Frequently Asked Questionscsia

  1. How often should I have my chimney cleaned?

There is no steadfast rule on the frequency of a chimney cleaning. It can vary from once a month to once every ten years depending on a variety of factors. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that chimneys, fireplaces, and vents be inspected once a year and cleanings, maintenance, and repairs should be done if necessary.

The frequency of cleaning will depend on:

  • How often you use your fireplace
  • The type of wood or coal you use
  • Whether you have a stove or fireplace insert
  • The location of your chimney in your home
  • If your chimney is lined
  • If your chimney has a raincap
  • If you heat with oil or gas

  1. How often should I have my chimney inspected?

All chimneys - yes, (wood, coal, oil and gas) should be thoroughly inspected once a year by a chimney sweep. Never assume your chimney is safe even if you seldom or never use it. There is a whole host of problems that could cause an unsafe chimney or fireplace.

These problems could include:

  • Cracks or Crevices Caused by Builder Negligence
  • Normal Settling of the Chimney
  • Lightning Strikes
  • Excessive Use
  • Moisture Damage
  • Nests and Other Obstructions...

  1. How long will it take to clean my chimney and is there any MESS!!

It usually takes about an hour to clean most masonry chimneys including setup of tarps, vacuum and tool and taking them down.  We guarantee absolutly No Mess in your home. Pre-fab fireplaces typically take about 35-45 min. Inserts can take from 1-3 hours depending on how often they are cleaned, the type of wood burned, and the way the stove is operated. (Choked down to slow smolder type burning will produce more creosote taking longer to clean.) There is no mess. We have tarps, vacuums and brushes to clean your chimney without making a mess in your house. 

  1. What does a chimney sweep entail?

First, a visual inspection is done of the chimney system. This is done to determine whether a flue needs to be cleaned and make sure it’s safe to clean. Once this is done, the proper size brush is attached to flexible rods one by one and pushed through the flue. A drop cloth will be will be placed in front of the fireplace and a high powered vacuum running for dust control.

  1. How do you clean a chimney?

We clean most chimney from inside the home. Upon entering your home we are careful to find the best way for us to get equipment and personal in and out of your home. We need some space in front of the fireplace to  spread out the 9 x 12 ft tarp that covers the carpet and hearth.  "Special Stuff" on the mantel or walls above the fireplace is safe. If you want to remove items on the mantel please do. We set up all needed tools and our special chimney vacuum to aid in dust control. We wear coveralls, gloves and a respirator to protect us from harmful creosote dust and ash in the chimney. We assess the chimneys condition noting any problems and proceed with cleaning.

We start by removing the grates and any ash from the firebox. The walls and damper blade  are brushed with a hand brush to remove any soot and creosote from this area. 

We remove the damper blade and handle (if possible) to check for rust and missing parts. While cleaning the firebox area we are checking for cracks in brick and missing or severely eroded mortar joints. 

On "Pre-fab" models fireplaces we are checking for cracks in the back and side refectory panels in the firebox. Some hairline cracks are acceptable and a part of normal operations, however we are looking for larger cracks and gaps that will allow fire to reach the metal box enclosure of the fireplace. This can cause damage to the firebox making it unsafe for use. These panels are replaceable so do not fear. We can most likely find and replace old damaged panel making your fireplace usable again.  

On masonry chimneys we reach up inside the smoke chamber area with hand brush to clean the breast area and the sides where the larger brush misses. 
Next, we insert a steel wire brush attached to a flexible fiberglass rod and clean the upper smoke chamber area. The brush is pushed up into the flue, working in a scrubbing motion with sections of fiberglass rods added until the brush exits the top of chimney. 

The process is reversed, and the liner is check for cracks, gaps and missing joints using a spotlight. We clean off debris that has fallen onto smoke shelf, the damper blade, handle and cotter pin is put back in place and dust is swept out of firebox. We vacuum off the hearth, and remove all equipment and tarp from your house, complete the invoice, get payment for the amount due, thank you for the business, sprinkle some good luck around and look forward to the next customers dirty chimney. The whole process takes about 1 hour more or less depending on conditions and such. 

  1. Why does my chimney need a cover?

Have you ever heard of the inside of someone's home being "trashed" by an errant bird or squirrel? Or dampers rusting out of fireplaces? Or the mortar in chimneys being slowly eaten away? The damage caused in any of these cases can be quite expensive to repair, as well as inconvenient. The simple installation of a chimney cap can prevent tragedies such as these.

