Chimney sweeping is not as common a job as it once was now that most people have heating and lighting systems that are powered by electricity or gas. In the past, the stove and fireplace were used to provide warmth and light. As the need of residents changed, the wood-burning stoves gave way to gas-powered fireplaces, while fireplaces themselves became more of a bonus than a necessity. Still, homeowners will need a good chimney sweep. If you are interested in such a career, below are the key parts of a chimney you should be familiar with.
Crown – The top of the chimney. Most are built with a slight slope to keep the elements from getting inside. If moisture gets inside your chimney, it can cause deterioration.
Firebox – The part of the fireplace where the wood is placed and the fire is built. After the fire is extinguished, most of the soot, dust, and ashes are found here.
Damper – This device keeps the warm air produced by the fire from escaping outside. Most are constructed in two parts. The first is a door at the top of the chimney. The second is a chain that is attached to the door at one end with the other end hanging near the bottom above the firebox. The chain allows the homeowner to open and close the chimney at will.
Flues – The duct passageway of the chimney. Its purpose is to allow the gases created by the flames to be expelled safely outside. This apparatus works through something called the stack effect, which uses buoyancy to guide out the tainted air. Most feature a liner to help reduce damage.
Cleanout Door – A door at the bottom of the flue to allow cleaning.
Chimney cleaning and inspection keep homeowners safe. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 162 people died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2004. More than 2,800 died due to fire. Keeping your flue free of obstruction and ensuring the lining is not cracked does save lives.
Historically, children were employed as sweeps. Their shorter height and slimmer frames enabled them to get into brick chimneys. Today, fireplace sweeps use long brushes, camera feeds, and mirror tools to ensure the safety of the linings and check for creosote build up. If stove or flue repairs and installations are needed, the company will tell you and offer an estimate.
When you burn wood at a cool temperature, creosote builds up. This black material clings to the liner, damper, and vent piping. Creosote causes fires and is easily removed with a stiff bristle brush. Ashes must be removed from the bottom through the small metal door.
The liner must be inspected for cracks, even with a gas burner. If a liner breaks and falls, it causes an obstruction that traps carbon monoxide. If materials near that insulate your walls heat up, a fire is possible.
Creosote is highly flammable and must be removed before the fall and winter burning season. Make sure the commercial or residential service is insured. Check if they vacuum the area when they're done. Soot and creosote dust are extremely messy and can stain carpeting. Some will cover the work area to protect carpeting and brick work. Ask if they do camera inspections of the flue, liner, and stove connections. If you have a gas fueled fireplace or burn wood or coal, have a cleaning and inspection performed yearly.