How Often Should You Be Cleaning Your Chimney?

There's nothing like cozying up in front of a warm fireplace during a cold evening. You might even cuddle up with a great book or some calming autumn treats to really enjoy the moment. However, to ensure that these comforting evenings are truly carefree, it's important to regularly maintain your chimney.

While you want to ensure your fireplace appears clean and free of ash, chimney maintenance goes beyond your home's presentation. According to Bob Villa, a primary function of the chimney is to ventilate harmful gases created through fireplace use. The build-up of ash and tar that can accumulate in an uncleaned chimney inhibits the ventilation process, causing toxic gases to stay inside (per Vertical Chimney Care).

These fumes are dangerous, as they can damage the air quality of a home and cause respiratory issues. Plus, uncleaned chimneys increase the risk of house fires, of which there are roughly 25,000 a year in the U.S. (per Genesee Patrons).

It's easy to forget, but cleaning your chimney is a very important household chore. But just how often should you be doing so?

The typical fireplace chimney should be cleaned once a year

According to House Beautiful, it's recommended that you clean your chimney at least once a year. In some instances, chimney cleaning can be done on your own, but if your chimney has a large amount of creosote build-up, professional cleaners are the way to go (per Family Handyman).

Creosote is a substance that results from the wood-burning process (per Northern Chimney). It is extremely flammable, leading to house fires, and contributes to ventilation and air issues.

An important part of chimney maintenance is inspections, something that can be done at the same time as your cleaning. Professionals should conduct chimney inspections in case any chimney-related issues need to be addressed. These are necessary even if you handle your own chimney cleaning.

Beyond the one-year measurement, there are a few other things that will signal the needs of your fireplace and chimney. According to Elegant Fireside, things like bad odors, excessive smoke, and soot marks are indications that your chimney needs cleaning.

There are everyday things you can do to help with chimney maintenance

While regular cleanings and inspections are a primary way of keeping your chimney maintained, there are also a few everyday tips for ensuring the efficiency and cleanliness of your unit. For example, House Beautiful mentions regularly cleaning your firebox, where you light fires (per Full Service Chimney), to avoid build-up, and using a chimney cap or crown to reduce outdoor debris.

Being conscious of the wood you use in your fireplace is another method for keeping your chimney clean, as My Chimney mentions that different woods produce varying amounts of creosote build-up. For this reason, softwoods, which come from coniferous or evergreen trees, are not good for indoor fires (per Full Service Chimney). Instead, hardwoods like oak, ash, or hickory are preferred.

When considering firewood, it's also important to know the difference between green and seasoned wood. According to International Timber, recently cut wood, known as green wood, has not had the chance to rid itself of internal moisture. Burning this type of wood will produce a fire while creating lots of smoke and contributing to creosote build-up.

Keeping these everyday tips in mind, while also ensuring your unit undergoes regular cleanings and inspections, will help you care for and maintain your warm and cozy fireplace.