Should You Ever Try To Clean Your Own Chimney?

Posted on: 7 December 2015

If you've recently purchased a home with a chimney for the first time, you may be unsure of the time or financial commitment you've made to chimney maintenance. While many chimneys (especially those in recently-built homes) are designed to minimize creosote buildup, some older or more deteriorated chimneys could require much more frequent cleanings. But is it worthwhile to try to clean your own chimney in an effort to save money? What maintenance tasks should be performed yourself? Read on to learn more about maintaining your new-to-you chimney, as well as a few situations in which you'll want to seek the assistance of a professional.

What regular maintenance do all chimneys need?

Most homes that have been financed through traditional means have been inspected for safety and habitability by the lender -- including an inspection of the chimney. As a result, you should have a good idea of whether your chimney is already in good condition (in which case you'll only need to perform periodic maintenance) or whether it needs a thorough cleaning or more extensive repairs. 

For chimneys that are already in good condition, most of the maintenance you'll need to perform is of the cleaning variety. During the winter, once you've burned enough firewood to create ashes more than 2 inches in depth, you'll want to remove the excess ashes as they accumulate. This will prevent mess and reduce the amount of allergens circulating within your home. If you burn fires more infrequently during the summer season, you'll want to remove any ashes as they cool.

You'll also want to scrub your chimney with a wire brush and soapy water mixture to remove any stains before they've been given the opportunity to bake onto your fireplace's hard surfaces. The frequency with which you'll need to clean your chimney primarily depends on how often you use it. If you only burn a fire every few weeks (or even more infrequently than that) it may be feasible to clean your fireplace after each use. For those who have a fire roaring several times per week or more often, scheduling a weekly or biweekly scrubbing can help prevent stains from setting in.

Whenever you're performing spring or fall outdoor home maintenance (or whenever you start noticing a change in the way your fires are burning), you'll want to inspect your chimney cap. Some caps are made of concrete, while others are a simple mesh grate on the top of your chimney. Removing leaves, twigs, and other debris will prevent any carbon monoxide from being rerouted into your home, and keeping an eye on the condition of your chimney cap can help you quickly know when it needs to be repaired or replaced.  

Can you clean your chimney yourself?

Although you should be able to access all visible parts of your fireplace for cleaning yourself with just some soap and water, cleaning the interior of your chimney can be a much different prospect. You may need to use more toxic solvents to remove the harmful creosote buildup on the inside of your chimney's walls and will need significantly more protective equipment to help maintain your safety. You'll also need a tall extension ladder and safety harness to avoid a long, potentially painful fall to the bottom of your chimney.

Unless you have an old home that requires frequent chimney cleaning, or plan to burn fires on a daily basis and can't afford a professional chimney cleaning more than once every few years, it may not be worth the investment in equipment and potential safety hazards to clean your chimney yourself. With the average price of a chimney cleaning coming in at just a bit over $200, it shouldn't be a formidable cost for most new homeowners.

For more information and options, talk with professional chimney cleaning services, such as Early Times Home Solutions.