. As it builds up, however, it hardens into a tar-like substance that can look like charcoal black streaks or a thick layer of candle wax. The glazed creosote, as it’s often called, is extremely dangerous because it restricts the space that the flue gas has to exit the chimney and can also block it completely.

To avoid this, you should clean your chimney regularly if you have a wood fireplace and make sure it’s properly ventilated. You can also use a creosote sweeping log that contains heat-released chemicals to reduce the amount of creosote that accumulates on your chimney lining. This type of product, which resembles fire-starter logs, is most effective when used early and often. It can be used in conjunction with a regular chimney sweep’s services to remove creosote before it hardens into a hazardous state.

Creosote isn’t good for gardens either because it contaminates the soil. Plants absorb it and can transfer it to your food, causing health problems. It’s also harmful if you inhale it, which can cause eye, skin, and throat irritation. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including chest pains and coughing.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is a poisonous gas that forms when fuels such as wood, coal or oil burn. Normally, these gases vent up through a chimney and outside of the home, but when an appliance isn’t working properly or if a flue becomes blocked or cracked, dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide can build up inside the house. If you have symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – headache, fatigue, dizziness or a general sick feeling – get everyone out of the house and call 911. The poisoning can be treated by breathing oxygen, but the doctor will also want to know how long you were exposed and whether you feel better once you leave the house.

Chimneys that vent gas appliances (including gas furnaces, water heaters and fireplaces), generator engines and lawnmowers should be inspected and cleaned regularly to ensure that they are free from obstruction and that the flue is structurally sound. Having your chimney swept and inspected for any damage or cracking that can allow carbon monoxide to leak into the house can prevent these potentially deadly poisonings.

The best way to avoid carbon monoxide problems is to have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional every year or so, especially prior to using it for the first time in fall and winter. A certified chimney sweep will clean out the creosote, check for any cracks in the flue and make sure that the system is functioning correctly and that the vents are clear of tarps and other debris that can block air flow.

It is also a good idea to have your fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves and fireplaces, checked for proper operation and safety at least once per year by a qualified service technician. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you should also have it inspected more often than that since the higher risk of creosote builds up faster in it.

Safety Concerns

While some homeowners may think that cleaning their chimney is a simple, do-it-yourself project, it should not be done by anyone other than a professional. The job requires specialized equipment and knowledge that the average person does not have. It also presents some health and safety concerns.

Inhalation of smoke, creosote and carbon monoxide can lead to a variety of health issues, including eye irritation, stomach pains and respiratory distress. The longer a person is exposed to these pollutants, the more severe the symptoms can become. People can also suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause headaches, dizziness and confusion.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is an especially serious concern for infants, children and the elderly. The fumes are colorless, odorless and tasteless, making them hard to detect. They can be deadly, even in small amounts. If carbon monoxide is released from a dirty or blocked chimney, early symptoms may include fatigue, headaches and dizziness. In some cases, the symptoms mimic a common cold or flu.

Chimney sweeps are trained to recognize signs of a clogged chimney. They will be able to determine whether or not animal nests, debris, leaves, or branches cause the obstruction. They can also spot deteriorating or cracked flue tiles and rusted metal parts. Having the chimney inspected on an annual basis will help prevent an obstruction, reducing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and other hazardous conditions.

While it may be tempting to save money by hiring someone to clean your chimney, you should always make sure that the company is licensed and insured. There are many scammers out there who will offer to clean your chimney for a low price, then try to upsell you on repairs that are not necessary. It is recommended that you use a certified chimney sweep to avoid these scams.

Before your chimney sweep arrives, it is a good idea to move any furniture or decorations near the fireplace. This will prevent them from getting dusty or dirty during the cleaning process. It is also a good idea to turn off the gas and fireplace until after the chimney has been cleaned.


Investing in the right tools is important to running a successful chimney cleaning business. The right equipment ensures you can complete a job on time and to your client’s standards. This will lead to higher customer satisfaction and referrals, ultimately increasing your revenue.

Having the right tools also helps to ensure that your team members are working efficiently. Tools such as an inspection camera allow you to see the inside of a chimney before entering it, so you can get a good idea of what kind of work is needed. Additionally, using an inspection camera can help you communicate better with clients about the state of their chimney.

Other important chimney sweep tools include a filtered vacuum system, which collects airborne soot and debris while sweeping the chimney. This keeps the environment inside of the home clean as well as helps to prevent health and safety hazards. Additionally, a brush caddy is a useful tool for storing and carrying multiple types of rods. Depending on the type of chimney, different rods are required for various tasks. For example, a polypropylene brush is a great choice for cleaning the smoke chamber while a wire brush is useful for reaching hard-to-reach areas such as behind dampers or in elbows and “T” connections.

Another essential tool is a retrieving or boring tool, which can be used to break up or remove obstructions from the chimney flue. Using a retrieving tool will save time and energy as opposed to trying to chip away at obstructed areas with your hands.

Lastly, canvas drop cloths are necessary to prevent dirt and soot from getting on carpets or furniture while a chimney is being cleaned. These are typically made of leak-resistant poly that can be easily placed over anything in a room that could become dirty during the chimney sweeping process.

Finally, a telescoping rod allows a chimney sweep to reach difficult-to-reach places such as a flue’s top, crooks, and other corners. A telescoping rod is usually attached to a ladder, which eliminates the need for a roof climb and increases overall safety for chimney sweeps.