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Keep Your Chimney Clean

There are a couple of different ways to clean a chimney. We'll give you the preferred method, which is from the top of the chimney down. If possible, do it when the chimney is still warm from a fire. Creosote is easier to remove from warm surfaces. But make sure the fire is completely out:

In the Nick of Time

If you're going to be serious about cleaning your own chimney, and do a good job of it, be sure to buy the right size of brush for the job. To determine this, you'll need your chimney's interior measurements, which are taken from the top of the chimney. To do it, climb on the roof. If you have a metal or prefab chimney, remove the chimney cap and measure across the diameter. If it's a masonry chimney, measure the length and width of the flue liner and compute the dimension from these measurements. Be sure to buy a brush that comfortably fills the chimney without being too tight. A too-large brush will be harder to maneuver, but it will work unless it's really huge.

  1. Tape or otherwise attach the drop cloth or sheet around the fireplace opening. This will keep ashes and other debris in the firebox and off your furniture and floors. Drape other drop cloths or sheets around the area as necessary.

  2. Open the fireplace damper.

  3. Don your protective apparel, grab your chimney rod, brushes, and flashlight,and climb onto the roof.

  4. Remove the chimney cap. While it's off, clean it with the stiff-bristled brush. Check for damage.

  5. Assemble the chimney brush and rods. Make sure all fittings are securely fastened. Just attach a few rods at first. You'll put more on later.

  6. Lower the brush into the top of the chimney. Attach more rods as necessary for the brush to reach the bottom of the flue. You'll know you're there when you hit the damper assembly.

  7. Work the brush up and down in a scrubbing motion. Check your work with the flashlight. Typically, you'll see the largest concentration of creosote in the upper one third of the chimney, but it's important to scrub the entire length.

  8. When things look good from up above, climb down and go inside. Remove the cloth from the fireplace opening. Be sure there's a cloth on the hearth and the floor where you're working. Use the stiff-bristled brush to scrub the damper assembly and the sides of the firebox.

When you're done, sweep or vacuum up all ashes and other residue. Be sure to check behind the damper and around the smoke shelf for pieces of creosote. If you're cleaning a stovepipe, check all elbows or T connections. Clean your equipment with kerosene to remove creosote residue, and store it away for the next time.

Using creosote prevention products inside the firebox on a regular basis between cleanings will help keep creosote levels down. However, they won't remove existing creosote, so don't substitute them for regular cleaning.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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