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Cleaning Chimney Advice

2805 Views 38 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Obscured_by_Clouds
Last year I had a wood insert installed. It's in the lower level, with metal chimney and a significant bend in the middle.

The guy that installed it was going to be able to clean it for a pretty fair rate. However he's busy and probably won't be able to. I called around and Oh My Gosh, I had no idea it would be so much.

So I think no big deal. I'll just buy my own equipment and learn how to do it. Well, it doesn't look terribly hard but Oh My Gosh, I had no idea the equipment would be so expensive. I need either a chain, or something flexible (due to the bend), and really like some of the snake type cleaners you use from the bottom. Unless I'm missing something, I can't find something for under $300 (even that's debatable whether it would work for my situation), and some over $500.

All that said, I figure there's gotta be someone that didn't want to pay this much, and rigged something together. What do you all do? Should I suck it up and pay the price for the expensive equipment knowing it will save me in the long run (hopefully)? Is there some place I'm not looking that the equipment may be cheaper?

Thanks in advance for help.
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I burned wood for like 40 years. i just run the stove hot every time i stoke it up. to clean the pipe. you have to pay attention for like fifteen minutes. most people burn way to cool.
I burned wood for like 40 years. i just run the stove hot every time i stoke it up. to clean the pipe. you have to pay attention for like fifteen minutes. most people burn way to cool.
Agreed!! If you have metalbestos pipe it won't accumulate much creosote.
Mike
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My chimney has a bend, also. I actually disassemble it to clean it.

I don't clean it very often though. As was said, i let it sit for the spring, summer, and fall, build the first fire up hot (corrugated cardboard works well), and I can hear the junk fall down through the chimney into the tee I temporarily uncap at the back of the furnace. Everything just falls right out.
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Interesting responses. Thanks.

I should add...last year was my first year ever burning for heat. I bought some wood that was clearly suspect. Ended up gumming up the cap pretty bad, and had to clean it off mid winter. No issues after that (I changed wood), but concerned about what I did to the chimney.
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I have to clean mine yearly, it's part of burning wood. The straight stainless liner in the chimney is brush work from the top. The pipe from there to the stove is taken apart to get all the bends. What came down from the top is cleaned out while the other pipe is off. There's no way to snake through what I've got in one shot... And, yes, it's pro installed.

There's also no way to burn it hot for 15 minutes to fix the problem of buildup, in my case, and in most other cases as well. Overfiring your stove can damage your stove. This overfiring also can't be done with an EPA registered insert as far as I know... Stove may get really hot but the flue won't overheat, that's part of the design. That type of stove really shouldn't be dumping that much stuff up the chimney anyways but cleaning and checking is still necessary in my opinion. I have an EPA stove in my fireplace besides my wood/coal furnace mentioned above and the stove flue is clean 2 years running but I still check every year.

Use a poly brush for pipe, metal brushes are for tile chimneys.
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you have to burn hot just about every other time you stoke the fire. i burn every kind of wood you can think of. burn her hot for awhile.worst to let it go to long.burn her out.i burn lots of wet wood, i don,t recommend that to every one.i burn a hot fire
i have never cleaned a chimney in my life. but like i said been burning wood a long time.never had what they call a chimney fire.certain times of the year a stove will take off .when the air pressures just right. than you have to pay attention to whats going on with the stove.not every situations the same. learn your stove. mines made back in the 30,s or 40.s its called a wherle box stove.can stick a 36 inch piece of wood in it.
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When I bought my current home it had an insert and didn't think anything of cleaning it. The home I found had a chimney fire just prior to me joining the department that covered the area and now I'm a little cautious.

What I found on line and through working as a firefighter in a busy system in Michigan(cold long winters and lot of wood burners) is that if you keep a good flame going it is the best. It doesn't need to be roaring or ripping. Just a good flame face. Don't burn pine. As a firefighter that's the biggest red flag we see with fire in the wall around the fireplace/insert. Pine burns very hot and very fast and as we all know they have that sticky sap. That sap is a good way to build up the dangerous creosote. And lastly green wood is ok but know it is hard to keep a good flame face with out over heating the home and can lead to a build up.

I burn usually 2 of those chimney sweep logs and the insert is usually clean and you can see it worked when there is some soot that fell down.

A few things to have on hand as a precaution. An ansul fire extinguisher. If you feel you are having a chimney fire empty the entire can in the fire place/insert. If you're roof is not too steep and you feel safe enough to get on it and you know you're having one a couple sandwich bags(just put the entire bag don't open it the flame will burn the plastic and dump the ansul on the fire) full of ansul down the chimney after you hit the inside of the box can save your home if you're in a rural system with an all volunteer fire department/small town.

