Professional chimney cleaning is an important service for anyone who has a flue for a fireplace, furnace, and even a water heater flue. A chimney is just another name for a flue. This could be one reason why so many people think that a chimney sweep is only for those with a fireplace. The reality is that any flue should and needs to be maintained and inspected at least once a year.
What is Entailed
A chimney sweeper brings to mind classic images of a man dressed in black with a matching black cap and large metal brush. While the outfit has changed as well as some of the tools the large metal brush is still one of the best ways to clean your chimney or flue. This is known as a mechanical cleaning and is just one aspect of a full professional service. In addition to a mechanical cleaning there are chemical cleanings. However, any good service should include a good inspection before cleaning and after cleaning. Some services will even clean out the fire box in addition to sweeping up the debris created by the cleaning.
What Gets In Your Chimney or Flue
There is a lot of stuff that can find its way down your flue and obstruct airflow. The most common substance is creosote. This black and sometimes greasy substance is the byproduct of burning wood, natural gas, and propane. It is most present in wood and more of a problem in wood stoves and fireplaces. This is not the only obstruction found in a flue and is only one of the forms of debris your sweep will look for. Small sticks, twigs, and leaves from nearby trees commonly find their way into a flue.
A more unpleasant thought is the fact that small rodents and nesting birds can also find their way into this area. Birds and their nests are a common nuisance that a professional service will look for. Mice and rats also find a chimney flue and inviting place to live. While you might think any animal that found its way to a flue will not be alive, plenty of live vermin are found regularly. It is one of the reasons an inspection must be done before and after cleaning. It is important to understand what refuse is in your flue and if it has been properly and completely removed.
What Happens with a Dirty Flue
These obstructions in your flue can create several dangerous and costly situations. A blocked or obstructed flue and cause smoke to fill the fire box and enter the room that the fireplace or woodstove is located. This smoke is not just noxious, it also contains carbon monoxide that is poisonous to humans and pets alike. Your chimney does not have to be completely blocked for this to happen. A partially blocked chimney can diminish the airflow to the point that your flue will not work properly and carry the smoke up and out of your home.
The same is true for furnace and hot water flues. In these cases it is even more dangerous since you will not be alerted by the sight or smell of smoke. With these appliances only the invisible odorless carbon monoxide will seep into your home most likely without your knowledge.
The debris catching on fire in your flue is of course the worst case, yet possible scenario. A fire in your chimney is extremely dangerous because of the difficulty found in extinguishing the flames quickly. A flue fire is also dangerous because of its probability of igniting the roof of a structure.
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