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  • Make sure that your log grate is at least 4 inches off the firebox floor.
  • Ensure that the log grate is set all the way back against the firebox back wall.
  • Place a regular-sized log along the back wall at the very back of the grate.
  • Place two or three layers of kindling pieces in front of the log, leaving some space between each piece, and criss-crossing the pieces in each row.
  • Take two or three logs and make a shallow teepee, resting them on the log in back. The peak of your teepee should be near the back wall of the fireplace.
  • Light your gas log lighter pipe, or, if you don’t have gas, loosely wad some newspaper and stuff it under the log grate. Once the fire is going, turn off the gas and add more logs to the teepee shape as needed.
  • Use “seasoned” wood. Seasoned wood has been allowed to air dry naturally for several months and has far less moisture in it than freshly cut or “green” wood, which is still moist with sap.
  • Softwood or hardwood can be burned. Softwood such as pine is less dense than hardwood such as oak. Softwood is easier to get started burning, but burns faster than hardwood.
  • Hardwood requires more time and heat to get started, but the fire will last longer.
  • Check that the damper (if you have one) is open all the way.
  • Look and make sure there is no obstruction in the chimney flue. If you are not comfortable on a roof or cannot see up the entire flue from the fireplace, you may need to call a professional chimney sweep to check it out.
  • If your house is tightly sealed you may have to crack open a window in a back room to allow fresh air to be drawn into the house. The air flow will feed the fire. If you have black, sticky soot build-up on the flue walls that is more than ¼ inch thick, you need to have your chimney and fireplace cleaned.
  • Make sure the log grate is at least 4 inches high and that ashes have not built up under the bottom of the grate. When the air flow beneath the grate is poor, it can cause smoking problems in your fireplace. Also, Make sure that the log grate is set all the way back against the back wall of your firebox.
  • If smoldering wood pieces fall through the wide spaces of the log grate, try putting a piece of screen on the grate to keep those smoking, burning embers off the floor of the firebox.
  • Make sure that you don’t have some other type of fan attempting to exhaust air from the house like a furnace fan or kitchen exhaust. Fans can sometimes pull fresh air into the chimney, which may impede the smoke from moving up and out. Turn off any such fans and see if this makes a difference.

No. We use a powerful vacuum that prevents soot and dust from entering the home, and we are careful to take precautions in order to prevent any mess.

Of course, a chimney sweep cleans chimneys, but a qualified sweep will do more than just sweep chimneys. A certified sweep offers three levels of service. These service levels indicate the depth of the inspection: Level 1 offers basic services and inspection to readily accessible areas; level 2 provides additional checks of chimney conditions and interior flues, and checks of some difficult-to-access spots like crawl spaces and attics; level 3 includes inspection of those areas that have been enclosed. There’s not space enough here for details, so please call me if you’d like more information.

The answer to this question depends on what fuel you use. It also depends on the age of your home, the condition of your chimney, and the weather (mild winters cause more problems than cold ones!). Generally, if you use wood, it’s good to have the chimney cleaned at least every 6-12 months (more often if you burn two or more cords of wood, or if you burn green wood). Oil flues -especially if there’s a ventilation problem- need to be inspected and cleaned each year in order to avoid chimney blockage. Problems in the furnace or boiler can cause highly sooty conditions in the chimney. Even though natural gas is a clean-burning fuel, today’s high-efficiency gas furnaces create special problems. The fumes they produce are cooler and produce higher levels of water vapor than previous models, and this vapor in turn produces more water condensation. These vapors also contain chlorides from house-supplied combustion air which combine to form hydrochloric acid. The acid-water condensates from these latest natural gas furnaces cause more flue deterioration than previous models. It’s important to check the chimneys that vent these systems at least once each year.

This depends a little on what level of inspection you want (see question #5), but most visits take about 60 minutes.

Paying a little bit now can protect your largest investment against fire damage or carbon monoxide poisoning. Proper inspections and maintenance have even saved lives. And besides, a clean chimney simply smells better; the same elements that catch fire also create chimney odors when the chimney is not in use.