Over the years, many myths have circulated about fireplaces and chimneys. Some people learned outdated methods of maintenance from family members. Other people learned about chimney cleaning from articles online. Because there is tons of information out there, it is hard to know what, and who, to trust. So, we compiled five urban legends about chimneys to help you separate fact from fiction.
- inside the flue of a chimney
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Urban Legend #1:
Creosote buildup in your chimney can be burned out by "running the fireplace hot."
The truth is this is a horrible idea. This practice has been done in the past but it is pretty dangerous. When you "run the fireplace hot", you risk overheating the frame and surrounding areas of your fireplace. In a worst-case scenario, it could spew hot ash onto the roof of your home and cause a fire. So, needless to say, no matter who tells you that you can burn creosote out, don't listen to them, unless you have a great home insurance policy.
Urban Legend #2:
Chimneys that are rarely used don't need inspections.
If smoke and gas were the only issues at play here, this could be true. Though, the structural integrity of your fireplace and chimney are just as important as keeping the flue clean. Even fireplaces that are never used need to be inspected occasionally to make sure the materials holding them together are still intact.
- living room fireplace
Gas fireplaces don't create build up like wood fireplaces. So, you may be tempted to skip the inspection because yours is fueled by gas and rarely used, but please don't. Spending a small amount on regular maintenance will save you from a huge issue in the long run. Regular chimney checkups are very important.
Urban Legend #3:
Heavy creosote buildup in the chimney is the result of burning soft woods.
Contrary to popular belief, the type of wood isn't so much the problem as what the difference in temperature is between the flue gasses and flue walls. Softwoods contain more sap and pitch than hardwoods and so they can lead to buildup of creosote, but only if the chimney performs poorly and has a tendency to develop condensation that traps soot, leading to creosote creation.
- creosote buildup
One tip to reduce creosote buildup is burning dry wood. That may seem like a no brainier. Though, if you don't test your wood with a wood moisture meter before burning, you may end up with slightly moist wood that burns at a lower temperature than you intended. It's hard to look at wood & know if it is dry enough. So, it's best to use a wood moisture meter to be sure.
If you notice that your chimney seems to draw poorly unless the fire is kept very hot, there are likely other issues that need to be investigated. No matter the fuel, a chimney the draws poorly will always create more creosote.
Urban Legend #4:
Homeowners can save money by cleaning their chimneys themselves.
The answer to this is yes and no. Yes, it is true that homeowners can and should clean their own chimneys at least once a quarter to prevent creosote buildup. Light sweeping with the right tools will keep the buildup at bay and help you save money in the long run. Professionals shouldn't have to clean your chimney more than once a year if you regularly sweep it yourself.
- chimney brush
Though, don't try to skip the pros completely. They have specialized tools that can do a deep cleaning. If you do not want to invest in those tools yourself, you'll need someone who has them to clean your chimney thoroughly. The pros are also trained in looking for signs of wear and tear. They are trained to notice damage long before it turns into a major problem. So, working with a good chimney sweep will pay off in the long run.
Urban Legend #5:
The best chimney sweep is cheap & fast.
This goes right along with what we just discussed. We all understand the desire to pinch pennies where we can. Though, protecting your house from fires and structural damage is worth every dime you spend on a good chimney sweep. If a chimney sweep says he will only charge you $25 - $50 for a "quick" cleaning, you can be assured he is getting the better end of the deal.
- chimney sweep
A thorough chimney cleaning can cost between $150 - $300 and take an hour or longer. It may seem expensive and inconvenient, but these kinds of cleanings are only needed once a year. So, investing in a yearly sweep and one chimney brush to use the rest of the time will be a great start to protect your chimney and your home for years to come.
For today, that is all of the urban legends we will discuss. Though, you should be on the lookout for more articles like this one in the future. We love creating content that serves you and hope to see you on the site again soon.