  1. Do you install chimney caps? How much?

Yes, We carry Stainless Steel and Copper Chimney Caps that carry a lifetime guarantee.  A cap will keep out animals, leaves, twigs, and rain. Rain entering from the uncovered top, does most of the damage in a chimney by getting into the mortar joints inside the firebox causing them to become weak and deteriorate. The single flue cap chimney cap starts at $175 Installed and are priced according to size. Multi-flue caps (covering more than one flue) start at $250 installed and go up depending on size wanted. Custom caps are priced according to size and material used, (ie., Stainless Steel or Copper.)

  1. Will a chimney cap prevent animals from "moving into" my chimney?

Birds, squirrels, and raccoons - all of them consider chimneys the ideal place to safely raise a family...or enter a house easily. When they nest, they bring fleas, ticks and other messes with them. If they enter a house, they often panic - wrecking furnishings as they try to escape. Some smart raccoons, of course, find the chimney the perfect "gateway" to the kitchen, tracking sooty paw prints all over everything as they trek back and forth to the pantry. Cute? Maybe. Destructive? Definitely.

Don't wait until the raccoon's nest in your chimney this Spring.  We'd be delighted to show you the caps we have to offer. You can usually save money if you get a chimney cap at the same time your chimney is swept or inspected.

  1. What can I do about the birds in my chimney ??

The chimney swift, a colony bird from South America, spends the summer in your chimney nesting, raising their young and getting ready for the long flight back to the forests of Peru. Chimney Swifts on average eat several times there weight in flying bugs such as mosquito's. Being a colony bird they will return to the same chimney they hatched in each year. We start seeing the birds in this area mid to late April. They stay until mid Sept and are usually gone by the first cold snap. We like to wait until the birds are gone or between nesting activity to put out the "No Vacancy" sign.  These birds can have 1-2 nesting a year depending on weather and other factors. The hatching period usually lasts 4-5 weeks with a 1-2 week period between hatchings. We recommend cleaning the chimney if to remove the bird debris and any flammable material that may be in the chimney area. Next step is to install a stainless steel chimney cap. This will prevent birds, squirrels and other animals from entering the chimney along with rain and leaves. From then on your bird and small animal problem is solved and you are the hero. So, make that call today to schedule your appointment. 


Tips for Living With Swifts

Don’t fret about swifts in your chimney, they only need it in summer when you’re not typically using it anyway.

  • Get your chimney cleaned early in spring, before the birds arrive. Not only is creosote build-up a fire hazard, but it also prevents nests from sticking. With a clean chimney, there’s less chance that baby birds will tumble down the chimney.
  • Keep the damper closed to prevent birds from flying into the house, where they could get trapped or injured. This will also reduce noise. (If your fireplace doesn’t have a damper or the damper isn’t working, wedge a piece of foam rubber into the fireplace. Remove it in the fall.)
  • If you decide to cap your chimney, wait until the nesting season is over. Swifts are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so it’s unlawful to disturb them or their nests.—Paul Kyle

  1. What should I know before buying a new chimney cap?

Chimney caps or covers are made in various styles with different materials - ranging from heavy pieces of slate placed on "columns" at the flue top, to painted metal or aluminum caps that attach to the chimney liner. What you should look for in a chimney cap is one that will keep out rain and animals, but that can be easily removed for chimney inspection and maintenance.

The list goes on and on. In conclusion, consider the following: when an insurance company insures your property, it does not do so because you are going to have a problem, but because possibly you could have a problem. When we inspect a chimney and fireplace, they, and you, hope they will not find any problems. But if there are any there, you certainly want to know about it. Our complete and thorough chimney inspection will include include rooftop, attic, firebox and foundation inspections. 

  1. What causes the mortar around my chimney to need replacement?

Rainwater that gets in your chimney mixes with the ash in the flue, to form corrosive lye. This eats away at the mortar and at the metal of the damper, shortening the useful life of both. Maybe you have noticed your damper is rusty or hard to open or you have found puddles in your fireplace. Both are signs that you need a cap. If the damper pins or casing rust out, it can cost anywhere from $300 to $600 to have the old casing ripped out and a new one installed. On heatilator type fireplaces, the dampers are virtually impossible to replace. And, of course, if the mortar in a masonry chimney goes, the cost of repair or replacement is quite high.

  1. Can you do repairs?

YES, we repair fireboxes, replace lost or damaged damper blades or install a Lock Top® damper if a replacement blade is not available. We also repair crowns, replace chase covers, install chimney caps, and waterproof chimneys. If you are having problems with your chimney, we can most likely find  a workable solution.

