That Lives in My Chimney! D.C. Sweeps Do More Than Keep Out Critters

That Lives in My Chimney! D.C. Sweeps Do More Than Keep Out Critters

Is it feeling like fireplace weather for you yet? Probably. September is when most Washington residents start thinking about their chimneys and a roaring fire.

“After Labor Day there’s a general shift in attitudes here about fireplaces and chimneys,” says Sergio Monarca of the highly rated Olde Londontowne Chimney Sweep in Silver Spring, Maryland.

It's probably best to follow your initial instincts.

Why? Because it takes more than lighting a fire to make sure your fireplace and chimney are in optimum shape for the coming winter.

Local chimney experts say if you use your fireplace regularly (averaging twice a week through the cold months), you should have your chimney cleaned at least once every two years. But there’s more to it than just cleaning, which is what's most often associated with chimney sweeps.

Sure, there are those large, stiff brushes and other tools still used to dislodge creosote and soot from the interior of the chimney, but the sweep business has changed greatly in the last 30 years.

Today, the business focuses on everything from repair and restoration to proper lining and exhaust systems, Monarca says. Video inspections also can be an option.

“That’s why we inspect everything when we clean a chimney,” he adds.

Olde Londontowne charges $175 for a cleaning and inspection. Typical inspections in the Washington area can run up to $200.

Don't think you're off the cleaning hook because your fireplace uses gas logs. Gas emissions need a proper path to escape.

"Those chimneys, too, need to be inspected to ensure thing are venting correctly," Monarca says.

Water Damage

If rainwater is getting in the chimney or through cracks in the roof along the edge of the structure, it will damage not just the chimney, but the rest of the house. It's also smart to check the flashing near the roof.

Water damage is a major concern in D.C. and the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs because of the constant freezing and thawing that occurs during the winter.

“Our chimneys here really take a beating,” Monarca says.

Structural Damage

Cracks in masonry and loose bits of mortar create gaps that fire can pass through. It takes a professional eye to examine the structure of the chimney from the rooftop to assess its soundness.

Remember that earthquake that hit our area in 2011? It took a toll on many chimneys, and that damage could take time to surface.

Evidence of Birds or Animals

Also, there's a variety of bird so associated with its tendency to nest in chimneys that it's named the "chimney swift." But they aren't the only critters of concern. Raccoons and other birds also can be a problem.

“The chimney top needs a proper cap and screen to keep everything out,” Monarca says.

Checking your fireplace and chimney now not only helps to ensure a toasty winter, but it could keep money in your pockets.

"Using a qualified person will save you money in the future,” Monarca says.

 


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Regular inspections and chimney cleanings can help prevent costly repairs and dangerous creosote buildup. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Alexander B. of Summit, N.J.)
Regular inspections and chimney cleanings can help prevent costly repairs and dangerous creosote buildup. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Alexander B. of Summit, N.J.)

Whether it's a gas fireplace or a wood-burning fireplace, regular inspections from a qualified chimney sweep can help prevent costly repairs or chimney fires.

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