Almost all signs that you need a chimney cleaning point back to creosote, a tar-like substance produced from burning wood. When the flue becomes clogged by creosote, you’ll likely notice problems with airflow, like trouble getting fires started, fires burning poorly, or smoke no longer rising up the chimney like it’s supposed to. Have you noticed black, oil spots on the walls of your fireplace or pieces of creosote falling down from your chimney? That’s a sure sign it’s time to clean your chimney. You may also smell creosote around your fireplace – it smells like a campfire. This odor is cause for concern because it means the creosote has the potential to catch fire.
Not all airflow problems are caused by creosote buildup. Sometimes airflow is blocked by the nest of a bird or squirrel. Nest can catch fire, so it’s important to have your chimney inspected if you notice any problems.