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How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 05:21 PM   #1
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How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Just cleaned my chimney for the first time, and it was quite easy, once I got the bugs out.* Thought I'd pass on what I learned.

Last year I asked the chimney sweep how to do it.* He told me: "Sweep the brush down the flue (metal), and scoop out the creosote that will land here (on the smoke shelf)."* On my system, the top of the chimney is easily accessible, and the design of my woodstove-like fireplace lends itself to easy cleaning (for some you have to do some disassembly).

I kept my eye out at garage sales and finally found a chimney brush (new) for $1.* Next I had to get the interconnecting rods.* Those cost $5 each, and I'd need 5 for the 20 foot length of my chimney.* So instead, I got two 12 foot lengths of PVC pipe, along with the appropriate fittings to be able to glue everything together.* *Total cost incl brush: $8.68.

Next, it was up to the rooftop.* *I found that the chimney cap (spark arrestor) just popped off, and I was ready to go.* I put the brush in and it immediately got stuck.* Not surprising, since the brush was for an 8" flue, and I had a 7" flue.* *It took a while to dig it out.

So at that point I could have gotten in the car and driven 25 miles to the hardware store and purchased a 7" brush for $22.* But instead, I reasoned that it would be faster and cheaper to cut one half inch off of all the (500) bristles (they were plastic).* I taped a little guide on my wire cutters and about 45 tedious minutes later I was ready to go back up on the roof.

The brush was still a tight fit, but it worked.

At this point I simply pushed the brush down through the chimney.* When it got half way down, I screwed on the second PVC pipe and pushed it the rest of the way.* Each time I'd pass the connections between different sections of flue it would make a different noise.*

I had DW in the living room with a walkie-talkie to tell me whether any dust was coming out, but there was none.

Finally I felt it pass out the bottom of the flue.* I then pulled it back up.* I did this twice.* The part of the flue that I could see was 100% clean, so I decided that was enough, and cleaned off the cap and put it back on.*

Down in the living room I scooped out the creosote that had accumulated on the smoke shelf.* This involved reaching in there with a trowel, and putting the creosote into a paper bag for the compost.* This was less messy than expected, though I'd recommend a dust mask.

I cleaned up and put things away.* That was all there was to it.

I figure I'll do this each year, but every third year have a chimney sweep inspect it.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 05:41 PM   #2
 
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Don't you just start a real hot fire every year and burn the stuff out?

Maybe not? - I have natural gas now and don't have to deal with it.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 07:31 PM   #3
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

CT, your method is how houses burn down. Though generally running a fire hot helps keep chimneys clean.

Where I grew up we heated with wood. One of my jobs was cleaning the chimney. We followed Al's method. One difference was the brush, our brush had metal bristles. I assume you have a metal flue which might be damaged by a metal brush. We also had several attachments. IIRC, we had some kind of heavy ball to whack around inside the chimney to loosen things up.

This is one job I do not miss. Along with dealing with all that damn wood.

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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 07:42 PM   #4
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Al, I feel it is my solemn duty to let you know that "in the old days" chimney sweeps used to die young of cancer of the scrotum. True, actually. They would apparently straddle the top of the chimney while they removed carcinogenic tars and other chemicals. Repeat several times a day for 10 years, and voila.

Martha, you may safely disregard the above caution.

So, please keep your pants on at all times while doing this chore.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 07:43 PM   #5
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney


This is not the first time I have been glad NOT to have a scotum.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 07:44 PM   #6
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
This is not the first time I have been glad NOT to have a scotum.
What's a scotum ?
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 07:45 PM   #7
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
CT, your method is how houses burn down. Though generally running a fire hot helps keep chimneys clean.
What Martha said.

Quote:
Where I grew up we heated with wood. One of my jobs was cleaning the chimney. We followed Al's method. One difference was the brush, our brush had metal bristles. I assume you have a metal flue which might be damaged by a metal brush. We also had several attachments. IIRC, we had some kind of heavy ball to whack around inside the chimney to loosen things up.

