Having your chimney cleaned regularly is very important. If you can’t remember the last time your flue was flushed, then it’s probably about time you had it done. Without cleaning, dangerous levels of creosote can build up within the chimney, causing fires to break out.

When we think of chimney sweeps, an ashen and dusty faced man with a long-bristled stick conjures in our minds. In reality, chimney sweeps are regular people like you and me. The only difference is they are specialists in removing chimney soot.

Can you clean a chimney yourself?

Most chimney fires, caused by a build-up of creosote, start in the smoke chamber/smoke shelf area. These areas are hard to reach in some fireplaces, so chimney sweeps have to manoeuvre a brush around some tight angles in order to reach them.

Next up, the chimney has to be accessed from the crown. Gaining access to this part of the chimney is the most hazardous as it has to be accessed from the roof. Some houses are built with steep roof pitches, making for a hazardous DIY job for those who try to clean their chimneys themselves.

Inspecting the chimney

With the ashes removed from the firebox, a chimney sweep will use a flashlight to inspect the smoke chamber, assessing the soot that has built up in there. If the soot has a matte black finish and a poker will scratch about 1/8-inch-deep gouge or less, the cleanup job will be fairly simple. If the build up is deeper and the soot has a tarlike appearance, you have a heavy creosote build up which can only be cleaned by a professional chimney sweep.

You can inspect your chimney yourself in a similar fashion to ascertain whether you will need to call a professional chimney sweep service to come and clean it out. Burning house coal can cause creosote to build up quickly through winter months, so make sure you have your chimney cleaned regularly.