A DIY Guide To Cleaning Your Chimney

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Fireplaces bring old charm and cozy warmth to homes. These beautiful additions create a comforting ambiance, but they require a certain level of care—especially the chimney. Cleaning a fireplace is relatively easy, but effectively cleaning your chimney can be a big job.

It’s crucial to stay on top of your chimney’s cleanliness for optimal functioning and to prevent severe fire hazards. To effectively care for your chimney and your home, follow these steps.

Step 1: Determine if You Can DIY

Before you start, you first need to determine if you can clean your chimney without professional help. Chimney cleaning is a tedious task, and it can take professionals anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours to finish the job.

Your goal in chimney cleaning is to rid the chimney shaft of creosote and soot build-up. If the build-up is too large, you need to call a professional to take care of it. However, if you find the build-up is less than 1/8th of an inch deep, you may be able to tackle it on your own. In addition, you’ll need to access your chimney crown, located on your roof, to complete the job. If you’re unable to get to the crown safely, you’ll need to call in a professional to complete the task.

Step 2: Gather the Right Tools

If you determine you can safely access the chimney crown, you’ll need the right tools to get there. These include a ladder, safety harness, safety helmet, and an additional person or persons to supervise. Never attempt to work on your roof without the supervision of another capable individual.

Once on the roof, you’ll need a high-power flashlight, metal bristle brush, and enough rods to handle the height of your chimney. You’ll use these tools to determine the depth of your build-up. Note that each chimney is different, so you’ll need to measure the size of your chimney and its flue to get the right brush size.

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Use your flashlight and a fireplace poker to scratch the smoke chamber and flue to determine the buildup. If the soot has a black matte finish and is 1/8th an inch deep or less, you know you’re okay to clean yourself. If you see a shiny or tar-like appearance or the build-up is more than 1/8th an inch deep, you should call a professional to take on the job.

Step 4: Set Up Your Area

If you are moving ahead with cleaning yourself, your next step is to protect your home’s interior. Lay your canvas tarp over the fireplace and spread it throughout the surrounding room. Secure the tarp over the fireplace opening with tape and insert the shop vac hose through the tarp. Seal everything with duct tape to keep soot from pushing into the room.

After setting up your shop vac outside, connect sections to the hose so it can reach. You’ll run the vacuum while you brush the area, keeping an eye on the filter and replacing or cleaning it when it clogs. Close the windows and doors near your shop vac to prevent any fine soot from reentering your home.

Step 5: Begin Cleaning

Start at your fireplace and ram your cleaning brush up and down several times around the flue section to remove any hardened soot. Use your flashlight to check your work before moving to the next section, ensuring you clean as much soot as possible from the flue area. Once cleared, start your shop vac and move to the roof.

Before cleaning, make sure you are safely equipped with your harness and have supervision from an individual on the ground. Again, you should only clean out your chimney with proper supervision, on a stable rooftop, and with a safety harness and a hard hat. Those without experience working on rooftops should strongly consider hiring a professional.

Once you are secured on the rooftop, add rods to your cleaning brush, moving it down the fireplace till you no longer feel resistance. At this point, you pushed down the soot to the smoke chamber. Climb down from the roof and start to work inside at the firebox. Use a long-handled brush to clean the smoke chamber and a flue brush to remove soot from the smoke shelf. Switch back to the long-handled brush to clean the sides of the firebox.

Vacuum out the firebox and fold up the canvas when you have cleared as much soot and debris as possible. Take the canvas outside and shake out any residue. Fold up the sheets to use again for your next cleaning.

Step 6: Schedule an Inspection

Your fireplace isn’t safe until you’ve scheduled your annual chimney inspection. Even the best DIY job can’t handle creosote build-up, and you need to be sure you didn’t miss any build-up during your cleaning. Have a chimney repair and cleaning professional inspect your chimney once a year to assure you don’t have additional build-up and or repair needs.

Home Improvements To Help You Get Through Winter

You may not like the bitter winter cold but for your house, this season is the hardest to survive. In fact, the biggest structural damage your home suffers occurs during winter as the snow and cold take their toll on the unprepared house. Luckily, there are home improvements that can help you get through winter without any major repairs. Regulating the temperature inside and insulating the walls are just some of the measures you can apply to winter out this snowy season.

