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For Santa's and safety's sake, cleaning you chimney.

Clean chimneys not only keep the soot out of Santa's beard, but are good protection against dangerous chimney fires. So, before you burn too many more yule logs, it's a good idea to have your fireplace professionally cleaned and inspected. The flammable gunk that chokes chimneys is a byproduct of combustion. As gases in the woodsmoke rise, they cool, condense, and combine with moisture released by wood to form creosote, a solid substance that coats the chimney lining. This coating can ignite suddenly and even boil out of the chimney onto the roof, causing a catastrophic house fire. Long chimneys, which allow more smoke to cool before it exits, can add to buildup. Some airtight woodstoves are especially prone to creosote buildup, because their fires tend to smolder more than fires with access to more oxygen. The search for soot You should have your chimney checked once a year and cleaned regularly. The first step is to seal the fireplace opening to keep soot from entering the house. Then, from the roof, the sweep uses wire brushes to clean the chimney walls. Scraped-off debris lands in the firebox and on the smoke shelf, where it's vacuumed up. The sweep then inspects the chimney for cracks and other problems. One common problem is a rusting damper or hinge caused by water dribbling down the flue. You can prevent leaking and make the chimney safer by installing a spark arrester with a rain cap. Cleaning and inspecting an average one-story chimney takes roughly an hour and costs $40 to $85, depending on where you live. To find a sweep, ask neighbors for recommendations or check the yellow pages under Chimney & Fireplace Cleaning & Repairing. Find out how long the companies have been in business in your area and if they're insured for property damage and public liability. Many are also certified by state or national chimney sweep guilds.
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Date:Dec 1, 1990
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