This is one job I do not miss. Along with dealing with all that damn wood.
We used some kind of chain, I think. Lower it down the chimney and wave it around to knock the deposits off. A job best saved for mid-winter, so that if you fall off the roof, there should be a nice, deep snowbank waiting to cushion your fall.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 07:47 PM   #8
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Quote:
Originally Posted by MasterBlaster
What's a scotum ?
Ha Ha.* I have neither a scrotum nor a scotum, or anything else that dangles down there.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 07:50 PM   #9
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Eh, nm.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 07:54 PM   #10
 
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
CT, your method is how houses burn down. Though generally running a fire hot helps keep chimneys clean.
I agree, if you let the chimney get dirty for years. But, I have heard that if you have regular hot fires every year that deposits will not build up to the point they are dangerous.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 07:58 PM   #11
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

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Originally Posted by bpp
Eh, nm.
You weren't fast enough! I saw what you posted. I knew I was asking for it.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 08:25 PM   #12
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
CT, your method is how houses burn down. Though generally running a fire hot helps keep chimneys clean.

Where I grew up we heated with wood. One of my jobs was cleaning the chimney. We followed Al's method. One difference was the brush, our brush had metal bristles. I assume you have a metal flue which might be damaged by a metal brush. We also had several attachments. IIRC, we had some kind of heavy ball to whack around inside the chimney to loosen things up.

This is one job I do not miss. Along with dealing with all that damn wood.

I don't recall my parents or grandparents ever cleaning the chimneys.

I do recall occasional chimney fires.
--------------
November in Upstate NY, mid 1960s. Mother lights a fire. Chimney fire starts.

Sounds like a rocket taking off in the house.

Mother shuts the draft, rolls the logs onto the hearth, throws a bucket of water on the logs, throws the logs one by one onto the front lawn, then fills a garbage can with water and puts in the logs.

Father pulls ladder out of the garage, puts it against the house, hooks up the hose, and climbs the ladder to wet down the roof where the embers are falling (yelling at me to turn on the faucet to the hose).

Cats see fire, ladder, hose, and scurrying people; and depart for the woods.

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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 08:29 PM   #13
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

wow, al, Red Green would be impressed ...I have the fiberglass rods that just screw together and they have the correct brushes right off the shelf at most of the home improvement stores....I end up sweeping ours x2 per your for peace of mind.....
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-26-2006, 10:04 PM   #14
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cut-Throat
I agree, if you let the chimney get dirty for years. But, I have heard that if you have regular hot fires every year that deposits will not build up to the point they are dangerous.
* Don't play there C-T!* You're the HOA president.* Call in the professionals before you get yourself and DW toasted.* You live in a townhouse for a reason.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-27-2006, 06:47 AM   #15
 
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Quote:
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Don't play there C-T! You're the HOA president. Call in the professionals before you get yourself and DW toasted. You live in a townhouse for a reason.
Yeah, and if you read my post correctly you'll note that I don't have wood burning fireplaces anymore. I have 2 natural gas ones.

Quote:
Don't you just start a real hot fire every year and burn the stuff out?

Maybe not? - I have natural gas now and don't have to deal with it.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-27-2006, 07:17 AM   #16
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

We have a fireplace insert (700 lbs.), and after I get it dragged out, I do it like Al does. Except I'm so cheap I have a hoe with an extra handle duct-taped to the end and I use that. Chimney is only 12' tall, and I only have to reach down about 9'.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-27-2006, 08:41 AM   #17
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cut-Throat
I agree, if you let the chimney get dirty for years. But, I have heard that if you have regular hot fires every year that deposits will not build up to the point they are dangerous.
Yes, having regular hot fires help keep a chimney clean. But you should still sweep it out every year and have it inspected for cracks, etc every few years.

A lot of people now have catalytic converters on their wood stoves or inserts, this can contribute to cooler fires. Burning unseasoned wood can gum up your chimney too.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-27-2006, 05:30 PM   #18
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Wow I am amazed at the things I learn on this web site . It never even once occured to me to clean my chimmny myself . Every year I put on my list "call a chimmney sweep" and every year I put it off cause I don't know a reputable one and we only light a dozen or so fires. I'm gonna have to look for one of those brushes next time I'm at the home improvement store.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-27-2006, 05:40 PM   #19
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Interesting pattern in the Midwest:

Couple of cool nights in Autumn -> couple of small fires in the fireplace in morning.

A bit later:

Cold spell -> big roaring fire -> chimney (and sometimes house) fire.
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney
Old 09-27-2006, 06:55 PM   #20
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Re: How to Clean Your Own Chimney

Quote:
I have natural gas now
C-T: try some soda-bicarb*
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