Insulating the unusual spots

You probably know all about the importance of insulating the walls of your house. However, it is equally important to invest in insulating the less probably areas of your home. For instance, insulating the basement is not a waste of money since a cold basement will literally drain all the heat from the rooms above.

Furthermore, the hot water pipes that run through the basement can benefit from insulation as well. The last thing you need is lukewarm water reaching your heating bodies when the temperature outside plummets below minus 20 degrees Centigrade. Metal is not very good insulation so even a thin layer of foam around the hot water pipes can help reduce waste of energy.

Finally, insulating the attic is also a great move. You don’t of this space as an energy-inefficient area because the roof is slanted. However, a roof without proper insulation underneath will give out warm air that is generated below. This will cool down the house, especially the upper floor where the nursery and the bedrooms are located.

Disconnecting the garden tap

Just like the hot water pipes in the basement, every meter of piping that is not going to be used during winter and that lacks proper insulation should not be used. This is easier said than done, as homeowners forget to disconnect the garden tap, for instance. They turn it off in September or October and completely about it until springtime comes. However, as temperatures hit their yearly low, the water inside freezes over, increasing the risk of a pipe bursting.

Instead of closing off the garden tap, be sure to disconnect it all together so there is no water inside the pipes underground. The same should be done with other outdoor water features, like a provisional kitchen. As far as swimming pools and splash pads are concerned, they should only be fully emptied but covered with a plastic sheet to prevent the show from accumulating inside them.

Cement rendering the walls

Having mentioned the swimming pool, it is worth noting that its inner walls are much more reliant to cold than the walls of your house. The main reason for this is that cavity insulation can only provide protection against cold air to a certain point.

A much better solution is rendering the walls with cement. This method will not only weatherproof the walls (subzero temperatures included,) but it will increase the overall aesthetic appeal of the house. If you have already used this method to treat your walls, then perform the necessary cement rendering repairs before the onset of winter.

Helping Santa

If your children ask you if the chimney stack is clear for Santa to come down, don’t take this question as a joke. In the best Christmas spirit, be sure to actually look up the chimney. Namely, it needs to be cleaned because you are going to fire up the hearth once again and if there is anything stuck inside the shaft, all sorts of problems can occur. Even if the chimney is unobstructed, it still needs to be cleaned for the inside so call the local chimney sweeper to the rescue. Finally, check the kitchen hood and all the other air vents, as they should all be ready for the winter season.

Inspect the house for openings

In the end, one final checkup will get you ready for the holiday season. Get outside and walk around the house inspecting it in the process for holes, cracks, and openings. You might find out that there is a draft coming from under the windows or that the corner roof tile is missing. These are easy fixes but if you fail to perform them, you could be in trouble after the first snowfall.

If you notice a chilly breeze sweeping through the house but you have ruled out the window area as the likely culprit, turn to the front door. Its bottom section is often disproportion to the size of the frame so a gap several millimeters wide can appear. You could never tell it existed during summer but in winter you’ll need to get a rubber gasket to cover this minuscule opening that cold winds can still get through.

Getting through winter is not easy as it’s the most challenging season of the year for your home. However, a couple of home improvements listed here will help turn the tide around and ensure you spend the snowy January in the comfort of your warm home.

 

Colorful Candy Gingerbread House

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This such a colorful cottage with a roof made from colorful gumdrops. Candy cane sticks used here fro the porch posts and the gumdrops brought down from the roof to the front door porch makes this design great. They even added candy sprinkles to coat the chimney and then added a puff of smoke coming from the chimney – neat. The trees are made by piping icing onto a cone (could be Styrofoam or ice cream cone cut to different shapes). They even finished the illusion of a bit of scene inside the windows.

Gingerbread House With Mints, Nickel Wafers & Red Hots

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This little gingerbread has breath mints used under the windows which is different and cool. The artist also used Christmas candy corn around the front of the house. Nickle wafers were used on the roof in between impressions that were made in the gingerbread before baking.

Gingerbread House – Chalet

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This chalet style gingerbread house uses licorice for a fence and large gumdrops for the walkway edges. They have lined the roof with smaller gumdrops and used fake snow around the base of the house. The hole was left in the front to add a nice detail. These can be cut out with cookie cutters before baking.