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Winter's Coming, is Your Chimney Ready?
It happens about this time every year, the first cold evening and you want to build a nice roaring fire in the wood stove to warm up the house. Completely forgetting you never cleaned the chimney at the end of the heating season last year.
Not a good scenario. Fortunately it's one that can easily be avoided. I live in a single story ranch style house making this an easy chore to accomplish. Whether you want to attempt to do this yourself depends on how steep your roof is and how brave you are. Don't take any chances, preferably don't try this alone. You need to have someone to steady the ladder for you, and thaving someone there to call 911 in case of an accident is a good idea too.
Remember Safety First at all times, using a ladder or other tools around power lines will only lead to disaster. At any home center, fire place store, or even some hardware stores you can purchase an appropriate chimney cleaning brush. If your chimney is one of the current circular metal style I can recommend a cheaper alternative to buying a special chimney brush. I purchased a 6" wire wheel, the kind you would use on a bench grinder. Usually available for about $5, quite a bit cheaper then a specialized brush. Using a lag bolt with a flat washer I attached the wire wheel to the end of an 8' length of 2x2. This made a quite adequate brush that has lasted many years.
Once on the roof, remove the chimney cap and start cleaning. Start at the top, being sure to brush all the way around the chimney as you go down. Once you have brushed all the way down, take a flash light, tie it to a string and lower it down the chimney so you can see if you have removed all the creosote. Now head inside. Spread a drop cloth around the wood stove, to keep from making a mess, as the next step is to disconnect the stove pipe from the stove and chimney. As you break it loose have a shop vac. handy to clean up the loose creosote that has fallen down the chimney. Once you have the pipe out and have cleaned it and the chimney, be sure to vacuum out the stuff that has fallen into the stove itself. Once you have it clean reassemble, making sure to reinstall the metal screws that hold the stove pipe in place.
While your at it shovel out any ashes you forgot to clean from last season as well. Give the fire brick a good looking at to make sure your stove is safe to operate.
OK, the wood stove is all set for the heating season. While your on a roll lets take a look at the furnace as well. Nows a good time to install new filters and give the air intake grill a good cleaning. After you've cleaned it, turn the thermostat up so the furnace will kick on. Might as well run it for a few minutes to make sure everything is operating properly before the cold weather really gets here. Last item for the season lets check the dryer vent too. Clean the lint out of the dryer, the exhaust hose and the outside vent.
If cleaning the chimney is more than your comfortable attempting, be sure to call a professional chimney cleaning service. The web site for the Chimney Safety Institute of America can lead you to a certified service in your area. Just go to WWW.CSIA.org and you can enter your zip code to find the nearest one to you.