There are lots of areas to consider when deciding how often you should clean a chimney. We will cover whether stove type matters, issues to look out for, and the dangers of a dirty chimney. These topics will help you make a more informed decision on how often you will be comfortable cleaning your chimney.
If we were doing a TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read): You should have your chimney cleaned or inspected once a year due to safety concerns.
Does my type of stove have a factor in how often I should clean my chimney?
The short answer is no; chimneys should be cleaned annually. The longer answer is yes.
There are a few different types of fuel used in stoves, so that can change how often a chimney is cleaned. The few we will mention are wood-burning, oil-burning, pellet, and gas-burning stoves. In the case of the first three, wood, oil, and pellet, there are more soot and creosote deposits that form in the burning of these materials. This increase in soot and creosote deposits is what needs to be cleaned from the chimney. It is generally accepted that when these deposits get 1/8th inch thick, your chimney is due for a cleaning.
As stated, cleaning your chimney once a year is the best rhythm you should get into if you use your chimney with any frequency. However, this is the longer answer. If you want a stove that you can clean less frequently than annually, then you would need a gas-burning stove. Gas-burning stoves produce less creosote deposits. This can mean that it is possible to go longer than one year between cleanings. We still recommend annual inspections to help determine this.
Oil and pellet stoves definitely need annual cleaning. However, if you are really only using your wood-burning stove for holidays and special occasions, you might be able to get by safely only cleaning it once every two years.
Will I ever need to clean my chimney more than once a year?
Absolutely! If you notice any one of these issues, you should have your chimney inspected immediately.
1. Excessive smoke inside your home
2. Visible buildup of soot or creosote deposits
3. Inability to start or keep a fire going
4. Signs of animal activity, such as droppings or nests in the chimney
5. Presence of foul odors
Is a dirty chimney actually dangerous?
It certainly is! You are lighting a fire inside your house. It is both the job of the fireplace and the chimney to allow this to happen safely. If both aren’t properly maintained, safety can become an issue. Here are a few ways in which a dirty chimney can be dangerous.
1. Fires. Yes. A fire in your fireplace can set your chimney itself on fire if you are not having it cleaned often enough. The creosote deposits we’ve mentioned are flammable. A chimney fire is quite dangerous and can cause structural damage. In some cases, when the chimney has been neglected, and the buildup of deposits is significant, the chimney fire can grow into a house fire. Although this alone should be enough to have your chimney properly inspected or cleaned annually, there are more reasons.
2. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Everyone can guess that the purpose of a chimney is to properly vent the smoke from a fire outside, but there is another byproduct of fuel consumption, carbon monoxide. This gas is extremely dangerous as it is colorless and odorless. If you have a chimney, or even if you don’t, and you or your family starts experiencing headaches, dizziness, nausea, or even confusion, open some windows and get out of the house to see if fresh air helps. This gas can be fatal.
3. Air Quality. Beyond the dangers of carbon monoxide, smoke and all the other byproducts of burning a fuel source can become an issue when your chimney is dirty or working properly. The soot and creosote can find their way into the air and cause problems for anyone with a respiratory condition or allergies. Blocked or even partially blocked chimneys will allow the smoke to infiltrate your living space and decrease the quality of the air you breathe at home.
Okay, but how costly is it?
Well, the bigger question, especially after we’ve talked about fires, is what the cost might be if you avoid getting your chimney cleaned.
Before we talk about a possible price range, understand that by having a properly serviced chimney, you will be saving money in increased efficiency in your heating system. A dirty chimney can obstruct the flue. Along with the dangers mentioned, when a chimney doesn’t vent properly, it reduces the efficiency of your fireplace. Your fuel source may be producing more soot through incomplete combustion, which ultimately decreases the efficiency of said source. This means you need to burn more to reach the specific level of heat and comfort you are attempting. Thus also costing you more money in fuel expenses.
The average cost will depend on lots of factors that are dependent on your specific location, your specific chimney, your specific level of creosote buildup, etc. In an average location, though, you should feel comfortable paying around $100 to $300. If you have lots of buildup, require repairs (including roof repair), need additional services, you should expect an increase in cost for these.
Is it worth it?
Yes! While having your chimney inspected or cleaned annually is indeed an expense, remember our TLDR: You should have your chimney cleaned or inspected once a year due to safety concerns. The most important part of this is the safety concerns. The cleaning of your chimney is an investment in the health of yourself and your family. Neglecting the annual inspection of your chimney has the potential to cause structural damage, possibly cause fatal health hazards such as carbon monoxide poisoning, and even allow the risk of an entire house fire. In our opinion, the risk of neglect far outweighs the cost or hassle of having your chimney cleaned annually.