Do All Chimneys Need Cleaning?
This is a good question, because there are several different types of supplemental heating appliances, and not all of them need the same level of cleaning and maintenance. Let’s look at fireplaces, stoves and fireplace inserts and learn about the cleaning requirements for their chimneys or vent systems.
Wood-burning fireplaces, stoves and inserts
These wood-burning appliances will all need regular vent-system/chimney cleaning to reduce the buildup of creosote, which forms when wood burns. Creosote is highly flammable and can appear inside the flue as a solid, sticky or puffy substance.
Masonry fireplaces: These traditional fireplaces use a traditional masonry chimney (in most cases) and send smoke up into a flue that usually contains a chimney liner. Over time, the flue interior can become full of creosote, soot and other types of debris. Masonry fireplace chimneys need yearly cleaning and inspection to keep them safe.
Zero-clearance wood fireplaces: ZC fireplaces are factory made and installed in a wall within a home. While they burn much more cleanly and efficiently than their masonry counterparts, creosote is still an issue. Zero-clearance fireplaces come with their own vent pipe (a traditional chimney isn’t required), and this pipe needs to be inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney sweep.
Wood-burning heating stoves: Like ZC wood fireplaces, wood heating stoves have a vent pipe that is a breeding ground for creosote and soot. Technology used to build today’s stoves allow wood to burn far more efficiently than stoves even 15 years ago, but their vent systems still need annual cleaning by a professional.
Wood-burning fireplace inserts: Inserts are built to fit into the firebox of a masonry fireplace. Inserts have their own vent system that runs through the existing chimney but does not affect it. Annual creosote and obstruction removal is necessary with a wood-burning insert.
Gas ZC fireplaces, free-standing stoves and fireplace inserts
Gas is a much cleaner-burning fuel than wood, so the venting for these appliances doesn’t require regular creosote removal. But that doesn’t mean the venting can be ignored. Depending on where you live and what’s around your home, gas appliance vents can attract tree debris and flying debris from outside as well as certain small animals and their nests. Inspection and any necessary cleaning is important, because obstructions in the vent pipe can cause dangerous gases and toxins to back up into the home. Of particular concern is carbon monoxide, which is an invisible and odorless gas that is known to be potentially fatal to humans and pets.
Gas fireplaces, stoves and inserts also should be inspected once a year to ensure the proper and safe operation of the gas lines, valves, pilot light and ignition systems, fan assemblies and other components.
The value of professional chimney and appliance inspections
Chimney and appliance inspections performed by technicians certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America can save you big money on future repairs and prevent unsafe operating conditions. Inspections cover many elements of a gas or wood appliance including:
- Chimney masonry
- Chimney crown
- Chimney liner
- Gas appliance components within the firebox (as mentioned earlier)
- Vent pipes for inserts, ZC fireplaces and stoves
- Chimney cap
- Roof flashing
- Smoke shelf and smoke chamber
Black Moose Chimney of Antrim, NH, is on call year-round to help keep your chimney and fireplace or stove running safety and at peak efficiency. Our certified technicians perform chimney sweeping, chimney inspections, chimney repair and chimney rebuilding. Arrange an appointment or get your questions answered at (603) 525-7905.