When you burn wood in a fireplace some of the gases escape from the unburned wood and these unburned gases build up a solid residue inside the chimney. If this residue gets thick enough and hot enough, it can ignite, and the resulting “chimney fire” will burn very fast and hot. This chimney fire can become hot enough to destroy the inside of the chimney and even set the house or roof on fire.


It is recommended that chimneys be inspected once a year by a professional chimney sweep and cleaned if needed. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also recommends a thorough inspection of all chimneys and fireplaces after an earthquake to ensure there is no damage to your chimney that could cause a fire. Some “rules of thumb” that can help gauge how dirty your chimney is:

1. If you burn every day in the winter, sweep every year; if you burn every other day in the winter, sweep every other year.

2. Sweep after every two cords of oak firewood and after every cord for a wood-burning stove or insert.

3. Sweep after every 50 fires.

4. Look at your fireplace and determine how dirty it is. Shine a flashlight into the firebox and look upwards. If you see build up of 1/8″ or more, it is ready to be cleaned.


Overtime, lint from your clothes slips through the filter in your clothes dryer and gets into the pipe that leads out of the house. This lint builds up on the walls of the pipe until it blocks the air from getting through.

When this duct gets blocked the air can no longer circulate freely among the clothes you are trying to dry. This causes the drying cycle to take much longer than it should, sometimes one and a half hours or more, rather than 30 to 40 minutes. Needless to say, this is a waste of time and energy.

In addition, the dryer can overheat and become damaged and it can even cause a fire inside your dryer. We have had customers who had house fires due to clogged dryer vents.

The solution is to have you dryer ducts cleaned. We use a long spinning tool that is capable of traveling through your duct for over 30 feet or more. This dislodges the lint and pulls it out. It is not uncommon to get whole bags full of lint from one duct!

After that, we blow your duct out with moving air to get any remaining lint from your duct.

We sometimes find that the dryer duct is getting clogged due to incorrect installation in the first place which causes kinks in the hose.


The ducts for your furnace or air conditioner, sometimes just called “air ducts”, can get contaminated over time. These heating and cooling systems do not bring air in from the outside; rather, they recirculate the air around and around inside your home, heating or cooling it in the process. Dust, mold, mildew, pollen and animal dander can build up in the ducts. Many of these contaminants are circulated through the central air systems in most homes.

We first remove and clean each register in your home. Then we penetrate deep into each duct with a special piece of equipment which combines a spinning brush with a very powerful vacuum, all on the end of a long hose. The brush dislodges the debris in your ducts, and the vacuum hose operates right behind the brush to remove this debris. We then reinstall your register covers.

If desired, we can also decontaminate your ductwork using an EPA registered decontaminate. When we are finished, your ducts will be thoroughly clean and fresh.

Industry standards recommend that you have your ducts inspected every two years to see if they need to be cleaned. The average cleaning interval is approximately every 5 to 7 years, depending on various factors including presence of pets and recent fires in the area.


When we clean your chimney and fireplace, we also look for anything that could represent possible dangers to you and your family.

We check your chimney system from top to bottom for cracked flue tiles, areas that show damage from water penetration or general wear and tear, correct damper function, or any other points that might make your chimney unsafe to use.

Our sweeps are also trained to do repairs and make recommendations on how you can get more use and satisfaction from your fireplace. Be sure to ask any questions you have while the sweep is there; we are only too happy to help you learn as much as possible about your fireplace.


Some fireplace have problems. Most of these can be resolved. While the following is not a complete list, it describes some of the more common problem areas.

1. Smoking

There are many functions that seem to smoke back into the house no matter what is done. In our experience, the most common cause is that the fireplace simply needs to be cleaned. This is especially likely if the smoking has gotten worse over time.

Several other possibilities of smoking back are problems with the damper, chimney cap, grate, firewood, or structural problems with the chimney itself. At Sullivan Chimney Sweep, we do a full inspection with every cleaning, or we can just do the inspection if the chimney does not need to be cleaned. This inspection is designed to reveal any causes for excessive smoke.

2. Broken chimneys

Earthquakes are a major cause of broken chimneys. Usually, these chimneys are broken at or near the roof line, although sometimes they can be broken further down, we may be able to fix crack. In some cases, the fireplace may need to be rebuilt.

3. Missing mortar or damaged bricks

Over time, many chimneys develop places that are missing mortar between the bricks, or damaged bricks, either inside the firebox or on the outside of the chimney. These areas can usually be repaired, either by replacing the missing mortar or replacing the bricks themselves. Missing mortar and damaged bricks can cause fires since they allow flames and sparks.


A chimney cap is a black, stainless steel or copper manufactured box that sits on the top of your chimney. It has four major purposes.

It prevents sparks and burning debris from getting out of your chimney onto the roof or surrounding areas. Chimney caps are sometimes called “spark arrestors”.

It keeps rain from entering your chimney. Water is very destructive to the inside of your chimney. It mixes the creosote (residue from burning wood), and eats away at the mortar inside your flue and firebox. Also, rain causes the metal parts inside your fireplace, such as the damper, to rust. The chimney cap acts like an umbrella on top of your chimney to keep out the rain.

It keeps out birds, squirrels, bees, and other animals.

It keeps out leaves and branches.