Frequent Chimney Questions

Q1: When is the best time to have a fireplace & chimney cleaned? Answer…

Q2: I have a leak around my fireplace and I was told it was caused by the chimney absorbing water. I paid to have my chimney worked on & I still have a leaky chimney. When I call the company that did the work they keep saying they will send someone out, but its been over 2 months and they still have not shown up. The reason I’m calling your company is a friend of mine said that she had a similar problem and your company NOT only stopped the leak on your 1st trip out, but you also called her to verify after it rained that the problem was solved. She was also impressed with your company policy that she didn’t have to pay until after it rained. Is this really a company policy at THE FIREPLACE DOCTOR? Answer…

Q3: I heat with gas, should this chimney be checked also? Answer…

Q4: Lately I have seen two different kinds of logs you can buy called “Chimney Sweeping Logs” and “Supersweep” that supposedly clean your chimney. How can the logs I am burning CAUSE creosote build up in the flue, while these other logs are supposed to REMOVE it? What is so magical about these logs? Do they even work? If so, is one better than the other? Answer…

Q5: When our home was built in the 1940′s the fireplace was put in without a damper, but had glass doors. The odor of smoke and ash is especially prevalent during the rainy seasons even though I had the fireplace and chimney cleaned. Do you have any suggestions about how to prevent the smell or mask it? We do not want to install a damper because we are afraid it will change the draw of the fireplace. Answer…

Q6: What is a chase cover? Answer…

Q7: My fireplace sometimes smells, especially during the summer when it is hot and humid. Can this be fixed? Answer…

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A1: Normally, I would say as soon as the burning season is over in April or May. The reason for this is simply, have it cleaned immediately so that you won’t have the smells of a dirty fireplace all spring & summer long. You are going to have it cleaned anyway before the burning season, so why not have the additional benefit of a clean fireplace & chimney for six-extra months for the same money.The exception to this would be if you are having a draft problem or strong smells caused by your fireplace. In this situation, put out your fire immediately & CALL THE FIREPLACE DOCTOR, remember, “If your chimneys’ sick, We’ll be there Quick!”

A2: YES, This is our policy and it has been for years. The reasons I started this policy were not the least of which was the anger I felt from customers because they felt they had already been burned, and canned in many situations multiple times, and were leery of paying out more dollars. I could understand their feelings, but I did not like the distrust that I would feel when talking to good people and knowing they were wondering if I was just another incompetent person wanting to make a fast buck. My thoughts on this subject are simple, you still have your leak, you should still have your money. When using a fireplace technician sent out by THE FIREPLACE DOCTOR, your dollars are NOT at risk, and quite frankly neither are ours. Having offered this policy to our customers for over ten years there has NEVER been a customer that has not paid. And I’m also very happy to say there has never been a leak that we have not solved, and except in very rare occasions in the first trip out. Again, for me the choice was easy, because I know solving leaks has nothing to do with luck—knowledge, experience, pride and workmanship will beat the leak every time, but don’t take my word for it, give us the challenge, keep your dollars until after it rains. When we call you after it rains, we’re not calling you for the money, we know it’s good, our calls are called “Happy Calls” we strive to communicate with as many of our customers as possible to ensure their experience with THE FIREPLACE DOCTOR was positive and to ask if there was anything that we could change to make our dealings with future clients more professional & satisfying. We encourage any and all suggestions.

A3: Yes, Without a doubt. Although gas is generally a cleaner burning fuel, the chimney cap can become non-functional from birds nests or other debris blocking the flue. Also, remember burning wood unlike gas, you will smell smoke, with gas carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and laughing gas are odorless giving you no warning at all. You should definitely have a professional chimney cleaning done at least once a year (with most fireplace and chimney systems once will be sufficient).

A4: It isn’t really the logs that are supposed to do anything. Its the chemicals they are impregnated with, and chemical products that claim to clean or assist in cleaning chimneys are nothing new. In fact there are actually some chemicals used by professional chimney sweeps in conjunction with mechanical sweeps. Specifically, in some extreme situations, a chimney can develop third-degree creosote that is so hard that it cannot be removed by mechanical brushing alone. In these cases certain liquid chemical catalysts may be sprayed directly onto the glaze to alter its chemical composition, turning it into a brittle or powdery condition so it can be swept out.

From what we have read and observed, the “chimney Sweeping Log” and “Supersweep” products being marketed likely contain some sort of similar chemical catalyst. If they do, here’s how they would work: the chemical would be carried up the flue by the rising exhaust gasses , where it would deposit on the glaze in dry form and, over the course of several subsequent fires, break it down so it could be swept out.

