How I Came to Love Construction

How Can You Tell If Your Fireplace Needs To Be Cleaned?

by Wade Black

Fireplaces need to be cleaned periodically or they become a fire hazard. This is because smoke buildup inside a fireplace can lead to the development of a substance called "creosote." Creosote is a sticky, smelly, highly combustible substance that can easily catch fire when a fireplace is in use.

How can you tell if your fireplace needs to be cleaned?

You likely won't notice just by using it that your chimney needs to be cleaned. You may notice a smell coming from your chimney, which could be an indication of creosote buildup.

However, the best way to tell whether or not your chimney should be professionally cleaned is by putting on a pair of goggles and a dust mask and sticking your head up into the fireplace. Use a knife to scrape the soot off of the damper. If the indentation that you scratch into the soot is 1/4 of an inch thick or more, then your chimney should definitely be cleaned as soon as possible.

Can you clean your chimney yourself?

Chimney cleaning is best left to a professional. Chimney cleaners often have special equipment to fully remove the soot and grime from the inside of your chimney. In addition, chimney cleaners typically inspect chimneys at the same time that they perform the cleaning. Getting your chimney inspected while it is cleaned will help ensure that problems with your chimney are caught and remedied in a timely fashion.

Do you still need to clean your fireplace even if you only use it once or twice per year?

If you use your fireplace only a few times per year, it's unlikely that you'll need to clean it annually. However, the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that every chimney owner have their chimney inspected annually, even if they're used very rarely. This is because chimneys can sustain damage even when they're not in use.

For example, over time the flu liner inside the chimney and the mortar between the bricks can start to deteriorate. This is because seismic activity, settling of the house, moisture and age all can take a toll on a chimney. In addition, birds and other pests may choose to build their nests inside chimneys. Bird and animal nests inside a chimney can be a fire hazard, and can also obstruct air flow through the fireplace. Having the chimney inspected annually will help ensure that the chimney is safe to use. For more information, visit sites like