Of course the above is at your own risk if you see flame in the chimney don't do it and leave it to the fire department. Of course call 911 as soon as you think you have a chimney fire. Lastly nothing against volunteer fire fighters I was/am one it just can take them some time to make sure they get all the resources on site for some homes. An 8-12 roof is not easy to climb with a roof ladder in summer let alone winter
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I will admit my inexperience, but I don't understand how to get the pipe apart? I can get to the bottom, and I can get to the top, but how do I get it apart in the middle, and then back together? I mean, I get it had to be put together at some point, so it had to be done, I just don't know how.

Greybeard - Why can't you just sweep / snake it? Is the angle to severe? In case I'm not coming across right, I mean that sincerely as a question (not an argument).

Ok, well this may be more difficult than I envisioned. If I hadn't had that build up last year I may be inclined to not worry about it as much. I may pay a professional, and then look into other options before next year.

I appreciate the responses.
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The location where my furnace has to be compared to where the opening is in my brick chimney needs me having several near 90 degree bends in the inside pipe. (well 2 to be exact... 2 is several, right?) For aesthetics I chose to not go straight up through the roof when there is a 3 flue masonry chimney "right there"... It really would have looked trashy.


Where is this bend of yours? If you can get it from both ends but not take the bend apart, brush out the top... all that will fall down so have it disconnected with a bucket under it at the bottom. Then pass the brush through the bottom section and it should be fine. Likely there wouldn't be much in the actual bend after all the above work. Not enough to cause a chimney fire anyways.

Make sure your rods are screwed together tight, you don't want a brush stuck in the flue.
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Grey - The wood insert is in the lower level. It's a raised ranch, so it just goes through one more floor before the extermination. The bend is almost half way, and its more of a 45 (maybe a bit more), than a 90. I have a gas insert directly above the wood, so basically it goes to the side of that, then bends after that so both pipes go out side by side. Thanks for the tips. :)
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They aren't sharing a flue, are they? I would assume not with the side by side comment but just checking.


But yeah, if it's about a 45, cleaning from the top first and then from the bottom should be fine.
Not sharing flue. Yes, side by side with two separate exterminations.

So I'm frustrated my owners manual and other resources are not giving me information on what I need to do in the insert to clean the chimney. What I need to remove and things like that. If I want to read how to remove the ashes there is an infinite amount of information about that.

So I took out the baffle boards and see there is a rod across the opening for the flue. Metal


The bottom part comes off but not the top piece. I do not see a way to remove that. Am I missing something obvious? How would I get a brush through that opening?

I am guessing this is a fairly obvious situation for those of you that have experience with these things. Again this is my first one and the first time I'm trying to take it apart.

Really appreciate help!
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Climb up on the roof, remove the cap. Insert the cleaning rods which are flexible. You can by the sections separate also.

Rutland 18 ft. Chimney Brush Extension Rod Kit-KRK-18 - The Home Depot

Run it down the chimney to the bottom clean out hole. Attach brush to the cleaning rods. Having a helper so you don't have to go up and down a ladder from roof to lower level sure helps. Go with the steel brush. Don't Ask me why.

6in.round
Rutland Chimney Sweep 6 in. Round Chimney Cleaning Brush-16406 - The Home Depot

8in round.
Rutland Chimney Sweep 8 in. Round Wire Chimney Cleaning Brush-16408 - The Home Depot

Set up your shop vac with the biggest opening you can get and start it sucking.

Pull up on the rods pulling the brush thru the pipe SLOWLYso the shop vac can keep up. When the brush reaches the top obstruction push the brush back down so you can remove it.
You can either push the rods all the way down and take the sections apart to totally remove it or just remove the brush and pull the rods back up and replace the cap.


Shop vac set up.
I have a 6in tee. bought caps for both ends. Made a hole in one cap so the shop vac hose fits in it. Double the filter in the shop vac with the pleated paper and a bag filter that goes over that pleated paper filter. Do not rely on just the pleated paper filter.
DON'T ASK how I know.

[ame]http://www.amazon.com/Norwesco-328140-Stove-Pipe-Joints/dp/B00310XBT8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442669068&sr=8-1&keywords=stove+pipe+tee[/ame]

Is a very simple job and if you burn seasoned (DRY)wood and allow the wood to burn hot for a short time and throw some Creosote cleaner in per the directions and your good for another trouble free season.

