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3 Tips for Cleaning Your Chimney

Megan WildWith spring already upon us and summer quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to make any necessary repairs to your home's chimney. Since it's likely been working hard all winter long, it's important that you take some time to ensure the cleanliness and operability of your chimney before the weather becomes too hot.  

1. Cleaning via the Rod Method

The first technique we'll look at is also known as the rod method. A rather common practice, the rod method requires you to insert a chimney brush directly inside your chimney. The brush, which has an elongated handle, is then moved up and down in a vigorous, repeated motion.

When performing a chimney cleanse via the rod method, there are two different strategies you can use. The top-down approach, as the name implies, has you cleaning your chimney from the roof of your house. Conversely, the bottom-up method, which is far safer, lets you clean the chimney from the inside of your home. The downside of the bottom-up method really comes in the additional cleanup involved at the end of the job. However, with proper preparation, one can certainly minimize the amount of post-cleanup work involved.

2. Cleaning via Weights and Pulleys

Cleaning a chimney via weights and pulleys isn't quite as common as the rod method outlined above. A process that is typically reserved for taller chimney stacks that span multiple floors, this method requires you to set up a series of ropes, weights and pull rings, which can lower or raise the brush as needed. While it is a bit more involved and complicated than the traditional rod method, weights and pulleys are capable of doing a consistent and complete cleaning job.

In some cases, homeowners might opt to use the dual line method. Highly similar to the process of cleaning a chimney with weights and pulleys, the dual line method requires at least two individuals dedicated to the task. The first worker will take the chimney brush, which is attached to a rope, pull the ring on both ends and lower it into the chimney via the roof. Once through, the second worker takes hold of the free rope and, by taking turns with their partner on the roof, can pull the brush-up and down through the chimney.

In some cases, homeowners might opt to use the dual line method. Highly similar to the process of cleaning a chimney with weights and pulleys, the dual line method requires at least two individuals dedicated to the task. The first worker will take the chimney brush, which is attached to a rope, pull the ring on both ends and lower it into the chimney via the roof. Once through, the second worker takes hold of the free rope and, by taking turns with their partner on the roof, can pull the brush-up and down through the chimney.

3. Primary Inspection Points

It's also important to perform inspections both before and after cleaning your chimney. You'll want to scrutinize multiple inspection points during this process. Make sure to examine the following for cracks and holes:

Chimney siding: Although some chimneys are made entirely of brick, others rely on a false facade of siding to protect the chimney from the elements. If this is the case, make sure to examine every single panel for any cracks, holes or damage of any kind.

Roof vents: Depending on your exact setup, as well as the size of your home, you may have multiple roof vents to tend to. Ensuring these are free of any holes or cracks, and making sure they are properly sealed all the way around, is essential to avoid unnecessary heat loss.

Ground-level vents: You'll also want to inspect your ground-level vents. Many small rodents and critters are known to make winter shelters in open vents, so you'll want to make sure these are clear of any such obstructions.

Dormer vents: Similar to ordinary roofing vents, any dormer vents should also be free of any cracks, holes or damage of any kind. There should also be a full bead of sealant around the entire base of the dormer to prevent leakage.

Loose siding: If you chimney does use siding as an exterior facade, make sure to check for any loose or damaged pieces. These should be replaced immediately to avoid any further damage to your chimney, roof or property.

Fascia boards: Fascia boards are usually used as a foundation for rain gutters, so it's important to ensure the integrity of all fascia. Rotted pieces can be removed and replaced as needed.

Roof lines: Highly complex or large roofs often include numerous roof lines, which technically serve as connection points between individual roof panels. Such lines should be free of any damage or defects and clear of any debris that may have accumulated over the winter months.

Plumbing stacks: Plumbing stacks, which serve as an essential part of the drain-waste-vent system, are typically routed out near a chimney. This hardware should also be checked for integrity and completeness.

Eaves: Eaves and overhangs can take a lot of damage from the elements, especially during harsh winters. Luckily, the process of replacing the eaves on your home is a rather straightforward task.

Pipes: Finally, ensure all of your pipes are in their proper place, free from damage and intact. If necessary, reapply sealant wherever your pipes penetrate the roof to prevent leaks or any further damage.

Choosing the Right Equipment for the Job at Hand

Ultimately, the ease and efficiency of cleaning your chimney depends on having the right equipment for your specific type of chimney. Whether you use the rod method, weights and pulleys method, or even a combination of both, make sure it's the correct method for your chimney and home. A little bit of diligence now can go a long way in protecting and preserving your chimney for years to come.

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