Are You Ready for Mary Poppins’ Chim, Chimney Sweep?

November 5, 2014

hiring a chimney sweep

image courtesy of vectorolie/

A friend of ours just made an appointment with his chimney sweep to clean out the creosote and dirt from his fireplace. He told us that his local sweep, located in Marcy, NY, is a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) Certified Chimney Sweep.

That prompted us to take a look at the CSIA website. We found some useful info there about fireplace safety, good wood, and better fires that will help you enjoy the fireplace even more this season here in Central New York.

How To Hire a Chimney Sweep

The CSIA’s first recommendation is, of course, to hire a CSIA Certified Sweep. To get certified, these chimney sweeps study common masonry defects, codes, chimney linings, and much more including appliance venting and pellet appliances.

Here are some questions you should ask before hiring a chimney sweep for your home or business…

  • How long has the chimney sweeping company been in business?
  • Does the company offer current references?
  • Does the company have unresolved complaints filed withing the city or state consumer protection agency or Better Business Bureau?
  • Does the company or individual carry a valid business liability insurance policy to protect your home and furnishings against accidents?
  • Does the company assure that a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep will be on the job site?

5 Reasons Your Fireplace Doesn’t Work

  1. Your damper isn’t fully open
  2. Your firewood is green or wet from the rain or snow
  3.  The chimney is dirty
  4. The chimney isn’t tall enough
  5. Your home is too tight.  Fireplaces require a large amount of air to burn. In some of today’s air tight and insulated homes, fires burn sluggishly for lack of airflow. The recommendation here is to open a window in your fireplace room to provide some oxygen for the fire.

Should You Remove the Ash or Not?

It’s a good idea to leave about an inch of ash at the bottom of the fireplace. The hot coals of your fire nestle into the ash and glow, adding more heat back into the fire. However, don’t let it get too deep or it will ruin the grate. That’s because the heat reflecting back into the fire overheats it.

How to Select Firewood

One of the most important decisions you make that affects the quality of your fire is the age of the firewood you burn. You want well-seasoned firewood to avoid smoking and odor problems and rapid creosote buildup that causes dangerous chimney fires.

Freshly cut wood can contain up to 45% water. It takes 6 months to a year for the water to dissipate to acceptable levels of about 20-25%. You may be able to tell if the wood is seasoned or not by looking to see whether the ends are cracked and darkened. This means the wood has been drying for a while. Well-seasoned wood is also lightweight and makes a clear “clunk” when you strike two pieces together.

The best way to know if your firewood is seasoned or not is to buy it from a trustworthy supplier. And, even if you do trust the “wood guy,” you can store it in a wood shed or in the yard for the six months or so it takes to season and let the sun and wind do the rest. Just be sure it’s covered when it rains and away from the house. You don’t want insects invading the house after they discover your wood pile.

There’s much more very good info on this site. Also, we recommend you try the EPA’s website and its Burnwise section here.

One of the benefits of living here in the Utica area is nestling up to a cozy fire in the wintertime, especially during the holidays. So, here’s to raising a glass of wine with family and friends safely at the fireside this winter.

Until next time,
Your SZW Team

Scalzo, Zogby & Wittig, Inc. is your New Hartford area independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000.