Bethesda chimney repair

Chimney Service FAQ

Chimney FAQ

What Is a Chimney Sweep?

The chimney sweep process is different depending on what type chimney and fireplace you have. In general, when you call a professional chimney sweep like Capitol Chimney Service, the chimney sweep will first access your chimney from the roof to clean out your flue (your chimney’s venting system) from the top. A vacuum is used at the bottom of your fireplace to collect any soot and debris from contaminating your home.

Once your chimney is cleaned from the roof, the chimney sweep will then clean your fireplace, woodstove, or fireplace insert from the inside of your house.

How Much Does a Chimney Sweep Cost?

Depending on what type of fireplace you have (prefab, insert, woodstove, etc.), a chimney sweep with Capitol Chimney Service ranges from $129 to $159 in price. Make sure to visit our Capitol Chimney Service coupons page to check out any specials, discounts, or coupons we currently offer.

How Can I Maintain My Chimney Between Chimney Sweeps?

Between professional chimney sweeps, you should sweep and dust your fireplace hearth after each use to help prevent residue buildup in your fireplace. In addition, avoid using chemical cleaners on your fireplace. Even after they dry, some cleaners can leave a flammable residue on your fireplace surface.

What Causes Chimney Fires?

Most chimney fires are caused when too much dirt builds up inside a chimney interior. When you burn wood in your fireplace, the smoke condenses into a tar-like substance called creosote. Flames and sparks in your chimney can easily ignite a creosote buildup on the inside of your chimney, causing a chimney fire to occur.

This is why one of the best ways to prevent chimney fires is to schedule regular chimney cleaning. We recommend you have your chimney cleaned at least once a year, but if you use your chimney frequently, you could require more frequent chimney sweeping.

How Can I Tell if I Need Chimney Cleaning?

In order to determine if your chimney needs cleaning, check the inside of your chimney with a flashlight once a month to assess the amount of creosote and soot buildup. If you notice a 1/4 inch or more of buildup, contact Capitol Chimney Service for chimney cleaning today.

What Is Creosote?

When you burn wood in your fireplace, the smoke condenses into a tar-like substance called creosote. Flames and sparks in your chimney can easily ignite a creosote buildup on the inside of your chimney, causing a chimney fire to occur.

What Do I Need to Do After a Chimney Fire?

After a chimney fire, it’s crucial that you schedule a chimney inspection before attempting to use your fireplace or chimney again. Fires can damage your chimney structure, chimney flue, flue liner, and other chimney components, so it’s important to have a professional inspect your chimney to figure out if you need any chimney repairs.

What Causes Chimney Leaks?

If you have a leaky chimney, a number of problems could be to blame. Because your chimney is constantly exposed to rain, snow, and other weather, it’s vital to have it waterproofed. Failing to waterproof your chimney is one major source of chimney leaks and, consequently, water damage.

Alternatively, if you have a chimney leak, the issue could be your chimney flashing—the metal that joins the roof to the chimney. If you have water staining on your ceiling near your chimney or even running down the walls, it’s possible that your chimney needs re-flashing.

What Is Chimney Spot Cutting?

Chimney spot cutting is used to repair minor brick damage to your chimney. Spot cutting involves replacing cracked bricks rather than replacing the entire structure.

Do I Need a New Chimney Liner

If you’re wondering if your chimney needs to be relined, look for the following signs:

  • Excessive buildup on the inside of the chimney
  • Cracks in the flue tiles
  • Damaged or missing flue tiles
  • Missing mortar in the flue tiles

Click here for chimney relining in the Washington, D.C. area.

Why Do You Need a Chimney Cap?

Not only do chimney caps prevent debris (water, leaves, etc.) from getting into your chimney, they also prevent embers from your flue chamber from getting onto your roof. Consider chimney cap installation to avoid house fires and roof damage.

Read more about the importance of chimney caps.

What Is a Chimney Swift?

Chimney Swifts are birds that commonly nest in chimneys. They are protected by the federal government, and it’s therefore against the law to interfere with them if they make a home in your chimney.

The best way to avoid Chimney Swifts is to have a chimney cap installed.

How Often Should I Clean My Chimney?

How often you need a chimney sweep actually depends on how often you use your fireplace. For most people, a yearly professional chimney sweep will suffice to make sure your chimney is clear of blockages and buildup, operates efficiently, and is not at high risk for chimney fires.

Can I Clean My Chimney Myself?

It’s best to hire a chimney sweep for safety reasons. For example, in some situations, chimney deposits create large blockages that you are too dangerous to clean with a brush for risk of igniting them and causing a chimney fire (if this is the case, you need a chimney repair).

What Is Chimney Flashing?

Your chimney flashing is the metal that joins your roof to your chimney, where leaks often occur. If you have water staining on your ceiling near your chimney or even running down the walls, it’s possible that your chimney needs re-flashing.

Read more about chimney waterproofing.

How Can I Fix Loose Chimney Bricks?

If just a few of your chimney bricks are loose and there’s not a lot of other damage, we recommend a process called up pointing. During an up point, we will repair any loose mortar or missing mortar between your bricks.

What Is a Chimney Chase Cover?

