How often should I have my chimney swept?
Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents should 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.
Factory-built fireplaces should be swept when any appreciable buildup occurs. The logic is that the deposit is quite acidic and can shorten the life of the fireplace.
My fireplace stinks, especially inthe 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 sweeping 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.
Open the Damper
(This is forgotten more often than most people care to admit.)
Warm up the Flue
For fireplaces: Warm up the flue by holding a piece of burning rolled-up newspaper into the damper opening. Repeat with a second piece of rolled
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. Light tinder. NOTE: 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.