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Brush Sweeping
Brush Sweeping a Chimney

       A typical open fireplace will usually require a chimney sweep using a standard brush. Because an open fireplace gets as much air as it wants and keeps the flue relatively hot, creosote is not normally created to a level that requires more then a sweeps brush to remove. A sweeps brush is normally made of stiff wire or synthetic bristles, and come in numerous sizes to fit about any chimney flue. The brush is attached to various length rods that screw or snap together to a length enough to span the entire chimney. Different manufacturers each use their own style rod and connector but the concept is the same. Before beginning the sweeping process it is typical to cover the fireplace opening with a cover that allows a vacuumed to penetrate into the firebox and collect the dust/particulate that is created by the sweeping process. Most professional sweeps use special vac's that use high efficiency filters to trap the debris correctly. A standard shop vac can be used with a proper GOOD filter but has the potential to leak some exhaust into the house due to the amount and size of the particles produced and personal experience would suggest to hook sections of hose or dryer vent to the exhaust of any non-professional vacuum and vent it out a door or window to eliminate the chance of contaminating the building in which the work is being done.

        A brush sweeping is typically done from the top of the chimney, although it is possible to do the job from the bottom as well if it makes more sense for safety reasons. 
When starting at the top, choose the correct flue cleaning brush and have enough rods on hand to span the entire length of the chimney flue. With the vacuum running in the firebox, screw the brush onto the first rod and insert it into the chimney. Run the brush up and down the full length of the rod several times until the flue appears free of removable accumulation. The original material of the lining can usually be seen when it is clean enough. Continue to add one rod at a time and repeat the above process until the entire flue has been covered. If using screw together rods make sure not to apply rotation in the direction that would allow them to unscrew inside the chimney. Usually this is done by keeping some clock-wise pressure on the rod while sweeping. When the entire length of the flue has been cleaned to satisfaction, remove the rods one at a time as they are pulled out of the flue until the last brush and rod is removed. It's time to move to the bottom.



       A much overlooked part of correctly cleaning the chimney is cleaning the smoke chamber and damper area. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a person who has paid for a sweep to find all the debris that was removed from the flue sitting on the smoke shelf behind the damper, and the entire smoke chamber left untouched. If a chimney sweep does all his work from the top of the chimney, a thorough cleaning cannot be accomplished. To properly clean this area one must go in through the firebox with smaller wire brushes and a vacuum and remove any accumulation below the flue in the tapered area above the damper (smoke chamber), and the shelf behind the damper plate (smoke shelf). If left untouched, a dangerous build-up can form in these areas and the amount of dust producing material left behind is almost certain to find its way into the room, almost defeating the purpose of the sweep, especially if it was done to eliminate smell and dust infiltration. To clean this area properly, knock off any debris in the Smoke chamber and on the damper housing with a wire brush, and vacuum out the debris. Make sure to vacuum behind the damper plate on masonry chimneys as this area known as the smoke shelf is the area where most debris from cleaning the flue will fall and remain hidden.

       If a chimney has developed a dangerous creosote level, a brush will more then likely not do the job. If this is the case there will be the presence of a black, SHINY coating throughout the chimney and will require a more aggressive cleaning to remove correctly. Check out the Radial Orbit cleaning page for more information.

Discount Chimney Supply Inc. (2011)