FAQs

Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions page. Simply select from the list of question below to reveal the answer. If you have any additional questions, please contact us at service@thechimneychap.com. Thank you.

What is the chimney liner crush point and why is it important?

The crush point shows the amount of weight a flue liner can withstand before it is crushed. In plain speak, differentiates the flimsiness or low quality liners from the quality made chimney liners. Out of the chimney liners we tested, there was one chimney flue liner that stood out from the others. It was the Flex King Pro with a crush point of 560 lbs. The second runner up was the Flex King chimney liner with a crush point of 300 lbs. The Flex King Pro seemed to be made the best by looking at the overall construction compared to the other liners we tested.

My chimney has white stains on the brick, what is this?

This is a common problem that we can help prevent…… The white stains or powder-like material is often the result of water penetration of the chimney. During a rain, snow, or ice storm, water is absorbed by the brick and mortar crown. In the case of snow or ice storm the freeze thaw cycles can enlarge the cracks on the top of the chimney mortar crown allowing water to enter the structure this way. The chimney will soon saturate with water. As the chimney dries, lime and salts from brick and mortar are pushed out of the pores of the chimney. Wood that is in contact with the chimney can also absorb water, and in most cases, start to rot.

I have cracks in the crown of my chimney, what will this affect?

We equate the effects of this condition with tooth decay. This can be the source of many chimney problems by allowing water into the chimney. This water will eventually settle somewhere in the structure and erode any mortar it encounters. This will weaken the structure and eventually cause brick and mortar loss.

My fireplace smells, especially in the summer.. What can I do?

The smell is due to creosote deposits in the chimney, a natural byproduct of wood burning. The odor is usually worse in the summer when the humidity is high and the air conditioner is turned on. A good cleaning will help but usually won’t solve the problem completely. There are commercial chimney deodorants that work pretty well, and many people have good results with baking soda or even kitty litter set in the fireplace. The real problem is the air being drawn down the chimney, a symptom of overall pressure problems in the house. Some make-up air should be introduced somewhere else in the house. A tight sealing, top mounted damper will also reduce this air flow coming down the chimney.

What should I do in order to safely enjoy having a fire in the fireplace?

Easy tips for starting your fire:

  1. Open the Damper (This is forgotten more often than most people care to admit.)
  2. Gather Ingredients (You will need three things to start a fire.)
    • Tinder: Crumpled up newspaper makes the best tinder. You can also use small twigs, pine needles, or pine cones.
    • Kindling: Large twigs, small branches, and small splits of wood anywhere from 1/4″ to 1″ in thickness will do. This is the most important ingredient for building a good fire and usually the most over looked.
    • Fuel: Use only well-seasoned hardwood. If you have to burn softwoods, be certain they are well seasoned. Look for split, dry wood that has been stacked for up to a year. Loose bark and cracks in the ends are signs of seasoned wood.
  3. Start the Fire: Arrange two small to medium sized pieces of firewood on the grate, and place some crumpled up newspaper for tinder between logs. Now cover the tinder with several pieces of kindling. Be generous with the kindling – it’s the most important element in starting your fire. Now, place two more pieces of firewood on top of the kindling and two more at right angles to these two. Leave some space between the logs for air circulation.
  4. Warm up the Flue: For fireplaces, warm up the flue by holding a piece of burning rolled-up newspaper in the (opened) damper region for 10-15 seconds. This helps the flue establish a good draft. Then light the tinder. Within a few minutes, you should have a nice, hot roaring fire!

Important dos and don’ts

  • DO check the manufacturer’s guidelines for your wood stove or insert.
  • DO use seasoned hardwood.
  • DO use commercial fire starters if you like. They eliminate the need for tinder and reduce the amount of kindling required.
  • DON’T use charcoal lighter fluid or other flammable liquids. These are extremely dangerous. (Gel fire starters are okay.)
  • DON’T use coal in a wood stove or fireplace unless there are specific written instructions – it will burn, not safely.
  • DON’T burn treated lumber, trash, or anything other than wood in your fireplace or wood stove.

What does a chimney sweep do?

The primary job of a chimney-service professional is to monitor your chimney, clean and maintain your chimney, and prescribe changes to improve its safety and performance.

What is involved in chimney cleaning?

The chimney sweep serviceman will check the condition of your firebox, damper, and flue to determine typical problems such as creosote buildup, mortar deterioration, obstructions inside the flue, and malfunctioning damper parts. He will alert you to any problems that he finds and provide you with a solution.

