CHIMNEY CLEANING PROCEDURE - CONTENTS: When, where, how, and why chimneys of each type need to be cleaned. What does chimney cleaning cost & how is it performed? Chimney cleaning, flue inspection, & chimney repair advice. Who should inspect, clean, or repair chimneys and flues to assure fire and carbon monoxide gas safety in homes?. Where to find a chimney repairman or chimney sweep. Use certified chimney sweep and repair companies. Where to find the National Chimney Sweeps Guild and the Chimney Safety Institute of America
POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about chimney & flue cleaning: how to clean a chimney, who should clean & inspect a chimney, certified chimney sweeps, when or how often should the chimney be cleaned, chimney maintenance & repairs done at cleaning time
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This article describes the basic requirement for periodic inspection and professional cleaning of chimneys. We answer: How often should you clean the chimney? and Who should you use to clean or repair a chimney to be sure that the result is a safe, properly working flue and vent system? We include referral links to professional chimney sweep and chimney sweep certification organizations.
These articles on chimneys and chimney safety provide detailed suggestions describing how to perform a thorough visual inspection of chimneys for safety and other defects. Chimney inspection methods and chimney repair methods are also discussed. Also see Chimney Cleaning Fraud Warning
Cleaning wood-burning appliance chimneys by arbitrary rule of thumb such as "once every 50 fires in the fireplace" is better than never cleaning your
chimney, but in fact what actually determines the need for cleaning is how clean or dirty the chimney flue is.
Our photo shows a Duluth MN team of chimney sweeps preparing to inspect a chimney interior using a camera and lighting.
Cleaning chimneys based on actual usage: If your building includes a wood burning fireplace or woodstove, especially if you burn a lot of fires, but in particular, if you are burning fires using green wood, or slow cool fires, or worst, slow cool small fires with green wood, you can clog up the chimney with creosote which, later when it catches on fire, can burn the whole house down.
Even a chimney that has not been used for a wood burning appliance can become blocked by rodents or insects such as our hornets nest shown at above left.
And a chimney inspection may reveal that the flue has been damaged not by creosote blockage but by spalling and water (above right).
If you don't already know the condition of your chimney, you should certainly take the following steps:
Pay for a thorough chimney cleaning, I would ask the cleaner how clean or dirty the flue actually was (they may fib about it), especially in a building whose chimney conditions and safety are unknown
Pay for a thorough chimney safety and condition inspection using a chimney scanning camera such as the Chimscan® or similar device which is basically a fisheye camera on a string.
Using the chimscan can tell you more than just how clean the flue is, it'll tell you if it has been damaged in some way that could make it unsafe, such as cracked or missing flue tile liners or leaks into the interior of the building.
Use a professional chimney sweep such as someone who is a member of and certified by the National Chimney Sweeps Guild (NCSG) or the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). The National Chimney Sweep Guild's certification requires training including in chimney and fire safety. The Chimney Safety Institute of America also certifies chimney sweeps.
Oil & Gas fired heating appliance chimneys also need to be inspected and cleaned.
Part of normal oil fired appliance heating service includes disassembly and cleaning of the flue vent connector. Ask your heating service tech to check the chimney itself and order a cleaning if needed.
Gas fired heating appliance chimneys should be inspected regularly: a blocked gas fired appliance chimney creates a serious risk of improper gas appliance operation which in turn is likely to produce dangerous, potentially fatal carbon monoxide.
Once you've done this thorough job, future cleanings can be scheduled based on how many fires you've had, more often if your 're burning green wood, and before use at all if you see clogging in the chimney or thick creosote therein on your own inspection.
Also don't forget to inspect the flue before lighting the first fire of the season- since an animal or insects could have obstructed the flue over the summer. If you have a properly screened cap on your chimney top you'll keep out the animals but not the insects.
Be sure that Your Chimney Company is Qualified
Watch out: At UNLINED FLUE INSPECTIONS we describe a scary story that happened when we identified an unsafe chimney and advised our client to have a chimney expert inspect and repair the condition. She called a chimney company listed in her local telephone book. But the "expert" was so poorly informed about chimney safety that his "repairs" came close to killing the occupants of the house.
Watch out: also for a common chimney repair fraud that takes your money but does nothing to make your chimney safe. See CHIMNEY REPAIR FRAUD WARNING for details.
