Is it time to get your chimney cleaned?
BEFORE YOU START LOADING YOURWOOD STOVE OR FIREPLACE ON THESE COOL NIGHTS, remember that old saying about the ounce of prevention. Now is the time to call a chimney sweep. One good bet in this area is Bailey’s Chimney. Whenever a Bailey’s sweep cleans a chimney, he scans the inside with a video camera; those photos go into the inspection report you get when the job’s done. “Once in a while we’ll find a breach or a cracked flue liner,” Justin Bailey said. “You can’t see it any other way.”
Most of the kiva fireplaces in Santa Fe have clay flue liners that can crack in a chimney fire. In those cases, the insurance companymay pay for repairs because it was caused by a fire— and that Bailey’s report will be invaluable.
Some chimney fires go unnoticed. “That happens a lot,” Bailey said. “Most of the time you think of a big chimney fire that looks like a blowtorch shooting out of the top, but if you have creosote buildup, you can have smaller fires that can crack the flue liner.”
Can’t you just burn a good load of dry aspen or cotton- wood and burn out the creosote? “Some kinds of wood burn cleaner than others, and cottonwood is one of them, but there is no wood that will clean your chimney. That’s kind of an old wive’s tale. If you burn a big enough fire it can burn out some creosote, but it can cause damage as well. Clay flue liners have been fired at very high temperatures and they’re designed to be able to withstand fire, but a chimney fire can reach 2100 degrees and the temperature increase can be so sudden that it can crack because the inside of the liner is trying to expand.”
Bailey said most kiva fireplaces have a throat damper with a smoke shelf behind it. After sweeping, 90 percent of the sooty material ends up on that shelf. His sweeps will put on a Tyvek hazmat suit and respirator, climb up inside, and vacuum the shelf. The total on such a job is a little less than $200.
Should this be done every year? Of course, that depends on how often you use the stove or fireplace, and what kind of wood you burn. “The National Fire Protection Agency says you should get an inspection once a year,” Bailey said. A full inspection costs $129. “The cleaning part of it does take time and energy, but the most time-consuming part is the inspection and writing the report,” he explained.
Bailey’s also builds masonry heaters, which the owner said represent the most efficient method of heating with wood. “And we can hook up your radiant floor heat, so the masonry heater heats up the mass in the heater and also the water in your radiant floor tubing.”
Bailey’s grandfather, Lou Rose, was a well-known stove installer and chimney sweep in Taos. Bailey was 18 years old when Rose died. Three years later, he got into the business himself and in 2001 he started Bailey’s Chimney Cleaning & Repair. The company expanded to Santa Fe in 2011. “Our company invests a lot of money in training. Our four sweeps are all certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. CSIA provides a lot of training and educational support so that we can stay upwith the latest developments in our trade. Ourwhole purpose is to try to keep people safe in their homes.” — PaulWeideman