Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are chimney cleanings *really* that important? What’s the worst that can happen if I skip cleanings?

A: When chimneys aren’t routinely cleaned, creosote can build up inside the flue liner and ignite when you light a fire in the fireplace. Now, you may be thinking that’s not a big deal, because fireplaces and chimneys are meant to contain fire, right? Actually, fireplaces are meant to contain fire, chimneys are not. The intense heat can crack a clay tile liner or cause damage to a metal liner, and within minutes, the fire can spread to other areas of the home. So yes, cleanings *really* are that important. They remove combustible byproducts, reduce your fire risk, and make enjoying your fireplace safer.

Q: When should I clean my chimney?

A: There’s a simple way to tell if your chimney needs to be cleaned. Simply check the thickness of soot deposits inside. If you’ve got a quarter of an inch of soot OR you see shiny, black creosote inside, it’s time for a cleaning.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommend you schedule an annual inspection, regardless of whether you think you need a cleaning or not. Inspections can reveal problems earlier – plus, having a pro look at the inside of your chimney every year means you don’t have to get out the flashlight and evaluate soot and creosote buildup yourself. We’ll take a look and let you know if it’s time to clean your chimney.

Q: Do fireplaces and chimneys that aren’t used still need to be inspected every year?

A: Chimney and fireplace damage doesn’t just come from use. Wear and tear often comes from chimney leaks and nesting animals or blockages in the flue, for example. Leaks are typically hard to spot at first, but water can do a lot of damage to the masonry of your chimney or the metal and wood of your prefabricated chimney. And once water’s inside, the damage can continue to spread to drywall and ceilings near the chimney and wood framing in attics.

As you can imagine, water damage can be costly to repair. By scheduling annual inspections, regardless of how often your fireplace is used, you have a leg up on potential damage and issues that could threaten your wallet and your safety. So even if you never use your fireplace, it’s worth scheduling an inspection.

Q: Why is my fireplace so smoky?

A: A fireplace that smokes a lot isn’t normal. But what could be causing the problem? Here are the top causes of smoky fireplaces:

  • A flue blockage (perhaps a bird’s nest, a nesting animal, or buildup or debris of some kind)
  • A closed or only partially opened damper
  • A flue-to-fireplace opening size issue
  • A chimney height issue that’s impacting draft

If your fireplace is smoking a lot and you’ve already made sure the damper is fully opened, the best thing to do is to schedule an inspection. During an inspection, we’ll check for blockages in the flue, chimney height issues, flue-to-fireplace opening issues, air pressure problems, and anything else that could negatively impact draft. Depending on the source of the trouble, we may recommend a chimney extension, a smoke guard, a chimney fan, a new damper, or some other solution.

Q: My fireplace stinks! Why?

A: Fireplace odors can be caused by a few different things. Most commonly, it’s the result of a buildup of creosote paired with the heat and humidity of summertime. If you notice the smell worsening during the summer months, chances are this is what’s causing the odor.

Another common cause of fireplace odor is animal related. Birds, raccoons, and other animals can choose the chimney as a nesting spot. And when they do, they bring nesting materials, feces, food, and unpleasant odors along with them. These animals can sometimes get stuck and die in the chimney as well, which can produce an incredibly awful odor.

As with anything, the best way to figure out what’s going on is to schedule an inspection and chimney cleaning. We can remove creosote, check for chimney leaks, and inspect for animals. If animals are the issue, we can remove them as well – as long as they aren’t federally protected, like the Chimney Swift. We may also recommend a chimney deodorant.

Q: What can I do if Chimney Swifts are nesting in my chimney?

A: Chimney Swifts are federally-protected birds that love nesting in chimneys during the summer and early fall. If Chimney Swifts are nesting in your chimney, the only option is to wait until they leave for the season and then clean the chimney and take measures to prevent them from returning. A chimney cap with a bird screen will usually work well to prevent nesting in the future.

Q: What do I do if I have a chimney fire?

A: The first thing you need to do if you have a chimney fire is get everyone safely out of the home and call the fire department. Once the fire is out and you’re cleared to go back in, that’s when you’ll want to call a CSIA-certified chimney sweep. We’ll come out, assess the damage, and make repair recommendations so you can get back to safely enjoying your fireplace again.

Still have more questions? Check out our Appointment Tips. If you don’t find the answer to your question there, give us a call. We’re happy to help. Call 414-626-5636 or reach out here on our website.


When you learn more about us, we believe you’ll be ready to trust Ashbusters Chimney for professional and reliable chimney services all year long.