  1. I have rust stains on the top and running down the siding of my chimney. What causes this and what can be done about it. 

Pre-fab fireplaces have a metal covering (chase top) to prevent water from entering the interior of chimney structure. The chase top is usually made of a galvanized sheet metal. Over the years the metal coating wears off from sun, rain and other forces. Most tops have a low spot that holds water as well. When you get pine straw and leaves blowing around some are bound to get stuck on the water that has collected during rain, snow, ice storms. Pine straw and certain leaves are very acidic when they are decomposing especially when sitting in water. The acid  break down the galvanized coating and you soon get bare metal. 

After a while the metal starts to rust and when water runs off the top during a rain, carries the rust with it down the side of your beautiful siding causing a stain that's get bigger over time. You may even hear water dripping on the inside of chase after a rain as the rust has pitted the metal allowing water to seep through. Then you know you have a problem. The rust stains on outside of chimney are the first clue as it can take several months for the metal to pit enough for water to seep through. The time to act is when you first notice rust stains not when you hear water dripping...

The best way to fix the problem is to remove old rusted chimney top and replace with new one. We use and recommend stainless steel for its strength and ability to resist rust. You can use the regular galvanized metal when is less costly but not as long lasting. The cost difference is usually $50-$75 less than stainless steel. 

Oh, another thing, the stainless steel top has a lifetime warranty against rust, corrosion and manf. defects. The galvanized cap only comes with a 12 month warranty against rust and manf defects only.

  1. What is a chimney liner?

Currently, most masonry chimneys are built with terra-cotta clay tiles stacked and mortared inside the brick structure. These tiles serve as a gas-tight and heat-resistant insulator against the masonry structure. Without a liner, or with cracked and damaged liners, there would be heat transfer or actual seepage through the brick and mortar. A liner is a stainless steel tube inserted into a chimney to draft an furnace, woodstove or fireplace. The appliance will vent through that stainless pipe and use the existing chimney structure as an encasement. New liners are gas tight systems insulated for highest efficiency. This system can solve most drafting and safety issues of chimney fire damaged or older unlined chimney flues.  For more info about chimney Liners at Chimney Safety Institute click here 

  1. My chimney has white stains on the brick what is this?

The white stains or powder-like material is often the result of water penetration of the chimney. During a rain, snow, or ice storm water is absorbed by the brick and mortar crown. In the case of snow or ice storm the freeze thaw cycles can enlarge the cracks on the top of the chimney mortar crown allowing water to enter the structure this way. The chimney will soon saturate with water. As the chimney dries, lime and salts from brick and mortar are pushed out of the pores of the chimney. Wood in contact with the chimney can also absorb water, and in most cases, start to rot. This is a common problem that we can help prevent. The cost of this service depends on many factors. Call us for more info or to schedule a visit.  

  1. What can be done to prevent the white stains on my brick?

The first step is a visual evaluation of the chimney crown, mortar joints and flashing. Often we find the crown has cracks caused by shrinkage of the mortar during construction. These start out as hairline cracks but get bigger over the years from freeze thaw-cycles and the natural expansion-contraction that occurs during the spring & summer seasons. If the chimney has darkened from mold and mildew, we recommend cleaning the surface of the brick with a power washing. This opens the pores of the brick and cleans off mold and mildew deposits. We apply a layer of CrownSeal on the mortar crown sealing the cracks but remaining flexible to allow for expansion-contraction cycles. Afterwards then apply the water repellent product ChimneySaver® with a low pressure sprayer. Both products have a 10-year warranty and we have confidence in their ability to perform as stated.  

  1. Why should we choose Ruchala Chimney Sweeping as our chimney professional?

Because that is exactly what we are-Professionals. Ruchala Chimney sweeping is a very straightforward, simple maintenance process but, there are aspects of chimneys and venting systems that are very technical. Ongoing training is needed to provide accurate evaluation reports and building codes are always changing. We keep up to date with the latest changes in our industry and code changes at the state level. We carry business liability insurance and we are bonded for your protection. Call us for more info or to schedule an appointment 978.928.1121

  1. Do you have references?

We can give you the names of past customers, realtors and property management company's we have performed chimney services for in the past if you desire.

  1. What areas do you service?

Ruchala Chimney services most of central Massachusetts.

These are just a few of the answers to the most common asked questions.

Feel free to call or email us with a question not covered by our FAQ section. We pride ourselves in Customer Service and are standing by to answer your questions. To schedule an appointment, please call us at 978.928.1121.





Telephone 978.928.3755 :: Email: Steveruchala@gmail.com