Should I have my fireplace and woodstove cleaned now?

Missing Mortar Joing in Tile Chimney Liner


The wood-burning season is almost over and many homeowners wonder what they should do with their woodstove or fireplace when they are finished using them for the season.  This is an important issue that can mean less worry and headaches for the homeowner if the appliance is taken care of properly.

Creosote, when mixed with moisture from rain or humidity does two things:

Chimney Sweep clears chimney obstructionFirstly, it creates an acid that eats away at mortar joints in the chimney. Mortar joints are at every two feet of tile flue liner sections in masonry chimneys. Deteriorated or missing mortar joints with gaps can allow toxic Carbon Monoxide to escape into the chimney chase and through any tiny cracks in the mortar, which can be a health hazard to the occupants of the home. Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and invisible gas that is the natural by-product of combustion of wood or gas. It is called the “Silent killer.”  CO poisoning can occur at low levels not detected by a CO detector if exposed over a long period of time. Chimney repair or relining needed due to missing mortar joints can be very expensive and may cost thousands of dollars per flue.

Secondly, creosote mixed with humid air can cause a very unpleasant odor, whether it is in a woodstove flue or fireplace flue. 

Additionally, creosote can form on the outside of the flue liner through any gaps in the mortar and is a fire hazard which can’t be removed without taking the flue liner out. And that is an expensive repair.

For these reasons, all flues should be swept in the early spring at the end of the wood-burning season in order to remove smelly, flammable creosote that can cause damage to chimneys during months the chimney is not used.

Chimney sweeps are busiest during the months of September through December in most areas of the United States, which is the time they literally get swamped with many calls per day. 

Most chimney sweeps find it very difficult to keep up with the demand during the fall and winter. So another reason to have the chimney swept and inspected is to avoid the busy season so you don’t have to wait very long for the service. 

Should your chimney sweep find any damages to the chimney that may have occurred during the fall or winter he/she will be able to complete repairs in a timely manner so you can use your fireplace or woodstove as soon as it is needed in the fall.

It is not uncommon for chimney sweeps to find chimney fire damage that the homeowner was unaware of – in fact, most chimney fire damage is found during an annual inspection by a chimney sweep.

It is difficult for many people to think about maintaining their chimney when the weather is warm, but this is one task that should be addressed during the time of year when people are least likely to think about heating their home. 

Smoke Signals: Have a question about your chimney?