Be sure that your chimney expert really is one. And if you are in the slightest doubt, in addition to contacting the associations listed below, you should ask your local fire inspector or building inspector for help.
Where to locate a certified chimney installation, repair, or cleaning professional:
Chimney Safety Institute of America, CSIA, CSIA Technology Center, 2155 Commercial Drive, Plainfield, IN 46168. CSIA directory of CISA certified chimney professionals: Website: http://www.csia.org/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
National Chimney Sweeps Guild, NCSG, 2155 Commercial Drive, Plainfield, IN 46168, Tel: 317) 837-1500, Website: http://www.ncsg.org/ , Email: email@example.com
National Fireplace Institute - NFI, Website: http://nficertified.org/ Quoting from the associations website: The National Fireplace Institute® is the professional certification division of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Education Foundation (HPBEF), a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization for the hearth industry.
International Association of Fireplace and Chimney Inspectors, Inc., IAFCI, 5325 N Commerce Ave Ste 5
Moorpark, CA 93021, Website: http://www.membersiafci.org/ Quoting from the association's website: The International Association of Fireplace & Chimney Inspectors (IAFCI) is a Non-Profit Association formed to facilitate education and promote professionalism within the Hearth, Fireplace, Vent and Chimney Inspection Industry.
... IAFCI, its Members, and Educational Providers will conform, utilize and assist in the application of recognized standards, listings, and codes for all hearth products intended for service, repair, replacement, or new construction.
What's the difference between the Chimney Safety Institute of America, CSIA, and the National Chimney Sweeps Guild, NCSG?
According to Robert Husted, owner of Dave's Chimney Service in Port Orchard WA:
NCSG vs. CSIA: the big difference is that the NCSG is a guild that promotes proper chimney service through education and training as well as a voice when it comes to NFPA211,54,74, and IRC codes reviews and changes.
The CSIA is a nationally recognized chimney service certification group that works with Realtors, home owners and home inspectors to insure competent chimney sweeps that know the codes and standards of the hearth trade to insure safe and clean burning solid fuel appliances.
The CSIA requires CEU's just like a electrician or plumber. However this is just my opinion as a certified chimney sweep. I DO NOT speak for the CSIA or NCSG.
Chimney Cleaning Costs
I have a fireplace which is blocked from the chimney (top). Could you give me a general idea of how much it will cost to re-open it please?
- G.B. 11/6/2013
Sorry, but I don't know. Costs for chimney cleaning typically range widely between $100 and $1300. And I am skeptical about the low-end of that range.
The variables that affect the cost of chimney cleaning include at least these:
Location of the property - including the country, city, state, etc.
Height of the chimney and ease of access from outside and from inside (some chimney cleaning is done from inside but depending on the nature of blockage that may not be appropriate).
For example, a masonry chimney in good shape on a two story house blocked by a birds nest is at the low-end of cost, probably a few hundred for most chimney sweeps, while a discovery that the chimney is high, hard to access, or damaged and unsafe completely change the picture.
Nature of the chimney construction which in turn may affect its condition and ease of cleaning
The fuel that has been burned in the appliance vented into the chimney.
For example, glazed-on creosote in a chimney can be quite difficult to remove.
Why the chimney is blocked.
For example if the chimney is blocked because of an internal collapse or damage the repair is not going to be done with just a brush and vacuum cleaner.
Watch out: if it's too good to be true, it's in fact not true. The chimney cleaning industry suffers from scammers in some areas. See CHIMNEY CLEANING FRAUD for details.
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Questions & answers or comments about chimney & flue cleaning: how to clean a chimney, who should clean & inspect a chimney, certified chimney sweeps, when or how often should the chimney be cleaned, chimney maintenance & repairs done at cleaning time.
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Chimney Safety Institute of American, CSIA, CSIA Technology Center, 2155 Commercial Drive, Plainfield, IN 46168. CSIA directory of CISA certified chimney professionals: Website: http://www.csia.org/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
National Chimney Sweeps Guild, NCSG, 2155 Commercial Drive, Plainfield, IN 46168, Tel: 317) 837-1500, Website: http://www.ncsg.org/ , Email: email@example.com
Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Home Inspection Education Home Study Courses - ASHI@Home Training 10-course program. Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Home Reference Book, a reference & inspection report product for building owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Home Reference eBook, an electronic version for PCs, the iPad, iPhone, & Android smart phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter inspectaehrb in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones.
