Sadly, chimneys are being phased out in the newer homes that I inspect. But if you are fortunate enough to own a solid fuel or gas-vented fireplace, this blog is for you.
Down here in the South, chimney maintenance often goes neglected from one year to the next. Mostly because homeowners only warm by the fire a total of a week or two out of the whole winter season. Regardless of how often you use your fireplace, the chimney and flue need to be maintenanced.
As for simple cleaning, start by removing ashes from the fireplace. During the winter, make sure that the ashes don't build up greater than 2". After winter, ensure that you remove all the ashes from the firebox. For some deep cleaning,remove soot and stains from the fireplace by spraying on a mixture of soapy water. Try to spray liberally and let the solution soak in for about half an hour. Once the soot has softened, then scrub the surface using a wire brush. Also use the wire brush to remove rust and debris from the damper. The damper may be difficult to access, so wear protective clothing, eye protection, and gloves. Lastly, the exterior and chimney flue should be left to the professionals, but some checks can be performed by you when done safely. If you can safely access the chimney cap, check that it is in good condition, and that it is not restricted with leaves or other debris. Sometimes a wire screen will keep debris and animals from getting down into the chimney. Even though their name may suggest they are free labor, "Chimney Swifts" or "Chimney Sweeps" of the bird variety often nest in the chimney and may become a serious fire hazard. And while you are up there, check the "pointing" or the mortar between the bricks to make sure that it is in good condition, and it is not cracked or flaking. So help Santa keep his suit clean this year and have a safe and Merry Christmas!!!!