Chimney Corners

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Hudon, Our Fire Dog


  1. What is a flue?
  2. How often should I clean my chimney?
  3. What is a cord of wood?
  4. What can I expect when your technician comes to my home? Will it be messy?
  5. How long will a cleaning take?
  6. Do you give free inspections?
  7. What is a Chimney Scan?
  8. I heat with gas. Should this chimney be checked also?
  9. My damper is broken. Can you fix it?
  10. My fireplace smells. What can I do?
  11. When I build a fire in my upstairs fireplace, I get smoke in my house from the basement fireplace. Why is this happening and what can be done to fix it?
  12. I have birds in my chimney. What should I do?
  13. Why do I need a chimney cap?
  14. Do you sell stoves? (Wood, Gas, Pellet)
Chimney With Two Flues
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1.  What is a flue?  (Homeowners sometimes call the damper the flue. The metal plate you open and close to use your fireplace is called the damper.)


The flue is actually the opening through which the smoke and gasses exit from your home.  In your chimney, there is an individual flue for each fireplace or appliance.  For example, if you have a fireplace and a furnace, each flue is a separate duct within the same chimney.  One chimney may have more than one flue.  In a masonry chimney, the flue is constructed of clay tiles that are two feet long, stacked on top of one another joined by cement.  In this example chimney above, there would be two separate stacks of these tiles inside a brick or stone masonry casing.  This is true of all chimneys that were constructed after 1930.   In the 1920s, the codes changed to require separate flue tiles for each item to be placed inside the brick casing.  Chimneys that were built in the 1920s are sometimes lined with tiles and sometimes unlined.  

2.  How often should my chimney be swept?

This is a actually a more complicated question than it seems. The simple answer is: The National Fire Protection Association standard 211 says, “Chimneys, fireplaces and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom for deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary. “This is the national safety standard and is the correct way to approach the problem. It takes into account the fact that even if you don’t use your chimney much, animals may build nests in the flue or there may be other types of deterioration that could make the chimney unsafe to use.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be cleaned at ¼” of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. Factory-built fireplaces should be cleaned when any appreciable buildup occurs. This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home. Please see our section on Sweeping, for more information.

One Full Cord of Wood

3.  What is a cord of wood? What kind of wood should I burn in my fireplace?


A cord of wood is a stack of wood that is 4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long. We recommend that you only burn hard wood that has been seasoned for at least 6-12 months. Hard wood that burns well includes Oak, Maple, Beech, Ash, and Hickory. Do not burn soft woods like Pine, Cedar, Fir, Tamarack, and Redwood.

 4.  What can I expect when your technician arrives at my home? Will it be messy?
We treat every home with the utmost respect. Our technicians will set up drop cloths in your home to prevent any dirt and debris from damaging your floors. We will assess the flues to determine whether they need cleaning. If a sweep is not needed, we will not sweep. Then, our technicians will bring the brushes, rods, and vacuum to your chimney.  Our technicians use a powerful vacuum, with a built-in air filtration system, that prevents soot and dust from entering the home while they are sweeping.
Chimney sweeping can be done from the inside or outside of the home depending on the construction or installation. Whether you have a large masonry fireplace, a heating flue or a metal factory-built chimney system our brushes and equipment will remove all loose creosote and soot without damage to the chimney. (This includes the connector pipes in factory built chimneys, which can become separated when inappropriate brushes or rods are used.)  All the soot and creosote dislodged during the cleaning process is removed from the base of the flue.
Our technicians will also examine the fireplace, woodstove or heating flue and provide you with information regarding any problems or concerns discovered during the cleaning process.

5. How long will a cleaning take?


A standard appointment will typically last between 30 minutes and 1 hour and 30 minutes. This may vary depending on the extent of the soot build-up and the construction of the chimney.

6.  Do you give free inspections?

Inspections and cleanings are our main source of income and we would not have stayed in business as long as we have if we offered those services for free. We do offer a visual inspection at a reduced rate, but please keep in mind that a visual inspection is just that. We will inspect what we can see with the naked eye, using flashlights and mirrors, but we may miss any damage that is not readily visible. The best way to accurately determine the condition of your chimney is with a sweep and possibly a chimney video scan.

Technician Performing a Video Scan Inspection in a Fireplace Flue

7.  What is a chimney video scan?

A chimney scan is when we actually run a small camera up into the flue and watch the video feed on a screen in the room. (Similar to how a doctor can use a camera to see inside of your body.)  This way, we can see if there are any broken tiles, missing or eroded mortar joints or open voids in your chimney. This is the best and most thorough way to inspect the flue liner, because it is usually not possible to see the flue tiles all the way through a chimney with just a flashlight and mirror.

