A hearth fire, or a fire in a wood stove, is a universal sign of comfort to all. Even people who do not have fireplaces delight in "faux" fires. You can even watch hearth fires on YouTube.com. Fires conjure up images of warmth, security, coziness, and calm. Fire is an essential element, and humans are drawn to it.
For those of you who have real, working stoves or fireplaces, you hopefully know that chimneys need to be cleaned regularly. But how often?
Our recommendation is twice per year.
If you use your fireplace or stove during the fall and winter months (sometimes into the spring), you may experience the buildup of cresote. Cresote is a substance that builds up on the insides of chimneys and stovepipes. What happens if you have too much cresote? It can ignite, and cause a chimney fire.
Another reason is to have a chimney cleaned is to check for cracks or holes. Even a small crack or hole can be enough for fire to seep through into your attic, causing a fire.
There is another reason, and while they are mostly harmless, they are creepy: Bats. To a bat, a chimney or stovepipe just seems like a safe haven when the chimney or pipe is not in use.
It's a hollow, cozy spot to hang out. Bats can squeeze through incredibly tiny spaces, which is why, when you are through with fires for the year, you should have a chimney sweep inspect your chimney or stove pipe to make sure it's clear, clean it, and make sure that it is screened so that bats cannot get in it.
In most areas, bats are a protected species -- so if they get in, getting them out is very difficult, not to mention expensive.
Birds are another issue with chimneys or stove pipes. They of course build nests, and on top of a chimney seems sometimes like a dandy place.
Unsuspecting homeowners sometimes kill them inadvertently, not realizing that a nest has been built. A chimney sweep service can make sure everything is "good to go" for a fire before something upsetting like this occurs.
Should You Hire a Professional?
Chimney cleaning is very strenuous, and often dangerous, work. Some roof lines are extremely daunting due to steepness and accessibility. Ladders are dangerous, accounting for over 164,000 deaths per year. Moreover, you need quite a few tools, such as a ladder, buckets and rags, a chimney brush, possibly a professional vaccum, a good mirror, and a flashlight.
That is a lot to lug around, but if your chimney is not in a hard-to-clean place, you can certainly give it a try. Be sure to cover the fireplace area, lest you get soot onto floors, furniture, etc., and then have a bigger mess to clean.
When Should You Clean?
Follow the seasons. Clean your chimney or stove pipe after you are done using it -- perhaps in March or early April, and then again when it gets chilly again, in October or early November.
Enjoy a fire, but be safe!