Monday, January 25, 2010

Chimney Sweep

I don't know what's going on with our wood, but we did everything we were supposed to and it still seems inordinately wet. It's been curing for at least a year, and it hisses and steams when we put it in the fire. What a bummer. To rub salt in the proverbial wound, I was checking the flue and there seemed to be more buildup than usual. Not a lot, but more than usual, inspiring me to do a little chimney cleanup.

The thing that kills me is that for two years we heated with wood, burning wood that was less than ideally dry, and we never had a problem and there wasn't much creosote buildup. Then we paid some guys to come and clean the chimney, and within the first few months of using it, I'm seeing more buildup than usual. What's that all about?

Either way, it needs to be dealt with, which means that I was going to have to get dirty. Now I'm not ready to climb up on the roof with all that snow and sweep the chimney, but I do think that is in my future, no getting around that. But more on this later. For now, I decided to clean it from the bottom up. There are two openings in the basement for the chimney, one for cleaning out the creosote that falls down, and the other, I'm assuming, for cleaning and checking.

I got the extension rods after realizing they were flexible enough to fit into the hole, as well as a 8" round brush. The flue is square, but the hole is round, so I used a round brush, but obviously a square one would have worked better. My concern was that it wasn't going to fit through a round hole, but in retrospect, I think it would have. Just force the darn thing through and stop being such a wimp. Classic case of worrying about too much.

The rods are a pain to connect, they are finely thread, so they take a bit of time to connect. I fed each rod into the hole, connected the next one, then pushed it farther up. It actually worked okay, but I think I need one more extension, and the round brush is not only round (funny how that works), but it's too small, so the cleaning is not optimal.

Also, I had to wait until the chimney was cool enough to clean. Not an easy thing when you heat with wood. I could have done it in the morning before I built the fire, but I worried about waking up the kids since their room is next to the chimney. Also, it's cold in the AM, and I look forward to some heat. The weather has been weird, however, and it warmed up and we went out for the day. When we returned, the chimney was cool, and it sufficiently warm in the house to go without a fire for an hour or two. You have to seize the moment.

So I managed to get some of the job done. I figure I'll do some minor routine maintenance until Summer and then get up on the roof and do the real cleaning. It wasn't as messy as I anticipated, though there were some chunks of soot that I had to sweep up. Also, when coal falls down a chimney, it gets going pretty fast, and when it hits your arm and hand, which happen to be inside the flue, it hurts! Perils of being a real man in training.

At least I did it and the fearful-paralyzing mystery has been overcome. I feel more confident the next time around. I also got ladder hooks and will eventually use our extension ladder as some sort of staging to climb up the roof. My biggest fear about going up there was getting on and off the ladder that high up. It worries me. I am less fearful of going up the front face, as long as my footing is stable. I'm hoping the ladder will help, but we shall see. It opens up a whole new can of worms.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.


MMP said...

You could try warming up your wood. Bringing it in a coulple of days before you actually burn it will let it thaw and warm enough it will dry some. It means having enough storage space in the house for several days worth of wood, though. Splitting it finer would help it burn easier and give it more surface area to evaporate water. Bark is can store a lot of moisture, removing it will help dry the wood faster and burn better.

phredude said...

Hey MMP,

Thanks for the input, I'll look into it. We have a fair amount of space in the basement and might end up putting it there, but worry a little about the excessive moisture it might bring in as well as ants. I'll also look into splitting it finer, though then it burns so much quicker. There's a fine balance in there somewhere. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.