Thanks to Luke Barnes for suggesting that we add text regarding the hazards of shared chimney flues. USMA - Sept. 2008.
Arlene Puentes, an ASHI member and a licensed home inspector in Kingston, NY, and has served on ASHI national committees as well as HVASHI Chapter President. Ms. Puentes can be contacted at email@example.com
Robert Husted, owner of Dave's Chimney Service in Port Orchard, WA, 360-895-2623 is a chimney service professional.
Roger Hankeyis principal of Hankey and Brown home inspectors, Eden Prairie, MN, technical review by Roger Hankey, prior chairman, Standards Committee, American Society of Home Inspectors - ASHI. 952 829-0044 - hankeyandbrown.com
NFPA #211-3.1 1988 -
Specific to chimneys, fireplaces, vents and solid fuel burning appliances.
NFPA # 54-7.1 1992 -
Specific to venting of equipment with fan-assisted combustion systems.
Gas Appliance Manufacturers' Association has prepared venting tables for
Category I draft hood equipped central furnaces as well as fan-assisted
combustion system central furnaces.
National Fuel Gas Code, an American National Standard, 4th ed. 1988 (newer edition is available) Secretariats, American Gas Association (AGA), 1515 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA22209, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Batterymarch Park, Quincy MA 02269. ANSI Z223.1-1988 - NFPA 54-1988. WARNING: be sure to check clearances and other safety guidelines in the latest edition of these standards.
Fire Inspector Guidebook, A Correlation of Fire Safety Requirements Contained in the 1987 BOCA National Codes, (newer edition available), Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA), Country Club HIlls, IL 60478 312-799-2300 4th ed. Note: this document is reissued every four years. Be sure to obtain the latest edition.
Uniform Mechanical Code - UMC 1991, Sec 913 (a.) Masonry Chimneys,
refers to Chapters 23, 29, and 37 of the Building Code.
New York 1984 Uniform Fire
Prevention and Building Code, Article 10, Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Requirements
New York 1979 Uniform Fire Prevention & Building Code, The "requirement" for 8" of solid masonry OR for use of a
flue liner was listed in the One and Two Family Dwelling Code for New
York, in 1979, in Chapter 9, Chimneys and Fireplaces, New York 1979
Building and Fire Prevention Code:
"Top Ten Chimney (and related) Problems Encountered by One Chimney Sweep," Hudson Valley ASHI education seminar, 3 January 2000, contributed by Bob Hansen, ASHI
"Rooftop View Turns to Darkness," Martine Costello, Josh Kovner, New Haven Register, 12 May 1992 p. 11: Catherine Murphy was sunning on a building roof when a chimney collapsed; she fell into and was trapped inside the chimney until rescued by emergency workers.
"Chimneys and Vents," Mark J. Reinmiller, P.E., ASHI Technical Journal, Vol. 1 No. 2 July 1991 p. 34-38.
"Chimney Inspection Procedures & Codes," Donald V. Cohen was to be published in the first volume of the 1994 ASHI Technical Journal by D. Friedman, then editor/publisher of that publication. The production of the ASHI Technical Journal and future editions was cancelled by ASHI President Patrick Porzio. Some of the content of Mr. Cohen's original submission has been included in this more complete chimney inspection article: InspectAPedia.com/chimneys/Chimney_Inspection_Repair.htm. Copies of earlier editions of the ASHI Technical Journal are available from ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors.
Natural Gas Weekly Update: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/ngw/ngupdate.asp Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government
US Energy Administration: Electrical Energy Costs http://www.eia.doe.gov/fuelelectric.html
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, have provided us with (and we recommend) Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates' Technical Reference Guide to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Chimney & Stack Inspection Guidelines, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2003 - These guidelines address the inspection of chimneys and stacks. Each guideline assists owners in determining what level of inspection is appropriate to a particular chimney and provides common criteria so that all parties involved have a clear understanding of the scope of the inspection and the end product required. Each chimney or stack is a unique structure, subject to both aggressive operating and natural environments, and degradation over time. Such degradation may be managed via a prudent inspection program followed by maintenance work on any equipment or structure determined to be in need of attention. Sample inspection report specifications, sample field inspection data forms, and an example of a developed plan of a concrete chimney are included in the guidelines. This book provides a valuable guidance tool for chimney and stack inspections and also offers a set of references for these particular inspections.