Creosote Remover - 2 lb. | Northline Express

Biggest thing is good well seasoned dry wood. You can also buy all this equipment in season at Lowe's as well as Home Depot and if your a vet ask for your 10% discount and have your VA ID card.
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Looks like they got you rigged so only a top down cleaning is possible...


Not being a chimney sweep, I don't know how they get through bends like you are talking about. The graphite rods I use won't make that kind of bend.


I guess you could clean down to the bend with standard tools and then use one of those creosote buster logs in your first burn of the season. The pipe above that bar doesn't look all that bad as far as I can tell from that picture.


Be aware of one thing when trying to brush out a pipe, when you get down to the bend it takes some effort to initially pull the brush back up. It's hard to get the bristles to reverse... that's one of the main reasons for using a poly brush. A metal brush can break/bend/damage your pipe. Or you can use a smaller brush, like a 4 inch brush in a 6 inch pipe and make multiple passes. I use a 6" brush in my 6" pipe... but I'm dealing with a heavy gauge stainless. I can get it in one pass.
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Go with the steel brush. Don't Ask me why.


Shop vac set up.
Double the filter in the shop vac with the pleated paper and a bag filter that goes over that pleated paper filter. Do not rely on just the pleated paper filter.
DON'T ASK how I know.
I don't think they recommend metal brushes for chimney liners, I'd use a poly brush.

Also, Use a vac with a heppa filter. Anything else, and you'll be blowing fine ash around the house. You can minimize it with multiple filters, but a heppa is by far the best way.
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What I found on line and through working as a firefighter in a busy system in Michigan(cold long winters and lot of wood burners) is that if you keep a good flame going it is the best. It doesn't need to be roaring or ripping. Just a good flame face. Don't burn pine. As a firefighter that's the biggest red flag we see with fire in the wall around the fireplace/insert. Pine burns very hot and very fast and as we all know they have that sticky sap. That sap is a good way to build up the dangerous creosote. And lastly green wood is ok but know it is hard to keep a good flame face with out over heating the home and can lead to a build up.
IMO, this is mostly terrible information. Sap does not cause creosote, moisture does. As long as the pine is seasoned, meaning dry, there is no issue burning it. In fact, hardwoods are more likely to cause problems because they take a lot longer to dry out than softwoods. Oak for example, will usually take 2 years to dry out to an appropriate moisture content of ~20%. Most people won't wait that long!

The only good information presented is the recommendation of keep a decent flame going. The only way to really avoid creosote is to keep the flu temp above 250 degrees...all the way to the top! This is why you must install a liner with a new wood stove or insert. The flu of an existing chimney is so large that the flu gasses would expand and cool so quickly that creosote build up would be nearly guaranteed. A smoldering fire, even with seasoned wood, is a good way to lay down some creosote. Most fire made with wet, "green" wood, smolder, laying down lots of creosote!
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IMO, this is mostly terrible information. Sap does not cause creosote, moisture does. As long as the pine is seasoned, meaning dry, there is no issue burning it. In fact, hardwoods are more likely to cause problems because they take a lot longer to dry out than softwoods. Oak for example, will usually take 2 years to dry out to an appropriate moisture content of ~20%. Most people won't wait that long!

The only good information presented is the recommendation of keep a decent flame going. The only way to really avoid creosote is to keep the flu temp above 250 degrees...all the way to the top! This is why you must install a liner with a new wood stove or insert. The flu of an existing chimney is so large that the flu gasses would expand and cool so quickly that creosote build up would be nearly guaranteed. A smoldering fire, even with seasoned wood, is a good way to lay down some creosote. Most fire made with wet, "green" wood, smolder, laying down lots of creosote!
I would agree with much of what you say about pine. It isn't necessarily the root cause of the fire... The creosote from previous burnings is. However, pine burns hotter and quicker than most hardwoods... Just enough to start the creosote ablaze. If you burn lots of moisture rich cooler and longer burning hardwood, then throw in a bunch of dry pine without closing your dampers to compensate, you may have a chimney fire. Or, at least that's the way it was explained to me.
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I would agree with much of what you say about pine. It isn't necessarily the root cause of the fire... The creosote from previous burnings is. However, pine burns hotter and quicker than most hardwoods... Just enough to start the creosote ablaze. If you burn lots of moisture rich cooler and longer burning hardwood, then throw in a bunch of dry pine without closing your dampers to compensate, you may have a chimney fire. Or, at least that's the way it was explained to me.

Never walk away from a stove with the damper wide open, it can potentially over fire no matter what is in it. With enough air flow, even green wood can take off on you...Obviously a chimney fire is a risk, but extreme temperatures can damage the stove also.
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