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Don’t Put Off Your Annual Chimney Sweeping or Cleaning

One of the downsides of homeownership is that your weekends tend to get filled up with lists of pesky household chores. Most people don’t like having to wake up early on a Saturday morning after a long week to rake leaves or mow the lawn. Fortunately for homeowners in Charleston, Ashbusters Charleston is here to take one of those tasks off of your hands.

Annual chimney cleanings (sweepings) are crucial to maintaining the health and safety of your chimney and fireplace. With nearly 40 years of experience in the chimney industry, you can depend on the crew of certified chimney technicians at Ashbusters Charleston for your yearly chimney cleaning – and any of your other chimney or fireplace services, as well. 

Schedule a chimney sweeping now by calling us at 843-400-0133 or by booking an appointment

Chimney sweep climbing ladder onto roof

Why Are Chimney Cleanings So Important?

Chimneys are one of the most neglected areas of the home. Even if you only fire up your chimney for special occasions, it still needs to be inspected and cleaned at least once a year as recommended by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).

But why exactly is it important for you to get your chimney cleaned?

  • Cleanings prevent chimney fires. Fire prevention is one of the biggest reasons to keep up with chimney cleanings. When you burn wood or other fuels in your fireplace or stove, byproducts like creosote and soot can gather in the chimney over time and adhere to its walls. Creosote is highly flammable and if there’s too much of it built up, it can ignite and lead to a chimney fire. Annual cleanings help us monitor creosote levels and give us the opportunity to remove creosote and soot before they reach dangerous levels.
  • Cleanings help identify potential problems. Before and after a cleaning, a chimney technician will usually inspect the chimney system for signs of damage or deterioration. Early detection is the key to keeping your repair costs in check. It’s cheaper and less of a hassle to you to seal a crack or two than it is to have your chimney relined.
  • Cleanings encourage better air quality. A dirty chimney can cause smoke to back up into your home. When a chimney is clogged with creosote, soot, or debris, it restricts airflow and prevents proper ventilation. This can affect indoor air quality and potentially expose you and your family to harmful toxins and gases, like carbon monoxide.
  • Cleanings can extend your chimney’s lifespan. Skipped chimney cleanings allow creosote and soot to accumulate in your chimney which can corrode and damage parts of the system. A fireplace adds value to your property as homes with fireplaces often sell at higher asking prices than homes without them. If you have decided to add a fireplace or insert to your home, regular cleanings will keep your fireplace in good condition for longer periods, ultimately protecting your investment.

How Often Should I Have My Chimney Cleaned?

We get it – there are likely lots of times you’ve felt you haven’t burned enough wood in a season to constitute a cleaning or sweeping. Or maybe you’ve moved into a new home and think the chimney should be okay because either you have not used it at all or it is completely brand new. 

While that makes perfect sense to the average consumer, many chimney pros have done evaluations on brand-new systems that have clearance-to-combustible issues that need to be fixed before being lit. And even a chimney that’s completely unused for a season could have blockages due to outside debris buildup or animal entry.

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) and CSIA strongly encourage annual chimney sweepings – no matter where your system stands. In fact, if you use your fireplace a lot, you may need two inspections and sweepings per year.

We understand that each chimney is different and our clients’ needs will vary, so you should talk with your chimney technician about the right maintenance plan during your annual inspection. Schedule online with us today.

How Can I Tell if I Need a Chimney Cleaning?

It’s not always easy to figure out when your chimney needs a cleaning or sweep, which is why Ashbusters Charleston recommends inspections and cleanings at least once every year.

However, there may be times when your chimney needs a refresh before your annual appointment rolls around. Maybe you’ve been using your fireplace more than usual, or perhaps some chimney swifts moved in for a while and have finally vacated their nests. If you’re not sure if you need a chimney cleaning, keep an eye out for the following:

  • There’s more smoke than usual. A fireplace that produces more smoke than normal, even when the damper is fully open and you’re burning seasoned wood, can be a sign of a blocked chimney.
  • You notice a bad smell. If there’s an unpleasant or unusual odor coming from your fireplace, it can be due to the buildup of creosote – or you may have a critter issue.
  • There’s visible creosote. When there’s a lot of creosote buildup, you may notice large amounts of creosote falling into your fireplace or see thick, oily streaks lining the chimney walls.
  • It’s harder to keep a fire going. If you’re able to get a fire started, but it goes out quicker than usual, it could be a sign that it’s not getting enough oxygen – which could point to a blockage in the chimney.
  • Stains on walls or ceiling. When there’s an obstruction or debris in the chimney, it can’t vent properly. This may cause soot stains on the walls or ceiling near your fireplace.
  • There’s evidence of animals. It’s common for birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other animals to choose chimneys as nesting spots. You might hear unusual sounds like thumping, chirping, or squeaking coming from your chimney.

