EUGENE, Ore. — As Oregon begins its transition to fall and the temperatures start to drop, experts are reminding people to get the chimney cleaned before lighting the fireplace.
When summer winds down, Nate Hollembaek’s phone starts ringing. He’s been cleaning chimneys for 13 years.
“My grandpa started in the business in 1957. Basically, I’m following in his footsteps. I started doing this as a summer job in high school and just stuck with it,” said Hollembaek.
Now he owns and operates Advantage Air Duct Cleaning. While chimney kits are available at local hardware stores, Hollembaek says they can’t compete with a professional, as he sets up his massive vacuum.
“You just don’t have as much vacuum as you do with the truck here. I got about 1,400 CFLs, versus only 750 with a shop vac,” Hollembaek said.
Not only that, professional cleaners are trained to spot potential problems like cracks and creosote buildup.
“If there’s cracks in your flue or liner, that’s creosote. It can whip through those cracks, and when you have a flue fire, that heat goes from 400 degrees to 2,200 degrees within seconds,” Hollembaek said.
Hollembaek says it takes him about an hour to properly clean a fireplace. First, he cleans the walls of the chimney from top to bottom, then he cleans the fire place itself.
The cleaning process produces a lot of floating ash and soot, but it all goes straight into the vacuum.
“This is where my vacuum comes in really handy,” Hollembaek said. “It didn’t get cleaned professionally for a long time and that’s why I am getting so much out. This is behind the damper.”
Hollembaek says whether burning a fire in a fireplace or wood burning stove, make sure to use dry wood because wet wood contributes to creosote.
According to the United States Fire Administration, more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces or wood stoves as a primary heat source. Heating fires account for 36 percent of residential home fires in rural areas every year.
Experts say a fireplace should be cleaned about every two cords of wood, while a wood or pellet stove should be cleaned every year.