Chimney cleaning is a process that involves the use of specialized tools and techniques to remove soot, ash, and other debris from the chimney. Professional chimney sweeps are equipped with heavy metal bristle brushes, gloves, goggles, and masks to protect against soot and ash. The process may begin indoors or outdoors, and may or may not involve a camera. Sweeping will eliminate any build-up on the walls of the chimney, as well as blockages in the chimney itself.
A Level 1 inspection and sweep is the most basic and involves a visual check of the chimney from below. The chimney sweep will inspect the inside of the chimney cavity and flue with a torch, looking for any obstructions such as bird nests, creosote buildup, and soot. If there is an appliance such as a gas fireplace, it will be disassembled and removed before inspecting the cavity. The primary purpose of a chimney sweep is to clean chimneys, smoke ducts, and flues to prevent gas emissions and soot fires.
They also provide advice on proper combustion techniques to ensure safety from fire. The process begins at the bottom of the chimney and works its way up to the combustion chamber, smoke chamber damper, smoke platform, and chimney lining. Chimneys use pressure differences caused by hot gas columns to create a stream that draws air over hot coals or wood for continuous combustion. During normal operation, a layer of creosote builds up inside the chimney, restricting flow.
Creosote can also catch fire, setting fire to the chimney and building. To prevent this from happening, it is important to have your chimney swept regularly. When scheduling an appointment with a chimney sweep to have your chimney cleaned, it is best to do so in advance as businesses tend to book their schedules well in advance. Most homeowners wait until fall or winter when they regularly use their chimney for cleaning.
It is important to take any advice your chimney sweep gives you seriously as they have thoroughly analyzed your chimney and know if there are any potential steps that need to be taken to prevent future hazards. According to the National Fire Protection Association, chimney cleaning or inspections must be performed annually. A Party Wall Award chimney inspection will involve the use of a special camera that can rotate 360 degrees and rotate 180 degrees so that you can capture a full image of the chimney. This inspection includes an in-depth inspection and identification of possible weaknesses in the chimney lining (if used) or in the chimney itself. The most important reason you need an annual chimney clean is to confirm that you are burning correctly so you don't put your home at risk of fire. If you do need your chimney cleaned, it will usually be done on site using brushes, extension poles, and a vacuum cleaner.
If there is an appliance such as a gas fireplace, it must be reassembled and reinstalled once they have completed the inspection and sweep of the chimney cavity and flue duct. The amount you pay will depend on the type of inspection required and the degree to which the chimney needs to be cleaned. The Chimney Sweep Masters Guild also maintains a “Find a Chimney Sweep” database which you can access here. A Party Wall Award chimney flue inspection includes a full inspection of all open and working chimneys on adjacent properties as well as a smoke test. The goal is to scrape all lining that has accumulated from fires from the chimney liner so that it falls down the chimney and is carefully vacuumed and swept before leaving.