8.  I heat with gas. Should this chimney be checked too?

Without a doubt! Although gas is generally a clean burning fuel, the chimney can become non-functional if there are animal nests or other debris blocking the flue.

Adjusting a Damper That Has Come Off Its Track

9.  My damper is broken. Can you fix it?


First, our experience has shown us that 90% of the time the damper is just off track or out of adjustment. When we sweep and evaluate your chimney, cleaning and adjusting the damper assembly is part of the process. So, we have two options. We can either schedule an appointment just to try to repair the damper or we can evaluate the damper after we sweep the flue.

Sometimes, the damper cannot be repaired. In these situations, we have a damper replacement called a Top-Mounted Damper. These dampers are installed on the top of your chimney. There is a stainless steel cable attached to the damper that runs all the way down inside the chimney to a bracket that we mount inside of your firebox.  This damper handle is much easier to reach than the original damper handle.

The charge for a top-mounted damper, including installation on an average chimney, ranges from $350.00 to $460.00 plus tax for a standard size fireplace flue. Some chimneys are difficult to access and may require two technicians, or some scaffolding to install the Top-Mounted Damper. The cost of the damper installation may increase if the top of the chimney is difficult to access.

Man Holding His Nose, Fireplace Smell

10.  My fireplace smells, especially in the summer. What can I do?


The smell is due to creosote deposits in the chimney, a natural byproduct of wood burning. The odor is usually worse in the summer when the humidity is high and the air conditioner is turned on. A good cleaning will help but usually won't solve the problem completely. There are commercial chimney deodorants that work well, and many people have good results with baking soda or even kitty litter set on a plate in the fireplace. The real issue is air being drawn down the chimney, a symptom of overall pressure problems in the house. Some make-up air should be introduced somewhere else in the house. A tight sealing, Top-Mounted Damper will also reduce this air flow coming down the chimney.

11.  When I build a fire in my upstairs fireplace, I get smoke in my house from the basement fireplace. Why is this happening and what can be done to fix it?

This has become quite a common problem in modern, airtight houses where weather proofing has eliminated the replacement air routes that existed in the past. All houses have appliances and fans that push air out of the house, for example, your clothing dryer, kitchen and bathroom fans, and the heating appliances. This exiting air must be replaced as the air pressure tries to equalize on the outside and inside of the house. This is even more of a problem in the summer when the air-conditioner or attic fan is running, both of which push huge amounts of air out of the house. If the house is quite airtight, the only available opening for makeup air to enter the house is through the chimneys. Negative pressure is usually strongest in the lower parts of the house, and the downstairs fireplace is the most likely to have air blowing down. Therefore, when you use your main floor fireplace, the smoke travels up the flue and is drawn down the basement fireplace flue next to it. The existing downdraft in that flue pulls the smoke back down and out the lower fireplace.

A Chimney Swift Nesting in a Chimney

12.  I have birds in my chimney. What should I do?

If you hear noises, especially just above the firebox where you burn, it is likely that you have an animal in the chimney.  Raccoons particularly love to make a nest in the smoke shelf above the firebox and have their babies there. The noises, which often sound like chirping, are the babies waiting for Mom to come home with some food.  We do not remove live animals, so you will need to either wait till the critters move out or call an animal removal company.  When the chimney is empty again we recommend you have a cleaning to remove any droppings and then install a chimney cap to prevent future animal intrusions.

If you see birds coming out of the top of your chimney, you most likely have Chimney Swifts. These birds are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Act and cannot be removed until they are able to fledge out, (fly out on their own), about 4-6 weeks after you first heard them. Once they are gone, we can then clean the chimney flue. We recommend that you have a chimney cap installed so you do not run into the same problem next year. Once they find a convenient chimney home, Chimney Swifts typically come back and nest there again each year.

13.  Why do I need a chimney cap?

Chimney caps are not required, but we highly recommend having a chimney cap installed for several reasons. Chimney caps protect your home and your family by preventing rain, debris, and animals from entering your chimney. We can install a standard chimney cap on your chimney, or we can install beautiful custom chimney caps that will compliment your home’s current aesthetics. Please see our section on Chimney Caps for additional information.

14.  Do you sell stoves? (Wood, Gas, Pellet)                          

No. However, we do recommend Nordic Stove in Stamford and Yankee Doodle Stove in Wilton.  Take a look at their many interesting and decorative products.