Frequently Asked Questions

Chimney Sweep FAQs

A chimney sweep provides critical maintenance ensuring the safety and integrity of your chimney and home. With over 30 years of expertise, we provide  homeowners with information and the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about their chimneys and their homes. To help demystify the chimney sweep process, we have compiled a list of some of our most frequently asked questions, as well as the answer to those questions, below:

What happens when you sweep a chimney?

The purpose of sweeping the chimney is to remove combustible deposits generated by the use of your fireplace or appliance. If left unclean, these deposits could potentially cause a flue fire or even a structure fire. The best way to sweep a chimney is with specialty tools designed to efficiently remove as much of the deposits in the chimney as possible. These specialty tools can include brushes, rotary whips or chains or even chemical applications.  

How often should I have my chimney swept?

NFPA 211 states that any flue in use should be serviced on an annual basis by a certified professional.

Why do I need a fireplace cap?

Caps perform many functions including but not limited to:

  • water intrusion prevention inside the flue and/or at the top of the chimney.
  • Animal intrusion prevention
  • spark arrestation
  • keeping the flue free of sticks and leaves


What do I need to do to prepare for a chimney sweep?

Make sure that they fireplace or appliance that is being serviced has not been in use for at least 48 hours to ensure that no embers or hot debris are left behind. Prepare a clear path and a reasonable workspace to all fireplaces or appliances needing service.

What about the dust, will I need to do anything or cover the furniture?

We take special care to ensure that the inside of your home remains dust free using high CFM vacuum equipment, exhaust fans, temporary barriers and tarps. 

Why don’t you give a free quote/estimate?

Our certified technicians are continually trained under several different credentials to recognize and address all issues surrounding your chimney or venting system. Even common problems sometimes have uncommon causes. A highly trained and certified technician can identify symptoms and get to the root of their cause. Often times several different approaches are required to address one individual symptom. We dedicate our expertise to addressing the issues you present to us and provide a service that no one outside of the industry possibly could.

What exactly is Creosote?

Creosote is a highly flammable, tar-like deposit that sticks to the sides of your chimney flue. Creosote forms as combustion gases from your wood-burning fireplace travel up the flue and cool down. If creosote continues to build up without regular sweeps and inspections, it could ignite and cause a dangerous chimney fire.

I have a gas burning fireplace, does my chimney still need to be swept?

Absolutely! Gas is generally a clean-burning fuel, and gas fireplaces do not cause creosote buildup. However, many other factors can negatively affect the functionality of your chimney. For example, your chimney can become obstructed by animal nests or other debris. A chimney sweep will inspect your gas burning fireplace and chimney for carbon monoxide leaks, structural problems and ventilation issues, ensuring that your system is safe to use.

Will my house be a mess after a chimney cleaning?

Not if you hire a Black Goose Chimney Sweep. Before any inspection and cleaning certified Black Goose Chimney sweeps will prepare the area with cloths and will also clean the area after any inspection and cleaning.

My chimney gets hit by lightening, can you address this?

When lightning strikes a chimney, it can cause cracks and damage to the bricks and to the mortar. Chimney caps can also be damaged as well as flashing at the base of a chimney where it joins up to the roof. 

Damage to any of these parts can allow damage to the exterior and even damage chimney lining.

This can allow water to get into the chimney system, virtually guaranteeing more extensive damage over time.

When you hire us at Black Goose to do your inspection we will be able to assess if your chimney has been hit by lightning and can provide a quote and plan for any repairs.

What will a chimney cap do? Do I need one?

Your chimney cap closed the door on excess water entering your chimney and the damage that it causes. It also keeps out birds, squirrels, raccoons and other critters that may think your chimney looks like a good summer home. A very common problem is when raccoons, squirrels, birds and bats try to make their home in your chimney. They can block proper ventilation and even enter your home, potentially spreading disease and wreaking havoc. Our strong mesh and caps will keep even the most determined critters out!

Leaves and other debris that storms and high winds can blow into your chimney are blocked out too. Blockages that occur from these causes are often the fuel for dangerous chimney fires. The chimney cap (or guard) protects the home of the risk that sparks and airborne embers will land on your roof, causing a fire hazard.

How long do prefab fireplace inserts in a newer home last and when should they be replaced?

Many newer homes have a factory built fireplace that is installed in the wall with a framed wall outside the home that contains the venting system. These fireplaces are usually constructed using galvanized steel and last from 20 to 30 years on average. If you see gaps or cracks in the walls of your firebox area, rust or warped panels – you need to have the system inspected and possibly repaired. If the prefab fireplace insert has reached its limit for use, we can also install a new fireplace insert that can fit right into the existing space. This does require extensive carpentry work in addition to the new fireplace insert, but it can be done with minimal intrusion to the home in a relatively short amount of time.

Even if I only use my chimney on occassion, do I still need to have it swept?

If you only drive your car every once in a while, does it still need brakes?

