September 30, 2013

Chimney Sweep on the Cheap

Autumn is here, which means the first fire in the wood stove is only a few weeks away.  Although the forecast this week is for daytime temperatures in the 70s and 80s, the shortening days inevitably mean colder weather to come.  This winter will be the third season I've burned a wood stove at my home.  I decided to do a quick chimney sweep on the cheap to ensure trouble-free heating once the frost makes itself at home in central Connecticut.

Here's an easy method to sweep a stainless steel chimney using household materials and some vegetation.  You may have to modify this method to suit a masonry flue.  Disclaimer: Please hire a professional if your chimney is heavily fouled with creosote (and stop burning green wood, eh!).  Chimney fires are no joke.  This technique is for lightly to moderately fouled chimneys. And don't blame me if you fall off your roof!

  1. Rope, at least as long as your chimney plus a few extra feet
  2. A branch from a tree or shrub that is big enough to scour the flue without getting stuck
  3. An old tennis ball or similar sized object
  4. Duct tape 
  5. A buddy to call 911 if'n you do something stupid 

Step 1:  Remove the rain cap on the top of the chimney and the clean-out plug from the bottom of the chimney, if it is so equipped.  Enjoy the different perspective while standing on the roof.
Of course I somehow had to include the garden in this blog post!
Step 2:  Duct tape the tennis ball onto one end of the rope.  The ball acts as a weight to carry the string down the chimney.  Drop the ball and rope down the chimney (hold on the other end of the rope, duh!) and cut the rope a few feet longer.  Duct tape the branch onto the upper end of the rope.

Step 3:  Position the branch in the flue.  Have your buddy on the ground slowly pull the end of the rope with the tennis ball to draw the branch down the pipe.  A good amount of dry dust should come down with it.  Repeat the sweep a few more times.  Reassemble the chimney.

Appropriately enough, the branch I used was from a shrub called Lena's Broom.

If the branch comes out of the chimney coated with sticky tar-like substance, then you have a real creosote problem.  Creosote is formed when wood gases are not completely burned in the stove and then condense into tar on the cooler flue surfaces.  The best remedy for avoiding creosote is to burn properly seasoned hardwood instead of resinous softwoods such as pine, avoid slow smoldering fires, and use a stainless steel flue that will heat up faster than a masonry flue.

There are reasonably-priced DIY products if my dirtbag approach is not your style... has a ton of well-researched and FREE information on how to season and burn wood efficiently.  Check them out right now!  

The woodlot in all its glory.  Bonus points if you can spot the dog.
The sun sets on another suburban homestead project.
Can't wait for winter, but I love fall!


  1. you can clean a sewer line like that two. Hope you enjoy the next 9 days. The weather looks perfect.

  2. Good call on the sewer tip. My line gets plugged periodically. When the cause is tree roots I have to rent a roto-rooter.

  3. I've got some 1/2" wire mesh if you want to make a bird block.

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