We have a couple of problems with the marketing of these logs: first their names are misleading. You might expect a product called The Chimney Sweeping Log or Supersweep to sweep your chimney, or at least perform an equivalent function. The actual claim in the fine print is that the chemical contained might reduce creosote by as much as 60%. Second, we have not found chemical catalysts to be of any use whatsoever on first- or second- stage creosote deposits, which comprise about 90% of the deposits we find in chimneys. Third, even if your flue was coated with glaze creosote and the chemical in the chimney sweeping log broke it down as much as 60%, it would still represent a considerable safety hazard until it was physically removed by sweeping.

The Washington Public Fire Educators Association has come to a similar conclusion, and published the following position paper:

Chimney Sweeping Logs:

The use of chimney sweeping logs (and similar products) alone is not an adequate substitute for mechanical chimney cleaning and inspection because it does not provide for the same level of protection to the chimney system.

Vital Points:

Each time you burn wood in your fireplace or wood stove , tar and creosote are formed and over time, will build up on the inside of your chimney. This build up is highly flammable and can ignite causing a chimney fire. To prevent chimney fires, the fire service has long recommended having your chimney cleaned and inspected annually by a licensed professional. But now, a new product called the “Chimney Sweeping Log” has many citizens wondering whether an annual mechanical cleaning remains necessary. The manufacturer of the Chimney Sweeping Log claims that the product contains “specially developed minerals” that act to reduce deposits of tar and creosote thus reducing the risk of chimney fires. To use the product, you simply place the log in your fireplace or wood stove and allow it to burn for roughly an hour and a half. The product’s web site boasts that “the burning of a single Chimney Sweeping Log can reduce build-up by 60%”.

Washington Public Fire Educators (WPFE) is concerned about these claims. While we won’t dispute what these fire logs will do, we feel that it is vital to address what they won’t do. If these logs manage to loosen creosote so it flakes off the flue walls as the advertisements claim, where does that creosote go? It either catches fire as it flakes off and increases potential for a chimney fire through the intense burning, or it falls to the bottom and collects on the smoke shelf, thus causing a future hazard.

WPFE believes that the safest and most effective chimney maintenance is achieved through annual inspections and mechanical sweeping.

The basic task of a chimney sweep is to clean chimneys. The cleaning process includes 1) removing the hazard of accumulated and highly combustible creosote produced by burning wood and wood products, 2) eliminating the build-up of soot in coal- and oil-fired systems and 3) removing bird and animal nests, leaves, and other debris that may create a hazard by blocking the flow of emissions from a home heating appliance. In addition to the cleaning , chimney inspections often reveal hidden problems within the structure that could potentially be dangerous such as breaks or breaches in the flue.

Mechanical sweeping of the chimneys not only removes layers of creosote from surfaces, it also eliminates the resulting debris from the chimney, fireplace, or wood stove. Many chimneys are not constructed in a straight path from the firebox to the outside. If chimney-cleaning products perform as claimed and cause debris in the chimney to fall, that debris must still be removed from the smoke shelf, baffle, catalytic combustion, or offset in order to ensure a safe and properly functioning chimney.

A5: We encourage you to reconsider your decision not to install a damper. If you have a normal firebox, about three feet wide and two feet deep with a normal flue, you should have no problem with the draw when the damper is open.

Seasonal high-pressure ridges mean clear skies and cold air. Warm air rises and cold air falls. We think you are getting a downdraft through your damper-less chimney.

The glass doors on your fireplace are preventing the relatively warmer air in the house from escaping up the flue and counter balancing the cold air from outdoors. This is good for your heating bill, but results in the smell of ashes from the firebox. The glass doors are not airtight, hence the odor.

We suggest that you install an Energy Efficient Hurricane Proof Lock Top Damper. It functions as both a cap and a damper for your chimney.

A chimney cap/damper is a spring loaded metal cover that retracts to form a seal on top of the chimney when the fireplace is not in use. A chain is threaded down the chimney and bolted to a lever in the firebox, allowing the damper to be opened and closed from inside the home.

When you want a fire, simply release the chain and the cap opens, allowing the smoke to escape. The draft of your fireplace should not be affected; the odor should be gone; and you’ll have the added benefit of restricting the flow of warm air up the chimney.

We have had a great success in restraining the installed Lock Top Dampers on the chimneys instead of having them blown off during the powerful hurricanes our area has experienced.

A6: A chase cover is a metal shield that covers the top of your chimney, or chase, to prevent rain, melting snow, and anything else from entering the chimney.

A7: This smell, which can be described as stale campfire smell, comes from a flow reversal “downdraft” that is common when it is hot and humid. You can reduce your smell by having your system inspected and swept.The damper system will also be tuned to ensure a proper fit. There are also deodorizers available to help those really bad situations.

If you’re looking for chimney services then give us a call today at 1-888-565-0124 or email us.