What causes creosote or “soot”

Creosote or “soot” is caused by simply burning materials, such as wood, in your fireplace. There is no way to prevent buildup of creosote. Creosote is unburned fuel that gathers in the form of black powder, flakes, or baked-on glaze, depending on the degree of buildup. This is the main cause of chimney fires. When there is excess buildup of creosote in the chimney and the temperatures rise, the soot is ignited and an actual fire is started inside your chimney, showering your roof with sparks.

How often should I have my chimney cleaned?

This a tougher question than it sounds. The simple answer is: The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.” This is the national safety standard and is the correct way to approach the problem. It takes into account the fact that even if you don’t use your chimney much, animals may build nests in the flue or there may be other types of deterioration that could make the chimney unsafe to use. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be cleaned at 1/8″ of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. Factory-built fireplaces should be cleaned when any appreciable buildup occurs. This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading into the home.

Do I need to have my chimney serviced?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that in one year, 5,500 fires were attributed to chimneys. As a result of these fires, 130 people died, 230 people were injured and total property loss was set at more than $184.4 million. In addition, there were a minimum of 119 deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning and at least 4,700 injuries were reported for the same time frame, though most estimates are much higher. The root cause of most of these losses is that most U.S. homeowners are unaware that chimneys are an integral part of a home-heating system, and require regular evaluation and maintenance. The fact that faults, damage, and problems are rarely visible to the casual observer complicates the situation. The threat of chimney fires or CO² poisoning can be greatly reduced, or eliminated, by regular inspection and maintenance.

Valuable troubleshooting hints

Smoke problems: Is your damper open? If it is and the smoking continues, open a nearby window a crack for a minute or two until the fire is going well – then you can close it again. If it just smokes when you light the fire, it may be because the flue is cold. Did you warm the flue with a burning rolled-up newspaper held in the damper region? (If not, that usually works.) If the chimney continues to smoke, call a chimney professional. Your chimney may be clogged by animal nests or an accumulation of soot and creosote, or it may have additional problems. Chimney odors The sour, sickly odor is the smell of creosote. The solution is to call a chimney professional to clean your chimney and install a chimney cap to prevent water from entering and reacting with the creosote. Your chimney professional can also recommend a good chimney deodorant to handle any remaining odor which has been absorbed into the masonry.

Creosote buildup Slow smoldering fires and/or the use of unseasoned wood can create “cool” smoke and weak draft. Under these conditions the smoke condenses and sticks to the chimney’s interior. Forming highly flammable creosote. Read our section on “Efficient Burning Techniques” for the solution of this problem.

Efficient burning techniques

  • The key is to burn small, hot fires, using hardwood that will minimize creosote accumulation and maximize heat output.
  • Keep fires burning hot with flames, not smoldering with a lot of smoke.
  • Be careful not to add too much firewood. In a fireplace, keep the top of the flames visible below the fireplace opening. In a wood stove, keep the flames confined to the wood stove itself.
  • With glass doors, keep the doors wide open with the screen closed for a good half hour after starting the fire. When you see the fire is burning well, close the doors and set any draft controls.
  • It’s better to add smaller loads more often than to cram in a lot of wood trying to get an all-day burn.
  • When you’re ready to put out a fire, separate the logs by moving them to the side of the fireplace or stand them on end in the back of the fireplace. Close the screen or glass doors tightly, but don’t close the damper until you’re sure the fire and coals are completely out.

How to avoid chimney fires

Creosote is the main cause of chimney fires. A buildup of creosote is highly combustible and can result in a chimney fire.

To minimize creosote:

  • Burn only seasoned wood
  • Do not burn trash in a fireplace or wood stove.
  • Don’t allow the fire to smolder.
  • Contact your chimney professional to clean your chimney regularly.

What to do if you have a chimney fire

  • Get everyone out of the house.
  • Call the fire department.
  • Don’t close the damper. If you have a fireplace with glass doors, close the doors and the vents. If you have a wood stove, close the doors and the air inlets.
  • If flames are visible at the chimney top hose down the roof but not the chimney. Spraying water on a hot chimney will very likely damage it.
  • Call a chimney professional before using it again. Even a small chimney fire can damage the chimney, making it unsafe to use.
  • Click here to see an important video from the Chimney safety Institute of America.