If you think your chimney needs to be swept earlier than usual or if you’re past due for an annual cleaning, schedule an appointment with Ashbusters Charleston. Our customer service team is available by phone at 843-400-0133 or you can get in touch with us online.

Do Gas Fireplaces Need a Chimney Cleaning?

When you have a fireplace that uses gas as a fuel source, you don’t have to worry about creosote because it’s a byproduct of burning organic materials like wood, oil, and coal. As a result, it’s a common misconception that gas fireplaces and gas inserts don’t need to be cleaned.

So, to answer the question – yes, all chimneys need yearly cleanings. While it’s true that gas fireplaces don’t typically need as much maintenance as wood-burning fireplaces, they can still pose a fire hazard if they don’t get the right care.

The CSIA and NFPA recommend that gas fireplaces be professionally cleaned once a year. In between annual chimney sweepings, it’s a good idea to wipe down your gas fireplace or insert with a cloth or hand brush about once a month if you use it regularly. This will prevent soot and ash from building up in the fireplace and blocking vents.

What to Expect During a Chimney Sweeping With Ashbusters

We understand your number one concern is the possible mess chimney sweeps could bring into your home. With Ashbusters Charleston, there is no mess.

That’s right! Take a look at exactly what we do to ensure that your home is as clean – if not cleaner – after our job is complete.

  1. We wear booties over our shoes to keep your home clean.
  2. We lay out tarps in front of the fireplace to ensure that your carpet does not get dirty.
  3. We hook up a high-speed dust collector to make sure that no soot gets into your home.
  4. We sweep the inside of your chimney with hand tools for the firebox and smoke chamber.
  5. We clean, inspect, and adjust the damper and damper assembly.
  6. We use brushes on rods to sweep the flue and a vacuum with a triple-layer HEPA filter to control dust.
  7. We do a visual inspection of the outside of the chimney, checking the mortar, brick, and crown. We document any damage or needed repairs we find with videos or digital photos that can be sent to you.
  8. We leave a copy of the written evaluation with you when we are through.
  9. We have a 100% satisfaction guarantee (the homeowner must be present at the time of service).
  10. We recommend this service to be done annually.

How Long Does a Chimney Cleaning Take?

In most instances, chimney cleaning shouldn’t be a time-consuming project.  A professional chimney cleaning can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours on average, but some factors can extend that time frame. It may take us a bit longer to get the job done if the chimney is large, has multiple flues, or has a more complex design.

If you’ve missed a few annual sweepings and inspections, there will likely be a late-stage buildup of creosote and the chimney may be in rougher shape overall. If that’s the case, you’re going to require a more in-depth chimney cleaning. You can save yourself a lot of money and time by scheduling annual cleanings.

Can I Clean My Chimney Using DIY Methods Like Creosote Sweeping Logs or Powders?

There’s no shortage of chimney cleaning products and appliances on the market. In recent years, there’s been a spike in creosote sweeping logs and creosote removing powders available in-store and online. Although these products may promise an easy DIY approach to chimney sweeping, this isn’t true and you could put your home at risk if you rely on logs and powders to clean your chimney.

Logs and powders have shown some effectiveness, and it doesn’t hurt to use them in between annual cleanings to help keep creosote in check. But it’s important to remember that these products can’t – and shouldn’t – replace an annual cleaning by a certified chimney professional.

Why not?

  • They don’t remove the creosote – they only loosen it.
  • They offer a false sense of security.
  • They can’t tell you of any other damages throughout your system.

When Is the Best Time to Schedule a Chimney Sweeping?

The burning season usually starts in the fall in Charleston. We recommend setting up an appointment for a chimney cleaning when your fireplace isn’t being used, so the best time to schedule is in the late spring or over the summer. This gives us time to address any repairs or potential problems before temperatures drop and your fireplace is being used more often.

