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chimney cleaning question
Old 12-01-2007, 02:23 PM   #1
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chimney cleaning question

I had my chimnies cleaned once about 10-12 years ago.

I have one chimney for a wood-burning stove that I use only for emergencies like power outages. I use it less than 10 times per year and probably less in the earlier years. The chimney has a cap on the top to keep out animals etc.

The other chimney has two parts - one for the oil furnace and one for the fireplace. I have not used the fireplace at all since the last cleaning.

The oil furnace runs all year long and makes hot water during the summer.

I made an appointment with a chimney sweep and they said that the oil furnace makes more stuff to be cleaned than the wood stove. I had been under the assumption that oil burns relatively clean and the chimney does not need to be cleaned often. I thought that the wood stove with the creosote build up was the issue.

The chimney sweep did not show up last Thursday since in had a few showers during the scheduled time. They have yet to contact me to announce that they are not coming or to reschedule. I had asked that they call me one way or the other Thursday morning so I could plan to be home or not.

I am leaning toward skipping the cleaning this year and having it done in the spring.

The temperature is currently in the low 40's but I expect it to drop in the next week or two. I am worried that they might crack the asphalt roof shingles if they go up when it is too cold.

Can anyone confirm how often oil furnace chimnies need to be cleaned?

Do you think I can slide by until spring?

If I try to look up the chimney with a mirror in the cleanout opening what should I look for?

Thanks.
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Old 12-01-2007, 04:40 PM   #2
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Oil furnace chimneys dont require cleaning very often, providing the furnace has been regularly serviced and adjusted for optimum efficiency. The latter should be done yearly, and never more than a couple of years between measurements, cleaning and adjustment.

What could happen to you is corrosion or other damage to the chimney liner. Depends on what sort of chimney you have and how its lined. If its an old clay lined unit it might have some flaking or cracking and need work. If its got a galvanized liner, you could probably go 20-30 years between repairs and cleaning.

You'd basically be looking for interior damage with the mirror, but thats going to be tough to see with a full chimney cap.
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:42 PM   #3
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Other thing I should have said is that if you havent been having your burner tuned annually, you might have a heck of a lot of soot layered inside the chimney and that could partially block or flake off back into the furnace, neither of which is good.

Your cleanout hole might not be to the right chimney either. There should be two separate liners/stacks in the chimney, one for the wood stove and one for the furnace. If you're actually sharing the same stack, that'd be a little bit dangerous and at best very, very old code.

Also, if its an old masonry/brick chimney, you could be seeing some damage from the outside in. Exterior examination of the chimney would be as important as interior.

Unless the roof shingles are cupping (another whole set of problems), I wouldnt be too concerned about walking on them in cold weather. Even if the shingles are cupped, walking on the part in the muddle that isnt curled is probably okay.
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Old 12-01-2007, 07:17 PM   #4
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Can anyone confirm how often oil furnace chimnies need to be cleaned?

Do you think I can slide by until spring?

If I try to look up the chimney with a mirror in the cleanout opening what should I look for?

Thanks.
Try checking out hearth.com forum. You can ask the question there, or read the FAQ's.
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Old 12-01-2007, 09:56 PM   #5
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You will have to check on this, but my recollection is that old furnaces themselves should be cleaned and serviced every year. Oil burns dirty as compared to natural gas or propane. However, the chimney flue which vents the oil furnace unlikely needs to be cleaned, though it should be inspected.


Wood stove/fireplace chimneys should really be cleaned every year, especially if you don't run a hot fire frequently. And yes, this is not the greatest time of year to clean a chimney. If you regularly burn wood, depending on how expensive your local sweeps are and how high your roof and chimney, you might consider buying a chimney cleaning kit. We always cleaned our own wood stove chimney and it isn't difficult. The primary issue is falling off the roof.
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Old 12-02-2007, 09:30 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies.

I have my furnace serviced and adjusted once a year every year since it is on a service contract from the oil company.

The wood stove chimney is completely separate from the furnace chimney, but the fireplace chimney is in the same brick stack.

I opened up the access door for the oil furnace chimney and there was a lot of black stuff in the bottom of it. I am assuming that this is the carbon and sulphur residue that has fallen down from the sides of the chimney.

I started to dig it out with a garden trowel and collected about 3 gallons so far. I think that is about 60% of what is in there. I had to stop in order to complete other projects that were outside and required daylight. I will continue tomorrow.

I did not have a mirror that would fit into the opening, so I will go to CVS tomorrow and try to get a small one so I can take a look. The furnace chimney does not have a cap so it should be ok. I think I will try to get a cap next spring but it has to be custom made due to the two holes.

I will probably have the chimney sweep come if they call me back to reschedule. If not, I will wait until the spring and then have a good inspection and cleaning so I can get off on the right foot.

I also need to replace the access doors, but my cousin told me that it is easy to chisel them out and put new ones in yourself so I will do that next year as well.

Thanks again for the thoughtful replies and for all of the other posts which I read on my nightly lurking sessions.
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Old 12-02-2007, 10:13 PM   #7
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Only other thing I can tell ya is that what you shoveled out was soot, and thats generally from poor combustion. So either your furnace is older than 20-25 years, or the guy doing the tuning work is doing a whiff job. He should be sticking a probe into a small open hole in the chimney near the furnace and doing about 4 tweaks to the burn to get the combustion right.

About the only way you'd have buckets of soot is an old coal-to-oil conversion burner/furnace or a fairly untuned furnace.

I'd play it cool with the contract oil company guys. "Gee, I had my chimney cleaned and the guy took out about 6 buckets of soot...he said my burner might not be tuned right...can you check that?" and see what they do that might be different from what they've done in the past. Then rinse and repeat for following years...
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Old 12-02-2007, 10:56 PM   #8
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......I will wait until the spring and then have a good inspection and cleaning so I can get off on the right foot.

I also need to replace the access doors, but my cousin told me that it is easy to chisel them out and put new ones in yourself so I will do that next year as well.........
You must be retired. Anyone who says "I can do that next year" has got to be a retiree!!
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Old 12-03-2007, 07:32 PM   #9
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You must be retired. Anyone who says "I can do that next year" has got to be a retiree!!
Unfortunately I am still a w*rker. But I am a retiree at heart.
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Old 12-05-2007, 11:05 AM   #10
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CFB is right. I cleaned a similar amount of soot out of our chimney. It was easy to get on that roof. What we used to do , every few years was cut the tippy-top off the Christmas tree and tie it in the center of a long rope. Get on the roof and lower the rope down the chimney. Get a kid to pull the rope, when the tree-brush gets to the bottom, pull it back up and out... you're done except for the sweep up.
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