Sweep your own Chim-Chimney from Below – DIY Chimney Sweep

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As the old song from Mary Poppins goes: Chim, chimney. Chim, chimney. Chim, chim, cher-ee, a sweep is as lucky as lucky can be! And I gotta say, yes, you better be pretty darn lucky if you are going to sweep MY chimney! An 1870’s Victorian farm house with a 14/12 pitched roof, it is a lot less fun to climb up there now that I’m over 50. With a ladder and a ridge-hook, it’s not terrible, but even the professional sweeps that have come out don’t like to work up there. None of them are spring chickens, either! If you are spending a lot to have your chimney professionally swept, but don’t savor the thought of going top-side yourself, I’ve got a few pointers that might make the job more appealing.

My chimney sweep's tool kit.
My chimney sweep’s tool kit.

When we first bought our wood-burning furnace many years ago, we installed an 8 inch oval stainless chimney liner, which allowed us to burn wood with more confidence. It’s a much safer system and a much easier cleaning job than sweeping a brick chimney. Still, the chimney offsets in the attic, and it is serious upper-body workout to run a conventional brush all the way down from the top. Of course, the oval liner requires an oval brush, which is a special order item, and if you have a stainless chimney, make sure that you use a fiberglass or nylon brush rather that a steel brush, which will scratch the inside surface.

The Sooteater head.
The SootEater head.

This year, I decided to try out the “SootEater” system. I read lots and lots of reviews and online discussions before buying, and 9 out of 10 comments I read were satisfied to very positive. I was still a little skeptical that what is essentially a weed-eater head on a series of flexible rods would really do the trick, or would hold up for very long. I knew that the six 3-foot rods would not get me to the top, but I didn’t want to invest in extra rods before trying it out. Long story short.. it works like a dream. I ordered an entire second set, so I have all the rods I need plus an extra head.

Following the technique touted in many of the online discussions, I swept on the way up, adding rods and spinning the rig with my Makita 1/2” drill. I kept it on low, not wanting to risk binding or kinking. The drill adapter has a somewhat clumsy quick release, but it does the job. Several people mentioned burning up cordless drills, even an 18 volt. I would not suggest spinning more than a couple of these rods with a cordless, particularly older cordless units that don’t have overload protection built-in.

Bottoms up!
Bottoms up – Don’t forget to tighten the chuck!

The thing I like the most about the bottom-up approach, is that I can safely do this several times over the winter, if I am burning a lot. A nice, complete sweep from the top doesn’t seem so bad on a sunny fall day, but using the SootEater regularly may eliminate the need to go up at all. The other part of the equation that most people don’t understand is the between-sweeping maintenance that you can do to reduce the need for a lot of extra cleaning. I was coached for several years by our old chimney sweep, who is, tragically no longer with us (and no, he didn’t fall off my roof) as to which chimney cleaners work and which don’t, and how to use them.

Since my wood-burner is a gasifier, it is designed to be dampered down, which can really create creosote. By regularly cranking up the fire and running it hot, it really reduces that build up, and adding a few shots of creosote remover seems to help dry out the creosote and cause it flake off and drop to the bottom, where I just vacuum it out.

The Gardus SootEater helps you sweep your chimney from below

All in all, it really isn’t that unpleasant of a task. It’s a little dirty, but hey, a chimney sweep is lucky, as lucky can be, right? Just remember to wear a dust mask and protect the area around your fireplace or furnace. You may be a lucky chimney sweep, but no matter how lucky you are, you need to protect your lungs and the inside of your home! You can find the Gardus RCH205 SootEater Rotary Spinning Chimney Cleaning System for a little over $100 on Amazon.

Buy Now - via Amazon

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About Rich

Rich Dana loves to build things, to tinker on things, and to grow things. After more than a decade as a historic building remodeler in Brooklyn, New York, he and his wife Ericka moved to their back-to-the-land dream home (and fixer-uper nightmare), an 1870s farmhouse on 15 acres in eastern Iowa that they call “Catnip Farm.” For the last 18 years, Rich has specialized in super-efficient historical renovations and solar PV installation. He is working to convert much of the farm into perennial food crops like nut trees and berries, and he helps Ericka out with her heirloom seed project. His latest passion is learning to sew.

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7 thoughts on “Sweep your own Chim-Chimney from Below – DIY Chimney Sweep”

  1. Great but here in the UK the insurers now require a HETAS certificate for sweeping, so I can no longer do my own. Jobs for the boys!

  2. great in formation; I just bought a house that has a chimney and I don’t know when the last time it was swept. I have been researching the process but it all dealt with climbing the roof which I don’t want to do. This process will work well for me.

  3. I live in an older row house (attached 3 story townhouses). I have a gas furnace. It is vented across a bakers alley with no clean out and no liner due to the bakers alley. Would this work in this kind of situation. I have had a professional come in and clean out the bottom but they did not go up on the roof and sweep it down. I don’t do roofs myself. They want me to have this clean out done once a year, which is an added expense to someone on disability. I can do the clean out myself with a shop vac. But I feel that it needs a good sweep once or more a year.

  4. Available from Lowes for ~50 and Home Depot for ~60. Please be an informed consumer and shop around! Amazon doesn’t ALWAYS have the best prices

  5. Hahaha. I grew up in a house with a roof like that and remember my father complaining that he couldn’t get anyone willing to go fix the roof! Nice fix for the chimney sweep problem.


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