That said, we clean chimneys all year long. If you’ve recently purchased a new home, you should schedule a cleaning before you use your fireplace to be on the safe side. A chimney inspection is common in real estate transactions, but that’s not always guaranteed.

How Much Does a Chimney Cleaning Cost?

We don’t like to offer estimates for chimney cleanings before we can inspect your system. The cost can vary depending on a few factors, and we think it’s best to get a thorough look at your chimney first, so that we can provide an estimate that is as accurate as possible.

These are some things that can impact the cost of your chimney cleaning:

  • Animal activity
  • The size of the chimney
  • The location of your chimney
  • The amount of creosote build-up
  • The chimney’s accessibility

Looking to talk numbers and see where you might be? Give us a call or reach out to us online now.

What Is Creosote?

When you use wood as a source of fuel to ignite a fire, it creates byproducts that can’t be completely ventilated and, therefore, settle into your chimney – creosote is one of those. It’s a dark, tar-like substance known for its pungent odor. In the later phases of build-up, creosote can appear more like a glossy or glass finish.

There are three stages of creosote:

  • Stage 1. In its beginning stage, creosote looks like loose, black or brown flakes, and it is relatively easy to clear out with a professional chimney cleaning. Regular cleanings and inspections can typically prevent stage 1 creosote from advancing to more dangerous stages.
  • Stage 2. At this point, creosote has a more sticky and thick tar-like consistency than stage 1 creosote. This type of creosote is hard to remove because it clings to the walls. The chances of a chimney fire are higher with stage 2 creosote present in your chimney.
  • Stage 3. This is the most dangerous level of creosote buildup. It appears as a shiny, hard coating on the chimney walls. Stage 3 creosote forms when stage 2 creosote is exposed to high temperatures, causing it to harden and become highly flammable. This stage is difficult to treat and requires specialized equipment, products, and expertise.

How can I tell if there’s too much creosote in my chimney?

Creosote is easy to spot. It may look like a powdery substance that falls onto the floor of your firebox when you open or close the damper. When it’s gone untreated, it may look like your chimney is covered in car grease.

If you notice excessive smoke or a strong, unpleasant odor coming from your fireplace, it can be a sign that there is creosote buildup as well. Creosote can produce a pungent, smoky smell when your fireplace is in use and it heats up.

Your chimney should be cleaned when creosote reaches ⅛ of an inch. A buildup that exceeds this can affect your chimney’s performance. Poor draft, difficulty lighting a fire, or smoke backing up into your home are indicators that creosote may be obstructing your chimney.

How do I stop creosote buildup?

It’s not possible to completely stop creosote from forming in your chimney, but there are steps that you can take to keep it at a level that ensures your fireplace is safe to use (as long as you’re keeping up with yearly sweeps, that is).

  • Only use seasoned firewood.
  • Build and maintain hot fires in your fireplace.
  • Install a chimney cap.
  • Monitor changes in smoke and unusual odors.
  • Schedule regular inspections and cleanings.
  • Ensure your chimney has good airflow.

Why Should I Choose Ashbusters Charleston?

Though Ashbusters opened in 2011 in South Carolina, we have a nearly 40-year company history to draw from. Our chimney professionals trained for several years with technicians who have swept tens of thousands of chimneys and have received thousands of “all excellent” response cards from customers.

In other words, we have learned and trained with the best! Our goal is to bring the same service and performance level to Charleston and prove we do it right.

We know we are setting the bar high and we intend to live up to those standards every day, so we promise we will continue to do it right – every time. Take a minute and see what others have to say about the Ashbusters brand on HomeAdvisor. We think you will agree that this is the type of company you can trust in your home to provide a great value for superior service.

Schedule Your Next Chimney Cleaning Today

If you’re a resident of Charleston, you can trust Ashbusters Charleston for your chimney cleaning needs. Our technicians are knowledgeable, reliable, and ready to get to work. Get peace of mind and schedule an appointment for a chimney cleaning with us now.

You can reach out online or speak with one of our customer service representatives by calling 843-400-0133. We can’t wait to get started!


Remember to schedule your annual  chimney inspection with our chimney and dryer vent services experts. That way, you’ll be ready for the first fire of the season!