Is it time to get your chim­ney cleaned?

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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

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