How to sweep a chimney — and how often to do it

Is your chimney too clogged for you to enjoy cosy evenings in front of a blazing fire? Worry not! We’ll show you when, why, and how to sweep a chimney in 10 easy steps.

Updated

A clean fireplace after sweeping the chimney

Key steps

  • Clean your chimney at least once a year.
  • Don’t forget to cover the floor and fireplace to seal it and prevent dirt and dust ending up inside your home.
  • Always ask someone to help hold the ladder for safety when climbing to your roof.
  • If in doubt, contact a professional.

Nothing says Christmas more than an open fire in winter, but for those lucky enough to have this household feature, cleaning the chimney can be a thankless task. To help keep the festive season cheerful, we’ve put together a series of expert tips and instructions on how to sweep a chimney while explaining why it is so important.

When cleaning your chimney, you will need access to the roof. In order to do so safely, ensure that you ask someone to help and wear protective gear.

Why do you need to clean your chimney?

A fireplace looks good and makes a house feel like a home, adding warmth in the cooler months. Wood fires don’t burn cleanly, however! Contaminants such as creosote line the inside of your chimney. Not only does this build-up need removing, but so does debris and dirt such as twigs and leaves, which may blow in!

How often should you sweep your chimney?

You may now be wondering, “how often should you sweep a chimney, then?” The answer to this is: at least once a year, depending on the type of fire you’ve got going. As summer turns into autumn and the cool nights draw in, you’re going to need to organise the cleaning of the fireplace as well as a chimney sweep. How often you need to do so is simple:

  1. For an oil or gas fire, you will only need to clean your chimney once a year. We recommend doing so at the end of the summer, before you head into fire-lighting season.
  2. For a wood burning or bituminous coal fire, you need to check the fireplace at least every couple of months during the time you use it regularly. Keep an eye out for:
    • Soot or creosote falling into the fireplace while it’s lit
    • Honeycomb-textured creosote build-up
    • ¼-inch or thicker creosote
  3. If you are not sure about how to clean a chimney on your own, follow the steps below. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to contact a professional chimney sweep.

How to sweep a chimney: a step-by-step guide

Now you know how often you should sweep a chimney, read on to learn how to clean a chimney better than Dick van Dyke (though his routine mostly involved dancing)!

What you need

  • Sheet plastic or tarpaulin
  • Painter’s tape and duct tape
  • Extension ladder
  • Chimney brushes
  • Extension rods
  • Vacuum
  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Cordless electric screwdriver

DIY chimney sweep steps

  1. Make sure that the fireplace is fully sealed and protect the floor.
    • Use a piece of plastic or tarp slightly wider than the opening and tape it in place.
    • Cut a piece of plastic or tarp around six foot by four foot and tape it to the floor in front of the fireplace.
  2. Using a ladder, access the roof. Make sure you have someone hold the ladder for safety. Take the cleaning tools with you.
  3. Put on safety glasses and a dust mask.
  4. Remove the chimney caps by turning out the screws. Make sure you place them out of the way to prevent tripping or kicking them off the roof.
  5. Using a chimney sweeping brush and extension rod, scrub the chimney until you reach the end of the rod. Add an additional rob, screwing it into the back of the first. Continue the scrubbing process, adding rods each time you reach their limit. Keep scrubbing until you reach the smoke shelf.
  6. As you remove the brush from the chimney, scrub upwards. Remove each rod at the joining point to dissemble the brush.
  7. Replace the chimney caps before carefully climbing down from the roof.
  8. Wait for ten minutes for the dust to settle before removing the plastic covering your fireplace.
  9. Using a chimney cleaning brush, clean all visible areas, and use a vacuum to clean up the loose debris.
  10. Gather the plastic or tarp covering the floor carefully enclosing any loose dirt and dust. Dispose of it appropriately.
  11. Once your chimney is clean, don’t forget to clean your fireplace. Check out our guide to how to clean a marble fireplace.

From learning how often a chimney should be swept to how to actually do it, with this guide your chimney will be ready for a visit from Father Christmas in no time!

Originally published