Be Your Own Chimney Sweep


| 7/23/2014 1:41:00 PM


Tags: woodstove, chimneys, home repair, Colorado, Bruce McElmurray,

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Chimney Fire

We heat with a wood stove from October until May which ends up being a long continuous burning season at our elevation of 9.750‘. When I was younger and living in N. Florida I had a chimney fire that was a very scary event. Our chimney pipe quickly went from red to orange to yellow to white hot and made some very ugly noises. Fortunately it did not catch anything on fire except the chimney but it certainly impressed me with its ferocity. Therefore in the last 17 winters here on our homestead we use a creosote remover throughout the burning season and I clean the wood stove and chimney at least once a year.

Safety Precautions on a Ladder

Our home is an A-Frame so I have to go up the ladder 30+ feet to reach the wind cap which seems almost straight up so it is imperative that all safety precautions be taken. Since I’m now in my 70’s that means reflexes are slower and my agility leaves much to be desired. Therefore I wear a climbing harness and when I get to the top of our 40’ ladder I attach it to the top rung with a strong rope. Since both of us can barely lift and carry the ladder I figure with its considerable weight it will stay in place and if I’m firmly attached at the top it is unlikely that either the ladder or I will go anywhere. To make matters even more risky when I get to where I can reach the chimney cap I have to turn around and face out on the ladder which puts a ladder rung under my heels and lots of air in front of me. With the harness if I slip I will only go a few feet before the heavy duty rope halts me. If you are afraid of height I would suggest that you consider hiring a professional chimney sweep to save you the anxiety.

Removing and Cleaning a Wind Cap

I will describe how I approach cleaning our system because each house and chimney are different. First after getting the ladder securely in place and having put on the climbing harness and adjusting it to a good fit I go up the ladder to take the wind cap off. Some are held in place with a band of metal that can be loosened through a small bolt. Others may be affixed to the top by sheet metal screws or still others may be like ours and sit inside the chimney by virtue of a collar.

I prefer to remove the wind cap and take it down to the ground where I can work on it with a wire brush or screw driver to scale the stubborn creosote off. Once I have it devoid of all soot and creosote accumulations I set it aside and proceed to clean the chimney from the inside. The less I have to ascend and descend the ladder the better I like it.

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