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Everything You Need to Know

about Chimneys & Fireplaces

As the owner of a home with a fireplace, whether gas or wood burning, you may have a lot of questions about proper care, use, and repair of your system. Don’t let your lack of knowledge keep you from enjoying the benefits your fireplace can provide. Instead, get all the information you need right here on our convenient website. ChimneyTEK has compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help you learn all the basics about your fireplace and chimney, as well as what to do about cleaning and repair. Our expert team has served Baltimore, MD in all of their chimney repair and cleaning needs for more than two decades. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have additional questions not listed here.

How Often Should I Have My Chimney of Fireplace Inspected?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys, fireplaces, and vents be inspected at least once a year to ensure structural soundness and evaluate cleanliness.

How Often Should I Have My Chimney Swept?

This question doesn’t have a specific answer, as cleaning frequency will differ depending on the amount of use and if any animals have built nests inside. The best way to go about this is to have your chimney and fireplace inspected yearly. A qualified chimney expert will be able to assess the cleanliness at this time and determine if sweeping is necessary. The Chimney Safety Institute of America suggests that masonry fireplaces be swept when there is 1/8” of sooty buildup, and even sooner if there is glaze present.

Do Gas Fireplaces Need to Be Serviced?

Yes! Even though gas is a clean-burning fuel that won’t produce soot like wood, chimneys can still become blocked with nests and other debris, making the fireplace unsafe to use.

Why Does My Fireplace Have a Bad Odor?

The bad odor from your fireplace is likely caused by creosote deposits in the chimney, which is a natural occurrence with wood burning systems. Often, the odor becomes worse in the summer time when humidity is higher, and your A/C is running. A thorough chimney sweeping in Baltimore, MD by a professional can help with the smell, but it won’t completely eliminate it. After sweeping try using a commercial chimney deodorant or even a home remedy of baking soda or kitty litter.

How Do I Light My Gas Fireplace?

Before you attempt to light your fireplace, you’ll want to take some safety precautions by first checking your chimney to be sure it isn’t obstructed by any nests or other debris. You’ll also want to locate your emergency shut-off valve in case you need to shut off the gas at any time while lighting the fireplace. Once you do this, you can follow these basic steps to light the pilot light, keeping in mind that different systems will have slight differences:

  • Locate the pilot system, which can usually be found on the front fireplace wall. You should see two knobs, one is a high/low knob that is used to adjust the flame, and the other is the pilot knob that has three positions: on, off, and pilot.
  • Turn the pilot knob to the pilot position. This should allow you to push the knob in, which will manually release gas to the pilot.
  • Push the pilot light in and hold. At the same time, push the igniter butting in about once every second until you can see that the pilot has lit. If this is the first light of the season, the gas may not reach the pilot immediately, so be sure to allow it some time. Keep holding in the pilot knob during this time.
  • Once the pilot lights, you’ll want to continue to hold in the pilot knob for 10 to 15 seconds to ensure it stays lit.
  • You can then release the pilot knob and turn it to the on position. You can adjust the height of the flame using the high/low knob if necessary. Your gas fireplace is now ready to be used for the season.

How Do I Clean Fireplace Glass?

A simple way to clean your fireplace glass is to use a damp piece of newspaper or paper towel dipped in leftover ashes. As you wipe in a circular motion the soot on the glass will loosen. You can then use a traditional glass cleaner to finish the job. There are also many commercial cleaners available that are formulated to clean fireplace glass.

How Do I Start a Fire in my Fireplace?

Wood Burning

  • Ensure your chimney does not have any blockages
  • Open the damper. This allows the smoke to escape up the chimney instead of filling your home.
  • Prime the flue. When you open the damper, it lets in a rush of cold air that will prevent the smoke from escaping properly. Warm up the flue to counteract this by lighting a rolled piece of newspaper and holding it up the damper for a few minutes.
  • An ash bed of 1 to 2 inches will help create hotter fires. If you don’t have any ashes in your fireplace, you can take some from your barbecue grill to use the first time around. But you also don’t want too thick of an ash bed. Be sure to clean out excess from time to time.
  • Place your large logs on the bottom, stacking smaller logs on top, followed by a layer of kindling and a layer of balled up newspaper and other tinder. Then light the fire from the top of the pile.


  • Fill the hopper with wood pellets and turn on the auger to allow a few pellets to fall in the burn pot. Then turn the auger back off.
  • Open the door of the burn pot and add accelerant to the pellets, making sure to use accelerant that’s approved for use with pellet stoves.
  • Using a long-reach lighter, light the pellets. You may have to hold the flame against them for longer than expected to get them to ignite. Close the burn pot door.
  • Wait for the pellets to fully ignite. You’ll know when they begin to turn red around the edges. This may take a few minutes.
  • Turn on the blower motor and auger. The auger will ensure the appropriate number of pellets are dumped into the stove to keep your home warm, and the blower motor will push the warm air throughout the home.
  • Be sure to watch the stove until more pellets drop to ensure that they don’t smother the fire.

Are Fumes from a Gas Fireplace Harmful?

This is a common misconception about gas fireplaces. With proper operation, these fireplaces are just as safe as any other. Gas fireplaces are clean burning and burn 100% of the fuel they’re fed. This means that no gas or fumes are released into your home.

Can Gas Fireplaces Run Continuously?

This depends on what type of gas fireplace you have. If yours is fully vented with a sealed glass front, it can run continuously and be used much in the same way as your furnace. On the other hand, if your gas fireplace is ventless or has doors that can easily be opened, it should only be operated for two to three hours at a time.

When is the Best Time to Have My Chimney Cleaned?

Though many people assume it’s best to have their chimney cleaned in the fall, right before the first use, this is actually incorrect. In Baltimore, the spring is often the best time to have your chimney cleaned as it is a less busy time for contractors, so you won’t be put on a long waiting list. Your chimney will stay clean through the summer until you use it for the first time as the weather cools. This also allows plenty of time for any necessary chimney repairs the chimney sweep may identify during cleaning.

What is Tuckpointing?

Tuckpointing is a repair process that is used to repair weakened mortar joints by replacing old mortar with new. Though bricks can last up to a century, mortar can’t, so it will need to be replaced using tuckpointing to ensure the structural integrity of the chimney.

What is a Chimney Liner?

A chimney liner is a lining made from either clay tile, metal, or a concrete-like material that is placed inside your chimney to allow for safe operation. A chimney liner will protect your home from accidental fires by limiting heat transfer from the chimney to other parts of your home. It also helps to prevent damage to your masonry.

What is a Chimney Cap?

A chimney cap is a covering for the top of your chimney that is designed to keep rain, animals, leaves, and other debris out of your chimney. A cap is usually shaped like a box with a roof-like portion that sits atop metal mesh walls on all four sides. The roof portion keeps out moisture while the mesh still allows for the proper airflow.

How Do I Stop My Chimney from Leaking During Rain?

Most chimney leaks in Baltimore, MD are caused by cracks in the concrete crowns. These cracks are common with aging chimneys. In order to stop the chimney from leaking, you’ll need an experienced team, like the one at ChimneyTek, to complete masonry repair to fix the cracked crown and reinforce it with new concrete and rebar.

Why Should I Hire ChimneyTEK for My Chimney and Fireplace services?

Hiring ChimneyTEK for your chimney repairs in Baltimore, MD ensures that you have an experienced team on your side. We’ve been in the business for over 20 years and are fully licensed and insured to provide complete chimney service, including chimney cleaning, repair, liner installation, and even repairs to your gas fireplace. We’re committed to providing cost-effective solutions to our customers’ chimney and fireplace needs. Call us today to learn more.