Cleaning Your Own Fireplace vs. Hiring a Chimney Sweep in NYC

It’s winter: Time to enjoy your fireplace! Before you do though, it’s important to make sure that it’s clean and safe. Get ready for that first fire with our tips for cleaning your own fireplace or (if you’re not up for that) hiring a chimney sweep.

Cold weather has finally arrived in New York, which means it’s time to enjoy your fireplace! Before you do though, it’s important to make sure that it’s clean and safe. Get ready for that first fire with our tips for cleaning your fireplace or, if you’re not up for that, hiring a chimney sweep.

Why Bother with Inspection?

Build up of soot and creosote, the residue that remains after burning a fire, is flammable and may cause a chimney fire. Inspect your chimney yearly. The more often you use your fireplace, the heavier the buildup will be. (Tip: Reduce creosote buildup by using dry logs.)

Chimney Sweeping Tools

Image Source: Flickr

Chimney Sweeping Tools

Chimney cleaning is a messy job, but it’s something that many people do on their own. You’ll need the following tools (found at most home supply stores):

  • Chimney brush: Choose plastic poly for stainless steel chimney liners and steel for traditional masonry. Measure your chimney to determine the correct brush size.
  • Cleaning rods
  • Flashlight
  • Drop cloths
  • Dust mask
  • Protective glasses
  • Gloves
  • Ladder

Start by choosing a day with very little wind, as strong gusts may push debris into your home.

Chimneys are generally cleaned top-down. If you don’t have access to your apartment’s roof, you can clean the chimney from the bottom up. It will be much messier, though.

Sweeping Your Own Chimney

Fireplace debris is hazardous to your health, so start by donning the dust mask, glasses, and gloves. Open the damper and use the flashlight to examine the chimney. Look for cracks in the liner (it may need to be replaced or repaired) and soot/creosote buildup.

Creosote thickness determines whether or not your chimney needs to be cleaned — try scraping it off with pliers. If the creosote is:

  • Paper-thin: Your fireplace doesn’t need to be cleaned.
  • 1/8-inch thick: It should be cleaned.
  • 1/4-inch thick: It must be cleaned before use.

To begin, start by sealing off the fireplace opening using drop cloths. The will prevent debris from scattering around your home; however, you may want to cover furniture using additional drop cloths.

Climb onto your roof and use the ladder to reach your chimney, if needed. Inspect the area around the chimney first. Remove debris, such as leaves and overhanging branches. Look for broken bricks, cracked or missing mortar, and flashing issues.

Remove and clean the chimney cap. Set it aside. Insert the chimney brush, adding rods for additional length, swirling until you reach to the bottom. Draw the brush back up, swirling as you go. Repeat this process until you’ve removed all buildup. Replace the cap.

Return to the inside and carefully remove the drop cloth. Sweep the smoke chamber, clean the firebox, and vacuum the smoke shelf.

Remove soot from the exterior using warm water and a brush. For tough stains, scrub with a paste of baking soda and water; then rinse with water.

Cleaning a Fireplace or HIring a Chimney Sweep

Image Source: Flickr/Tom Chapman

Hiring a Professional Chimney Sweep

If you’ve never cleaned a chimney before or are uncomfortable with the process, consider hiring a professional. You can always pay someone once, watch what they’re doing, ask questions, and then do it yourself next time.

Look for a certified sweep who has insurance and workman’s compensation in case of an accident. Ask for references and check them.

To find a certified chimney sweep in New York, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America. A zip code search will pull up a list of certified Manhattan sweeps.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be ready for the first fire in your NYC home in no time!

Main Image Source: Flickr


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