Chimney chase covers are exactly what they sound like—tops that go over your chimney chase. Also known as chimney chase caps or chimney chase tops, they come in several materials, including copper, stainless steel, and galvanized steel.

Why Do I Need a Chimney Chase Cover?

When you install a chimney chase cover, it can help keep rain, snow, animals, and other debris out of your chimney. These chase covers are an inexpensive way to protect your home from chimney leaks, and also protect your chimney from potentially costly chimney damage.


Fireplace FAQ

What Is Seasoned Firewood?

Seasoned firewood has a lower moisture content, so it burns faster and cleaner than wood with a lot of moisture. Firewood with a high moisture content leads to more creosote buildup, which can cause a chimney fire to spark. That’s why we recommend burning seasoned firewood to prevent chimney fires.

How Can I Maintain My Fireplace Between Professional Fireplace Cleanings?

Sweeping and dusting your fireplace hearth area after each use will help you prevent residue buildup in your fireplace, along with making your fireplace look tidier. It’s important to wait for the embers to completely die down before you attempt to clean your fireplace. Additionally, avoid using chemical cleaners on your fireplace. Even after they dry, certain cleaners can leave a flammable residue on the surface of your fireplace.

Depending on what type of fireplace you have, you also might have to empty or vacuum your ash pit, in addition to giving your firebox walls a good scrubbing. Then wipe down your firescreen or glass enclosure to remove smoke stains and make your fireplace look more presentable.

What Is a Prefab Fireplace?

A prefab fireplace is a one that has been manufactured and assembled in a factory before being transported and installed at a job site. Many prefab fireplace designs are ventless. This allows the user to burn a gas fire without the need to vent any fumes to the outside of the home. Many prefab fireplace units are installed inside of an existing fireplace, while the majority of units are built for new construction or remodeled rooms.

What Is a Freestanding Stove?

Freestanding stoves are chimney-connected heaters that are not connected to an appliance such as a fireplace. They burn wood, gas, coal, wood pellets, oil or are electric, and many use a space age ceramic glass to provide fire viewing.

Freestanding stoves are generally used to heat a specific room or zone of the house. Stoves are very efficient and control of the fire, heat output, burn times, and installation options are greatly improved.

What Is a Fireplace Insert?

Fireplace inserts come in wood-burning insert and gas insert options. Inserts can be placed in an existing masonry or factory-built wood-burning fireplace and require a working chimney to operate. Fireplace inserts come in wood, coal, gas, propane, and pellet-burning options, and they are generally made from cast iron or steel. Fireplace inserts can look more attractive than a conventional fireplace. They come in a variety of colors, finishes, and styles.

What Is a Fireplace Firebox?

Your firebox is the part of your fireplace where the actual fire burns. Therefore, it’s also the part of your fireplace that must withstand the most heat.

Depending on what type of fireplace you have, your fireplace firebox could be brick or metal. Masonry fireplaces—which are built of bricks or other stone—typically have a brick firebox. If you have a prefab fireplace, your firebox is most likely made of metal.

What Is the Best Firewood to Burn?

No matter what the species of wood is, it is best to burn seasoned wood in your fireplace. Because it has a low moisture content, seasoned firewood burns hotter and cleaner—producing less creosote buildup in your fireplace and chimney.

What Species of Wood Burns Best?

The best fires are built with a combination of wood species—specifically, a combination of hardwood and softwood species. Species of wood are ranked by British thermal units (BTUs) and also by weight. Softwoods include species like pines and firs, while hardwoods include species like oak and cedar. Softwoods burn more easily and quickly, allowing you to get the fire going faster. Hardwoods, on the other hand, burn slower and longer—so you can enjoy your fire for a longer length of time. That’s why combining the two types of wood is ideal.

What Is Seasoned Firewood?

Seasoned firewood is basically just firewood that has been set out to dry. When you try to burn wet wood, a lot of energy is wasted. Seasoned firewood is usually cut in the spring and set out to dry throughout the summer. Unseasoned wood appears green and has a higher moisture content, which will make it weigh more. Seasoned firewood shouldn’t appear green at all and will weigh less due to its low moisture content.

When Should I Buy My Firewood?

If you plan to order firewood, you should order it well before the winter season. This will allow you to avoid peak firewood purchasing times and also allow you to get better seasoned wood.

How Should I Store My Firewood?

When storing your firewood, you should choose a location that’s not right beside your house. Wood attracts termites, and you don’t want to extend that invite into your home. Next, you should also lay down some cinder blocks so that your wood isn’t placed directly on the ground. This will keep your wood dry by preventing it from drawing moisture from the ground.  Finally, cover the top of your wood with a tarp, but keep the sides uncovered. This will keep your wood dry but still allow air to circulate.

What Is a Fireplace Liner?

Fireplace liners—also called chimney liners or flue liners—are made of clay, ceramic, or metal and serve to protect your chimney walls from fire and fire byproducts.

Read more about the benefits of chimney lining.

Why Is Smoke Re-Entering My House?

Usually the problem is that your chimney damper is closed or simply not open far enough. Open up your chimney damper all the way and see if that solves the problem. If not, give us a call for a chimney inspection or chimney repair.