If your wood stove is a bit smokier than usual, chances are your chimney could use a cleaning.
And if it's August and the first snow has fallen, it's time to do it anyway. (Who wants to be running around on a metal roof when it's slick with frost?)
But "Oh no!", the chimney cleaning guy is all booked up for a month.
Why not Be Your Own Chimneysweep?
Step 1: Organize Yourself
- Multi-driver with bits (since you'll probably deal with several different screw heads);
- Ladder tall enough to get onto your roof;
- Chimney brush to match your chimney diameter (typically 6" or 8" or maybe 7");
- Small flat stick (size depends on your stove - see the steps that follow);
- Gloves, if you don't want soot staining your hands for the subsequent 3 days;
- Optional: small mirror or digital camera for looking up the chimney before & after cleaning.
- Paper bag, (though a plastic bag will do, in a pinch);
- Masking tape;
- Medium sized nails (3 of them) (optional, but very handy);
Step 2: Indoors - Before Going on the Roof
Make sure your wood stove is well out / cold.
Remove the three screws securing the bottom of the telescoping section of double-walled chimney.
Remove the locking screw that will hold the telescoping section, once raised.
Raise the telescoping section and install the screw that will hold it up there.
If you want, now is the time to have a look up the chimney and see what it looks like, before cleaning. It's dark and hard to see, and you'll need a small mirror (or a digital camera). To tell the truth, it's a bit academic at this point because if you've gotten this far, you're going to go ahead and brush it clean.
Carefully tape the rim of the paper bag to the chimney pipe - be sure there are no openings where sooty dust can escape. Also, ensure the bag is taped BELOW the lower ventilation slots in the chimney, because if soot gets in there, it can get carried out the upper ventilation slots - into your living room, and you don't want that.
A paper bag is preferable for this, because you can burn it (and the soot) afterward - it's all good fuel.
Step 3: Outdoors - Up, Onto the Roof
Be careful going up on your roof. The base of the ladder should be positioned so it matches the angle when you stand on the ground and reach your arms horizontally to the ladder, fully extended without leaning your body.
You should have good shoes and the ladder should be tied off so it won't slide out from the wall, or to one side.
Remove the four screws holding the chimney cap (don't lose them!) and remove the cap, trying to knock pieces of soot only down the chimney. Set it aside in such a way it won't slide off the roof.
At this point you can see the accumulation of soot in the chimney.
Insert the brush - lowering and raising several times every foot or so, as it goes further and further down.
At some point you will notice you can't pull the brush up any more - it's stuck!
Don't panic, it's not really stuck, it's just that the bottom section of pipe (the telescoping part that is in your living room) is slightly smaller diameter, so the only way to get the brush back up is to first push it right down until it emerges from the pipe and into your paper bag. (Another reason I feel a plastic bag is less preferable, is because I think plastic would be more susceptible to getting punctured and releasing soot into the room.) Once you feel the brush go into the bag, then pull it back up several feet, into the wider pipe, and repeat: down into the bag and back up. A half a dozen times is probably plenty.
Draw the brush all the way back out of the chimney.
Reinstall the chimney cap with the screws you didn't lose.
Step 4: Back Inside
After carefully getting off the roof, go back inside and remove the paper bag of soot.
Obviously you don't want to be cavalier about this, or rush. I put the paper bag directly into the fire box, before it can spill.
The next step is very important, at least on my stove because the accumulated soot and ash on the roof of the fire box can build up and significantly impede the smoke trying to rise up the chimney. The reduced draft can result in smoke coming out the front of the stove when the door is opened to load in more wood.
I use a narrow, flat stick (about 7" long) to scrape the granulated soot off the roof of the fire box, toward the front of the stove so it falls back inside the fire box (where it will be burned, the next time I light a fire). It's tedious, but worthwhile - so do a good job.
Step 5: Tidying Up
You can see the roof of the fire box is now much cleaner.
You can see up the chimney looks pretty good now, too.
Reinstalling the chimney to the stove is a little finicky because the collar on the stove has to fit between the inner and outer walls of the chimney pipe.
I find that temporarily inserting nails makes it a bit easier to ensure all the screw holes are lined up, before I start reinstalling the screws.
Sweep up the debris and light a test fire to burn up the soot and ensure nothing is amiss.
Give yourself a pat on the back - you're ready for winter!