Besides facilitating Santa’s impending arrival, having a creosote-free chimney keeps you and your family safe and secure. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), lack of fireplace maintenance causes an average of 22,700 fires a year. Frequently the reason for a fire is a dirty chimney. Lean when to clean your chimney.

The Importance of Having a Clean Chimney

When smoke from wood burning in your fireplace rises through the chimney, it leaves behind a residue of creosote, which is highly flammable. A buildup of creosote and soot from burning logs increases the risk of an inferno. You also run the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning filling your home.

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Believe it or not, even gas-burning fireplaces need regular cleaning. Turning these on leaves a coating of fine carbon soot in the chimney. An excess of this soot clumps into balls that then falls onto the area surrounding the fireplace. Gas fireplaces can also waft particulates into the air and escalate the chance of trapping carbon monoxide inside your home.

When to Call a Chimney Sweep

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that you have an inspection of your chimney, flues and vents every year, but that doesn’t always mean you’ll need a cleaning that often. To do your own examination, crawl into a cold fireplace and use a fire poker to check the walls of the smoke chamber above the damper. If you see a quarter-inch or more of black powder, your chimney needs cleaning. For a gas fireplace, a quarter inch of soot also means you’re due to call a chimney sweep.

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Besides keeping you and the others in your home safe, a clean chimney also means a more effective fireplace. Soot obstructs the chimney’s ability to work properly.

Here are a few more suggestions:

1. Search for companies that have a good Better Business Bureau rating, have business liability insurance and offer current references.

2. Calling a CSIA-certified chimney sweep is your best bet. A professional knows what to do if baby animals or birds have taken up residence in your chimney.

3. Ask them to do an inspection and a cleaning at the same time. A Level 1 inspection requires minimal work on the technician’s part and is only applicable for those not having any issues. When you change from wood to gas heating or vice versa, you’ll need a Level 2 inspection. It’s more detailed and uses video to scan the interior of the chimney.

4. Remove any breakables from the mantle or around the fireplace before the cleaning starts.

5. Sit back and enjoy your fires without any worries.

6. Next year have your inspection in the spring to avoid a long wait.

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About the Author: is a full-service home remodeling and construction general contractor serving the greater Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego area. Home improvement is hard, and we make it easier for you every step of the way. That starts by understanding your goals, whether it’s making a space more livable, expanding your home, repairing damage, adding room for relatives, or something completely different. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re happy with the project from start to finish.