All joking aside, we perform our services based on nationally and internationally accepted standards.

It is our professional obligation to inform you of any deficiencies or hazards present in your chimney or venting system setup. We cannot legally suggest that you use anything that presents a hazard to your home or health.

When is the best time to have my chimney swept?

Is in the spring and summer to be prepared for the fall and winter.

Don’t wait for the rush in the fall to have an appointment for the holidays. Have you chimney or venting system serviced ahead of time.

What about those “chimney cleaning” logs? Can I just use those to clean my chimney?

Chimney sweep logs can be useful to help reduce the creosote buildup in your chimney.

However, you should only use cleaners and logs that have been approved by the Chimney Sweep Institute of America.

When in doubt about if a chimney sweep log is a good supplement for your type of chimney, contact us here at Black Goose for advice.

Important: chemical cleaners and sweep logs do NOT replace an annual sweep and inspection.

Is it ok to burn Pine wood?

In short, yes. Let me explain:  Pine is one of species of trees found in the mid-Atlantic region of the united states. It is a soft wood species meaning that it does not provide many BTU per pound per seasoned fuel burned. With pine, as with any other species of hard or soft wood, it is imperative that it be properly seasoned before using as firewood. You will get longer burn times from white or red oak but green/wet/unseasoned oak is exactly damaging to your venting system as green/wet/unseasoned pine.

What is seasoned wood?

To properly season your wood, cut it into suitable pieces for your appliance or fireplace Split it into pieces no more than 6in in diameter. Stack it up off the ground no more than 2 rows thick but as tall and long as you like. Cover it on the top from rain, but don’t let your cover drape over the sides, it will prevent air flow. Let it sit for 10-12 months. Make sure that the moisture content on the wood is less than 20% by using a handheld moisture meter. Burning improperly seasoned wood is the fastest way to damage your venting system or appliance.

My fire won’t stay lit, is it OK to use Kerosene to get is started?

It is never ok to use a liquid accelerant to sustain a fire. When your fire wont stay lit its an indicator of another issue (ie draft, improperly seasoned wood) liquid accelerants are unpredictable, have a much higher rate of burn and produce fumes that are harmful to your venting system and your own health.

I think I have chimney swifts, how do I get rid of them?

Are a federal protected migratory species of bird that reside in North America during the spring and summer months. They nest primarily in uncapped flues and uncovered chases. Active nests cannot be disturbed or destroyed. Molestation of birds, nests or eggs carry cumulative fines.  In the fall and winter, these birds reside in south America. This is the best time of the year to prevent their return. The best way to prevent them from coming back is the installation of a cap or multiple caps. This species of bird carries a nasty blood parasite referred to as the “bat bug” or “chimney swift bug”. Because of this, it is required that the chimney be treated with pesticide before performing a “treated debris removal”. During this service we sweep the flue and remove any nesting materials left behind.

What do you mean when you say “code”?

The industry accepted standard of care for solid fuel applications, chimneys, vents and fireplaces is NFPA 211. For gas its NFPA 54 and for oil, NFPA 31. The installation reference for all of these categories is the International Residential Code or IRC

But my chimney has been this way for… forever, it seems. Isn’t my chimney “grandfathered” in?

This circumstance is referred to retroactivity. Any chimney inspection performed will refer to the most recent NFPA and IRC standards for code compliance. Anything that does not meet current code requirements is not and never will be grandfathered.

What is chimney relining and do all chimneys needs relining?

Traditionally, masonry chimneys had clay tiles that covered the inside of the chimney. These tiles were designed to seal the chimney structure and direct all the sparks, heat, gases and particles up and out of the home. The problem is that over time, the tiles crack or break due to weathering, heat and freeze cycles, and other factors. Once the break-down begins, your chimney can become dangerous to use and can require a new lining. Some older chimneys did not even have the tile liners, so they are a real hazard that needs immediate attention. Chimneys built before 1940 have a high likelihood that they were built without a clay liner. Every chimney needs a liner of some kind that is designed to fit the needs of the fireplace, stove or furnace that is venting through it.

There are many solutions to relining a chimney, the most popular being a stainless steel liner being installed in the chimney space from top to bottom. This flue can also be insulated to increase efficiency and needs to be fitted properly to the chimney using flexible or rigid flue piping.

Why is water leaking into my fireplace and mkaing stains on the ceiling nearby? What can you do about this?

Water is the major enemy of your fireplace system. It can seep in many places, cracking and corroding joints, mortar and brick. Excess condensation caused by improper operating flue systems adds water to your chimney. Cracks can let water in, un-capped chimneys invite water damage and defective flashing can allow roof leaks.

At the first sign of water, have an inspection! You will end up saving money and put an end to any potentially unsafe conditions. Many times if the problem is caught early – the cost to repair is much less than a future cost to replace.


National Chimney Sweep Guild

CDET Certification | Black Goose Chimney Service

Better Business Bureau Member | Black Goose Chimney Service

Scroll to Top