Keeping your chimney clean

If you don’t clean your chimney regularly, you're raising your fire risk

There’s something magical about a crackling fire on a cold winter’s eve. Hot beverage in hand, you listen to the snap and crackle of the burning wood, feel the heat radiating to warm you all over, and become mesmerized by the dancing flames. And all the while that fire is sending carbon particles up the chimney, which are clinging to the sides of your chimney en route to becoming a fire hazard.

When put that way, the fire loses a bit of its lustre.

But Rick Spencer of Chim-Chiminey Sweep says a thorough and regular cleaning of your chimney will ensure trouble-free magic whenever needed.

It’s this time of the year, naturally, that his crews are busiest, says Spencer, because everyone who uses a wood-burning or oil-burning fireplace or furnace needs the cleaning done before winter sets in.

How often you need to clean the chimney is pretty straightforward, says Spencer. Use the following guide.

• If you have a wood-burning fireplace, and you use it at least once a week through the winter, you need your chimney cleaned of soot and tar build-up once a year. If you use it as your main heat source every day, you should have it done twice a year.

• If you have an oil furnace, you need the chimney cleaned once a year, which should reduce the number of service calls because, Spencer says, many for oil furnaces are the result of a poorly maintained chimney.

• If you have a wood pellet stove for heat, you probably won’t need the chimney cleaned more than once a year – unless your stove isn’t burning efficiently, in which case you need it cleaned and the stove serviced immediately.

• If you have a high-efficiency gas fireplace insert, you likely won’t need to clean the chimney at all unless it’s not working properly, says Spencer. But if you have one of those decorative log sets or a sandpan unit, you should clean the chimney every three to five years.

If you don’t clean your chimney regularly, there are two main risks involved.

The first is fire, because it is possible for the soot build up inside the chimney to catch on fire if allowed to become thick enough.

The second risk is soot build-up acting as a drag on the upward air flow, which means the smoke could exit through the front of your fireplace or stove than up the chimney. This can cause nasty smoke damage to your home.

Spencer says this second problem is more common than a fire, and can potentially be more expensive in terms of actual damage.

Another problem with not cleaning regularly is that heat from a fire can cause the soot and tar to become a glaze inside the chimney, which makes it much harder to clean, and can often lead to damaged liners needing to be replaced. Naturally, says Spencer, this will make the job much more expensive.

It also doesn’t hurt to have the chimney sweep come by in the fall to make sure no birds or rodents have made a home in your chimney, as that can get pretty messy.

Contrary to what some people believe, Spencer says, there is still lots of call for chimney sweep service because plenty of people use fireplaces of one kind or another.

“You are still allowed to have a wood-burning fireplace, contrary to what you may have heard,” says Spencer. “There are some very good, high-efficiency, EPA-certified systems out there that do a terrific a job of providing heat, so people use them for heating their homes.”

As an aside, he notes that Metro Vancouver currently offers homeowners a $250 rebate if they replace an old, non-EPA-certified stove or insert with a new unit that is certified.

When all’s said and done, if you’re planning to light that fire this year, Spencer says it’s just good sense to make sure your chimney is safe to go for the winter.

Robert Prince is a freelance writer who lives in Maple Ridge.

Just Posted

Sea bus service proposed along Fraser River

Maple Ridge councillor just wants to start discussion

Pitt Meadows gets some help for flood plan

$412,000, but not for dike upgrades

Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows folks take in rides at PNE

Fall exhibition heralds end of summer

Pantracia Chronicles paves path for Pitt Meadows author

First trilogy in epic fantasy series released this year

Homes found for abandoned hedgehogs in Maple Ridge

Lucky new owners picked up their pets on Aug. 20

Pickle me this: All the outrageous foods at this year’s PNE

Pickled cotton candy, deep-fried chicken skins, and ramen corndogs are just a start

New study suggests autism overdiagnosed: Canadian expert

Laurent Mottron: ‘Autistic people we test now are less and less different than typical people’

B.C. father tells judge he did not kill his young daughters

Andrew Berry pleaded not guilty to the December 2017 deaths

Trans Mountain gives contractors 30 days to get workers, supplies ready for pipeline

Crown corporation believes the expansion project could be in service by mid-2022

Mammoth sturgeon catch was ‘a fish of a lifetime’ for Chilliwack guide

Sturgeon was so enormous it tied for largest specimen every tagged and released in the Fraser

Rosemount cooked diced chicken linked to listeria case in B.C.

The symptoms of listeria include vomiting, nausea, fever, muscle aches

Body found believed to be missing Chilliwack senior with dementia

Police say case is now in the hands of the coroner

B.C. seniors allowed more choice to stay in assisted living

Province doesn’t need to wait for a complaint to investigate care, Adrian Dix says

Most Read