Our Company Blog

Why Annual Chimney Sweepings are so Important

The National Fire Protection Association’s standard for chimneys and fireplaces calls for homeowners to have their system inspected and swept each year in order to keep the system as safe as possible. At Weststar Chimney Sweeps, we can make maintenance a breeze, and keep your system in top working order.

The National Fire Protection Association’s standard for chimneys and fireplaces calls for homeowners to have their system inspected and swept each year in order to keep the system as safe as possible. At Weststar Chimney Sweeps, we can make maintenance a breeze, and keep your system in top working order.

When you have a fireplace in your home, the most essential maintenance step you can do is hire a professional chimney sweeping company, such as Weststar Chimney Sweeps, to perform an annual cleaning of your chimney. This task ranks high in importance, as annual chimney sweepings prolong the life of your chimney as well as ensure the safety of your fireplace and chimney. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) has published The Homeowner’s Guide to Chimneys, Fireplaces, and Woodstoves to provide helpful information for understanding how these heating systems work and how to properly maintain them. We would like to share some facts from this guidebook with you to help you understand why annual chimney sweepings are so important.

Removal of Chimney Deposits

According to the CSIA, there are three types of deposits that build up on chimney walls:

  • Soot — Primarily composed of carbon particles and possibly ash remnants, soot can be highly flammable, depending on the concentration of soot and ash. Since ash is not combustible, a higher ash content in soot reduces its flammability.
  • Creosote — Naturally formed during the condensation process, creosote is a highly flammable residue of the by-products of incomplete combustion. Varying in its appearance, creosote can be black or brown, hard and shiny, sticky and tar-like, or crusty and flaky. No matter what it looks like, creosote deposits are hazardous as they are one of the main causes of chimney fires.
  • Glaze — The most difficult deposit to remove, this shiny, tarry substance creates a large amount of fuel to burn and poses a serious danger of a destructive chimney fire.

Removing these deposits is the major reason for annual chimney sweepings. Preventing chimney fires, eliminating chimney odors, ensuring proper venting to the outdoors, removing blockages that could cause toxic gases like carbon monoxide to enter the home, and stopping deterioration to chimney walls from the acids in these deposits are all accomplished during a professional chimney cleaning by removing buildups of soot, creosote, and glaze.

Discovering Essential Repairs

Another important reason to have your chimney swept once a year: CSIA-certified chimney sweeps, including our staff at Weststar Chimney Sweeps, will look at the exterior of your chimney for loose bricks and mortar and other signs of water penetration damage, examine the condition of your flue liner to check for cracks and deterioration, and monitor the venting system of your chimney to ensure the toxic by-products of combustion are exiting through the chimney. When we find any needed repair work, we can fix it for you. We specialize in crown repair, resurfacing, repairing, or replacing damaged flue liners, water leak repair and prevention, and customized repair or replacement of flashing where your chimney meets the roof.

While an annual chimney cleaning generally is sufficient to keep your fireplace and chimney safely maintained, more frequent chimney sweepings should be scheduled under certain conditions. The number of cleanings needed depends on the amount of time your fireplace is used, the installation of your fireplace, the type of fuel used for your fires, and your burning habits. Our chimney sweeps can tell you if your chimney needs to be cleaned more often than once a year.

If you have not scheduled your annual chimney sweeping yet, contact Weststar Chimney Sweeps today to schedule an appointment. Keeping your family safe from the dangers posed by a dirty chimney is one of the most important tasks on your home maintenance checklist.

Levels of Chimney Inspection

If you’re new to chimney ownership, it might surprise you when you learn not only that you need to be scheduling a professional chimney inspection each and every year, but that there are several different types of chimney inspections too.

It is vital to have your chimney inspected thoroughly at least once a year. Let our experts perform one of the three levels of inspection that is needed for your chimney.

It is vital to have your chimney inspected thoroughly at least once a year. Let our experts perform one of the three levels of inspection that is needed for your chimney.

Those different inspections are outlined as three different levels — 1, 2 and 3 — and Weststar Chimney Sweeps technicians are always happy to give you a rundown of when and why different inspections make sense for your system and your home. In the meantime, though, here are some basics to make those levels a little more clear:

Where Did These Levels Of Inspection Come From?

For a long time, the quality or thoroughness of your chimney inspection was largely left up to the individual professional doing the inspecting. While diligent, detailed chimney sweeps (like Weststar’s) have always been around, you generally just didn’t know what you’d get — a detailed peek into the state of your system, a quick glance with a flashlight and a mirror, or anything in between.

In January of 2000, the National Fire Protection Association outlined three different levels of inspection within NFPA 211, the standard by which our work — and the work of other CSIA-certified chimney technicians — is guided. This ensures that you receive a specific level of care, based on your chimney’s circumstances and needs, and that you know what to expect.

So What Should I Expect?

The Level of inspection that Weststar Chimney Sweeps technicians will recommend will be based on your specific system’s needs.

Level 1

If your system hasn’t changed — if you’re burning the same fuel in the same appliance with the same flue liner, etc. — you’ll do well with a Level 1 inspection, the least intricate (but still highly detailed) inspection. We’ll examine all of the readily accessible parts of your chimney, from the firebox up through the flue, interior to exterior, looking for structural soundness, performance issues (like obstructions or excess creosote) and damage (like flue liner cracks that could lead to a leak). After our inspection, we’ll share our detailed findings with you, and make any necessary recommendations.

Level 2

A more detailed Level 2 inspection makes the most sense in a couple of specific circumstances: when something in your system has changed, or if the property is changing hands. So if you’ve changed from wood to gas, added a new fireplace or insert, relined your flue or made other similar changes since your last inspection, Level 2 is appropriate. If you’re buying a home with a fireplace, a Level 2 inspection allows you to get the full picture of what’s about to become your responsibility — and potentially, your problem.

Level 2 inspections include that same thorough, top to bottom, in and out examination as Level 1, but we’ll also check your chimney in attics, basements and crawl spaces, look for proper clearance from combustible building materials and scan the flue using a specialized video camera that lets us get the closest look possible, and show our findings to you.

Level 3

A Level 3 inspection is really only recommended when a potential hazard is found and a closer look is needed — and that closer look can include removing building materials (like doors or drywall) that block off certain concealed areas. With these inspections, we’re leaving no stone unturned so we can be sure we’re aware of any dangerous or damaging problems that need to be addressed.

We’re always happy to talk chimneys — including inspections and other regular maintenance — with our valued clients. If you have questions, or would like to schedule your annual inspection, give Weststar Chimney Sweeps a call!