What Does a Chimney Sweep Do?
Imagine opening your front door to a man dressed in charcoal trousers, a black top hat, and boots. He has a dustpan and broom and insists on entering your home.
Chimney Sweep is responsible for inspecting, sweeping, and cleaning your chimney and flue system. This is a vital job that helps prevent carbon monoxide leaks into homes.
Creosote is a black or brown residue that sticks to the walls of chimney flues and fireplaces. It can look crusty or flaky, drippy and sticky like tar, or shiny and hardened to the surface. It can build up to a point where it restricts air movement within the fireplace and chimney and causes toxic gases such as carbon monoxide to leak into the house. This can also cause chimney fires, which are dangerous and can damage the chimney lining and even burn down the home.
The goal of a chimney sweep is to prevent creosote from building up to this point by regularly cleaning the chimney. During this process, the chimney sweep will use a brush to remove the majority of the creosote from the flue walls and lining of the fireplace and chimney. The chimney sweep will also check for any signs of deterioration in the chimney lining, such as cracks or holes.
In addition to removing creosote, the chimney sweep will clean the fireplace and chimney from dust and debris. Chimney sweeps also have the equipment to remove animals and their nests from inside the chimney, if needed.
As the chimney is cleaned, the sweep will monitor the creosote levels to see if they are progressing to stage three. When the creosote reaches this stage, it looks more like tar than flakes and is much harder to remove with a brush. Stage three creosote is more dangerous than previous stages because it is more flammable and restricts the flow of air through the chimney. This can cause a chimney fire that can destroy the chimney lining and cause the tar-like fuel to drip down the side of the chimney.
The most important thing to remember about creosote is that it is a highly flammable and combustible substance. The best way to protect against this is to have a professional chimney inspection and cleaning once a year. If you notice any of the warning signs of creosote buildup, such as smoke flooding into your fireplace or a strong odor coming from the fireplace, contact us for a chimney inspection and cleaning.
Chimneys are often the site of bird nests, as they are warm and dry and provide a safe place for birds to build their homes. The most common species to nest in chimneys are jackdaws (black crows) and starlings. If you hear a chittering noise coming from your chimney, it is probably a baby swift begging for food from their parents.
These fantastic fliers can do almost everything on the wing: they eat, drink, break off twigs for their nests, and copulate in flight. Fortunately, they have specially designed feet to help them grip vertical surfaces and sticky saliva that they use to glue their half-saucer-shaped nests to the inside wall of a chimney. The nests can be positioned from 2 to 22 feet down from the top of the chimney, and eggs are laid every other day in June or July, with incubation lasting for 18 to 21 days.
Unfortunately, these nests are often damaged by lightning strikes or chimney fires. They can also be blown away by winds or pushed down the chimney by raccoons. Attempts to smoke the birds out of the chimney usually fail, as they are not afraid of the fire and just fly back into it!
If you find a bird’s nest in your chimney, it is best to leave it alone until the breeding season has ended. It is against the law to disturb an active bird’s nest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and doing so could result in a fine or imprisonment.
If you want to remove the nest, a professional chimney sweep should be able to do this safely for you. They can either block off the gap with a cowl they fit or fill the opening with mesh to prevent any birds from getting inside. You can try scaring the birds out of the chimney by making a lot of noise and shining a light, but be careful, as they might just fly into your fireplace! If there are any active nests present when the sweep visits, you should ask them to block off any gaps at the top of your chimney so that no more birds can get in.
Damage to the chimney
When chimneys get damaged, it can cause problems for the entire home. The most common issue is water leakage. This can be due to cracked or loose bricks or a damaged chimney cap and crown. Chimney sweeps can repair these issues and prevent water from entering the home.
Occasionally, sweeps encounter chimneys with significant damage that is beyond their ability to repair. This is particularly common in older homes with mortar joints that are deteriorating. This is also an issue with chimneys constructed from salvaged bricks or with poor craftsmanship. Chimneys built from salvaged bricks tend to spall (crumble and flake) much faster than those made of high-quality bricks and construction. This is a major health and safety issue because if the bricks fall apart, they can allow water to penetrate the mortar joints and cause mold or other structural damage.
It is important to note that chimneys should only be cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. The CSIA recommends that open masonry chimneys be swept at least once a year and even more frequently if there is a heavy buildup of creosote. This is because excess creosote is flammable and can ignite and burn, causing a chimney fire.
If you notice that the flue liner is leaking or shattered, you should call a chimney sweep immediately. A shattered flue liner can be very dangerous because it allows carbon monoxide to escape into the house. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and tasteless gas that can poison humans and animals if inhaled in large quantities.
It is also a good idea to have a professional chimney sweep inspect the roof of your house. Chimney sweeps can identify a number of potential issues, including missing or loose shingles, shingle deterioration, and the condition of the flashing. Chimney sweeps can also identify a number of issues related to the chimney’s structure, such as if the chimney is leaning to one side or the other. They can also identify if the chimney has a faulty tar-based waterproofing membrane, which should be replaced as soon as possible.
Chimney sweeps work with hazardous materials, including soot and creosote. These chemicals can cause respiratory distress and illness. Inhalation of soot can irritate the lungs, while physical contact with creosote can cause a rash or even chemical burns. Sweeps take a number of safety measures to protect themselves and your home while completing their job. They wear masks, heavy-duty gloves, and protective clothing. They use a vacuum or shop vac to decrease soot levels in the house and may also put down a drop cloth to protect the floors. In addition to these measures, they will always carry a fire extinguisher to prevent accidental house fires.
They are also careful when working on a roof. They are aware of the possibility of ice or unstable conditions and have ladders that are secure. They are also familiar with the various types of roofing materials and can help you choose the best roof cover for your chimney.
It is important to choose a qualified chimney sweep for your home. Look for a sweep who has been certified by the CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America). This credential is recognized by insurance professionals and local, state, and federal government agencies. The CSIA certification ensures that the sweep is knowledgeable about chimney care and venting systems.
In addition to having the correct credentials, chimney sweeps should have insurance coverage. This is to protect the homeowner in case of an accident or damage while they are sweeping the chimney. This is especially true for any repairs that need to be done to the chimney.
The most common problems with fireplaces and chimneys can only be found by a trained professional. These issues are often hidden and can lead to expensive chimney repair projects in the future. It is worth it to find a qualified and insured chimney sweep to inspect your home before it becomes a costly issue.
It is a good idea to keep the area around your chimney clear of combustible items such as furniture and curtains. In addition, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on every level of your house and near bedrooms. These detectors will warn you if there is an accidental fire in the chimney or if the air is contaminated with dangerous gases.