There are many stats out there with various recommendations on when/how often to have your chimney cleaned. Some say once a year, others say every 3-4 months, etc. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, all fireplaces should be cleaned out when the buildup of soot inside reaches ⅛ of an inch. 

How can I tell when my chimney needs cleaning?

Here are some telltale signs that your chimney might need a professional clean:

-There are smelly odors coming from it- indication of a possible fire hazard

-Your fires barely burn- oxygen needed for fire is hard to get with soot build up

-Smoke does not reach the top- can cause fire hazards

-Oily spots- tar like spots decrease airflow

-Buildup of soot- requires cleaning to rid of buildup

-Decreased airflow- can cause fire hazards

Can I try this at home?

If you want to try cleaning your chimney at home first, here is the best way to go about it:

  • Do an inspection first- clean ashes out of your firebox, remove the grate, open the damper, allow time for heat to rise, shine a flashlight into the smoke chamber & use a fireplace poker to scratch the surface (if the soot is matte black & about ⅛ inch or less deep, it’s probably a job you can take on)
  • Get the right tools- metal bristle brush, a brush with plastic bristles, rods, a bendable noodle brush, as well as some special brushes for the firebox & smoke chamber
  • Lay a tarp over the interior of your fireplace and seal with duct tape
  • Run a ShopVac through the chimney while you brush
  • Cleaning- insert your cleaning brush into the chimney to remove excess soot, continue adding rods down the chimney until there is no more resistance (meaning you’ve reached the smoke chamber & it’s time to move back inside the house), use a long handled brush to clean the smoke chamber behind the tarp you duct taped to the interior of your fireplace, use the noodle brush to excess soot from the smoke shelf, then back to the long handled brush to clean the sides, lastly, vacuum the entire firebox with your ShopVac