After all the rain that fell last week, it was pleasant to have a bit of sunshine on the weekend. One  thing that the cool, wet weather had me in mind of though was sitting beside a toasty, warm fire on long winter nights. That thought reminded me that there are a few tasks I have to accomplish before I can make hot toddies beside a blazing hearth a reality. One is to obtain some fire wood. More importantly, it is also time to clean the chimney.

While the easiest way to clean the chimney is by grabbing the yellow pages and dialing 1-800-chimneysweep, I know a few of you who refuse to pay someone to do something that you figure you can do yourself. If that sounds like you, then go get your safety goggles and let’s have a chat. Cleaning a chimney yourself might save you a few dollars, but it is important that you have the right equipment for the job, as well as having an inkling of what you are doing before you tackle the task at hand. So give me five minutes of time to share some advice my DIY friends. It just might save you some time and headache in the end.

If you are determined to clean your chimney yourself, the first thing you should do is measure your chimney to determine what size of brush you will require. There are a few on the market, so a quick measurement will save you a trip back to the store to grab the correct sized brush after the project is begun. The next step is to decide how you would like to go about cleaning your chimney. If the thought of climbing up to the roof has you shaking in your chimney sweep boots, then perhaps the bottom-up method is best for you. If you have been up there already cleaning your gutters and checking your flashing, then add a ladder to your list of tools for the job and get climbing. You still have a few options, depending upon whether this is a one or two person job, but the main thing is that you want to do a good job,  to remove all the dust, dirt and built up creosote (unburned wood particles & condensed flue gases) from your chimney walls. Let’s look at our options, shall we?



OPTION 1: Bottom-Up

If climbing a ladder is not something you have any interest in, then purchase a flexible rod for a bottom-up cleaning. This means that you will be inside (perk), but it is also probably your dirtiest option (drawback), so make sure you have plenty of tarps handy to cover all your furniture before you start. As you are working from the fireplace, when you scrub out the chimney, all of that dirt and debris is going to fall down. With the fireplace doors open, that dirt is going to escape into the room and cover everything in sight. You might want to invest in a high-powered flashlight, as well as some goggles to inspect the chimney to make sure that you have done a good job. Chimney fires are a very real danger, so scrub that chimney well!


OPTION 2: Top-Down

This method is infinitely cleaner, but requires you to be on the roof. Any time you have to head up to the roof, make sure that you are aware of your surroundings and always be cautious of the danger of slipping and falling. A fall from the roof can lead to serious injuries and/or death, so please be safe and secure. That being said, if you are working from the roof, you can seal the fireplace doors inside the house and your cleanup will be dramatically reduced. So after the fireplace doors are sealed and your eye protection is on, then insert your brush and move it up and down to dislodge any debris in your chimney. Shine your flashlight down to make sure that Santa will be squeaky clean heading down your chimney this Christmas.


OPTION 3: Weight Method

This method is similar to the top-down method, but a 20lb weighted line with a ring on the end is used instead of a flexible rod. The weight is lowered and lifted, brushing the sides of the chimney until it is clean. You are up on the roof again using this method, but again you can seal the fireplace doors at the bottom to limit the amount of dust and dirt that enters the house. If you skipped your workout this week, this is the method for you! Goggles and a dust mask are still handy for this method.


OPTION 4: Dual-Line Method

The last method involves two people. The brush has a line attached to it and on either end of the line there is a ring to hold onto. In this method one person is on the roof, and the other person in the house. Both parties take turns pulling the brush up and down scrubbing the chimney until it is clean of soot and grime. In case you missed it, that flashlight is used in all these methods. Another handy tool is a mirror if you are looking up the chimney though. SAves you trying to contort yourself too much to inspect all the nooks and crannies. The perk of this method is that two people get to help with this project, but the drawback is that you cannot seal the fireplace at the bottom again. I guess you then have two people to clean up the resulting mess afterwards though.


For any method of chimney cleaning, you want to make sure that you sweep and vacuum your house after you are done with the chimney scrubbing. Don’t forget to brush any dirt from behind the damper as well. In between chimney cleaning you can also use creosote remover products to reduce the amount of creosote buildup. This will help to make your chimney cleaning job easier as well. Another suggestion is to burn dry, hard wood to prevent creosote in the first place. Having a really good hot fire can also help to limit the amount of creosote that builds up. Once your chimney is spic and span, then all you have to do is order some wood from a respectable source that carries good quality wood. Or put on your lumberjack hat and grab your axe to fall some trees yourself. Unless you did that last year and now have a stack of nice dry wood you might have to actually buy some wood this year though. It is worth it though when you get to relax beside a hot crackling fire on a cold night this winter. I am looking forward to it already! Good luck cleaning, my chimney sweeping friends!