Frequently Asked Questions

Key Insight for Burning Wood: 


  1. Ensure an annual chimney inspection. Have a qualified professional chimney service technician inspect and clean your chimney as needed to reduce the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning caused by creosote buildup or chimney obstructions.
  2. Maintain clearance. Keep tree branches and leaves a minimum of 15 feet away from the chimney’s top to prevent potential hazards.
  3. Install a chimney cap. Use a chimney cap to safeguard against debris and unwanted animals entering your chimney.
  4. Select suitable fuel. Opt for well-seasoned wood for your wood stoves or fireplaces, which should be split and stored in a covered and elevated location for at least six months to a year. Never burn Christmas trees or treated wood in your fireplace or wood stove.
  5. Arrange firewood correctly. Place firewood or firelogs at the back of the fireplace on a supportive grate, utilizing the top-down method.
  6. Maintain a clear hearth area. Avoid placing combustible materials too close to the fireplace or wood stove; keep furniture at least 36 inches away from the hearth.
  7. Use a fireplace screen. Use a metal mesh or screen in front of the fireplace to capture flying sparks and prevent them from igniting or damaging carpets or flooring.
  8. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Place detectors throughout your home and routinely check their batteries in the spring and fall, aligning with Daylight Saving Time adjustments.
  9. Never leave a fire unattended. Ensure fires in the fireplace are completely extinguished before retiring for the night and supervise children and pets closely around wood stoves and fireplaces.
Jack Pixley Chimney Sweep
Chimney Physics "Chimney and venting technicians need to understand house pressure concerns and have and use tools to analyze and make corrections and/or recommendations." Jack Pixley NCSG Sweeping Magazine January 2001

Q: With the rising cost of heating, is there anything I can do to minimize heat loss in the area of my fireplace?

  1. Most fireplaces/chimneys were originally built with a cast iron damper. Unfortunately, these dampers warp and corrode over time, resulting in an incomplete seal for your fireplace.  Installing a top-sealing damper can dramatically cut your energy costs by preventing cold air from ever entering your chimney because it is sealed off from the top.
  1. Installing fireplace doors is a highly effective way to reduce heat loss and enhance your home’s comfort, safety, and energy efficiency. They create a barrier that prevents warm air from escaping and cold air from entering, resulting in a cozier and more efficient heating system. Additionally, fireplace doors improve safety by containing embers and sparks, enhance the fireplace’s functionality and aesthetics, and help maintain a consistent room temperature by minimizing drafts and air circulation, ultimately lowering energy consumption and heating costs.

Q: I’ve noticed a strong soot and ash odor emanating from my fireplace on hot, humid days, and sometimes after rain. What’s causing this, and how can I eliminate it?

First, consider having your chimney and fireplace cleaned if it’s been a while since the last cleaning. If you’ve recently had a cleaning, there might be underlying issues contributing to the smell. These potential causes include issues with negative airflow (such as ensuring your damper is closed), the absence of a rain cover at the chimney’s top, moisture problems within the chimney, a smoke chamber with corbelled brick (which allows creosote buildup), or a chimney that is too short to provide adequate draft for smoke and odors to vent properly. 

Squirrel looking out of a chimney

Q: Why do I need a chimney cap?

Chimney caps are vital for several reasons including:

  • To stop rain – the chimney cap prevents rain, which causes damper and firebox rust leading to expensive repairs, from entering the chimney
  • To stop birds & animals – the chimney cap will not allow birds, squirrels or other animals to enter the chimney.
  • To discourage backdraft – where certain wind conditions exist, the chimney cap will discourage downdrafts.
  • To arrest sparks – the wire mesh reduces the amount of sparks and large ash that is normally blown into the air and onto rooftops.

Q: How is a chimney cleaned, and is it messy?

The chimney cleaning can be done from the top and from the bottom (most commonly done from the bottom). A high speed rotary “brush” expands (centrifugal force) while inside the chimney and scrubs the entire flue area, the smoke chamber above the damper, and the firebox. This new system cleans much better than the old-fashioned hand & wire brushes. A vacuum is set up at the bottom to collect all the dust and debris before it enters your home.

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