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Chimney cleanout doos & opening questions and answers:
Frequently-asked questions & answers about how to find, install, or repair a cleanout opening or access in a chimney.
This article series describes chimney cleanout access doors or ports. We explain that in addition to using the chimney cleanout as a service port to remove debris that has fallen to the bottom of a masonry chimney, the cleanout door and the type of debris found inside can tell us something about the condition of the chimney flue even though we cannot see most of it.
Where you can find a chimney cleanout or can remove a flue vent
connector to look into a flue, use of a mirror inside the flue to view the flue from
[Click to enlarge any image]
Questions & answers about chimney cleanouts & cleanout openings, posted originally at CHIMNEY CLEANOUT DOOR
On 2017-04-24 by (mod) re: smoke from first floor fireplace shows up in basement
Smoke moving down into a basement from a first floor suggests a couple of problems to be found and fixed:
1. the chimney draft is inadequate - could be a problem with chimney leaks in from above or below the fireplace on the first floor, subverting the draft, or could be a bad chimney cap or downdrafts or inadequate chimney height - you need an inspection from a competent, expert chimney sweep, perhaps certified by the National Chimney Sweeps guild. (Start by checking that the chimney cleanout door is closed and snug).
2. There may be improper and unsafe connections between chimney flues if there are multiple flues
3. There may be improper and unsafe connections in a single chimney flue between floors in the building
On 2017-04-24 by hyjr12
when my wife lights a fire on the main floor (1st) I get smoke in the basement. I had the both flues replaced last year and the fire box sprayed to cover some minor holes. I cant figure out where the smoke is coming from. I had a new furnace installed last year and the out going pipe is properly sealed to the chimney.
On 2017-04-21 22:58:10.811916 by (mod) re: risk of fire when using a home vacuum cleaner to clean out a chimney base
What a perfectly smart question.
I offer a couple of remarks in answer:
Sure you can use a shop vac to clean ash out through the cleanout door of a chimney
IF there is the slightest chance that there are live coals or ashes in the chimney base you will set the shop vac on fire and risk a building fire
Unless you have a filter bag over the filter of your shop vac you'll need to replace the filter and clean the vac after the fire ... I mean after the cleanout.
Ash is not so bad but oil burner soot and crud that fall down from a heating flue is incredibly irritating and makes very fine and very messy dust.
That's why heating companies usually use a dedicated vacuum cleaner, and one that's HEPA rated.
On 2017-04-20 by hyjr12
can you use a shop vac to clean out the ash in the clean out door?
On 2017-04-02 by (mod) re: paint for chimney cleanout doors
Sure, Kenny, you can paint a metal cleanout door on a chimney: I would recommend use of a high grade exterior paint specified for use on metal.
On 2017-04-02 12:26:59.374957 by kenny
the empty cleanout door on a chimney can you paint it
On 2017-03-29 by (mod) re: raw masonry below the chimney thimble
Mark I don't quite understand the question.
If the chimney is masonry it may have a clay flue tile liner that extends downwards below the thimble to a cleanout door, though it's common also to find just raw masonry starting a short distance below the thimble and sometimes a larger-still ash pit.
Solve the problem easily with a mirror and a flashlight - look in the cleanout door and up.
On 2017-03-29 by Mark
Want to replace my chimney liner, is there a pipe which goes from the bottom of the thimble down to the close out door or is it just open below the thimble? Thanks
On 2017-02-27 by (mod) re: cedar block basement walls?
Cedar block basement walls? That's not a material with which I'm familiar. Please use the page top or bottom CONTACT link to send me some sharp photos and we can comment further.
Generally foundations are not built to be as waterproof as Noah's Ark - we need to direct roof runoff, surface runoff, etc. away from the building.
On 2017-02-27 17:21:23.224004 by Venida Brown
Question: My clean-out door fell off and I'm going to replace it but the area around the frame of the door is crumbling. My basement walls are cedar block and I've had a small leak for year. I've had work done on the chimney and around the chimney such as sealing the outside base with liquid cement and tare. None of these things stopped the leak. My basement has been water proofed but I have a real bad problem. Who should I call to repair this? Thank you help.
On 2017-02-23 by (mod) re: need for a chimney cleanout door
You want a working cleanout door at the base of the chimney flue to clean out fallen soot and debris, though if there is enough height (several feet) between the thimble (where the flue vent connector from the oil fired heater enters the chimney flue) and the chimney base/cleanout door you could probably accumulate years of crud before it would begin to block the flue.
you also want a door that closes properly and seals, since holes in the chimney base will subvert the chimney draft and can cause improper, even unsafe oil burner operation.
Temporarily you can simply seal the door opening with any fireproof material.
Replacement chimney cleanout doors are widely sold at building suppliers and some heating or plumbing suppliers.
On 2017-02-22 23:50:26.281554 by Brian Neville
interior cleanout door has fallen out of cement foundation on my chimney for oil furnace. Do I still need cleanout door for oil furnace? How do I seal door back in ? just cement interior of door then hold it tight till set.. Then skim coat chimney door frame rim?
On 2016-11-09 by (mod) re: refractory cement to repair fireplace
Pat, there are refractory cements rated for high heat that are used in masonry fireplace construction. Don't use regular cement, nor caulk. Examples:
MEECO'S RED DEVIL 1352 Furnace Cement and Fireplace Mortar
Meeco's Red Devil Furnace Cement and Fireplace Mortar - same product in smaller tube.
Hercules 1/2 gal. Furnace/Stove Cement-35515
On 2016-11-09 by Pat
We have a masonry fireplace with a door that closes tight once the wood is loaded in - it has a great draw and is an excellent source of heat once the unit has warmed up. We opened up all of the cleanouts and now want to seal them back in and are not sure which product to use. They had been fixed in with some sort of mortar or cement, which we had to chip out (not easy), so expect that we need to put them back in with the same type of product. Your suggestions would be appreciated.
On 2016-05-20 by Anonymous
) hello this is Debra, my husband said Thank-you for your advice!!! He agrees with your solutions and is going to give them a try!! We hope for the best, once again thanks for taking the time to respond. God Bless you & yours!!!
On 2016-05-17 by (mod) re: fixing an old chimney cleanout that leaks
Start fixing this problem outside with
1. a proper rain cap on the chimney 2. inspection for driven-rain leak points in the chimney walls 3. (most liklely) surface runoff or roof runoff that is draining towards rather than away from the chimney.
On 2016-05-16 by email@example.com
chimney box (is from an old furnace, so its not in use-it is empty) when it rains water fills in the old chimney clean-out and leaks into basement from the bottom of the clean-out door. I tried sealing it many times but to no avail it just keeps leaking! What do i do? does this problem needs to be fixed from the outside of my house underground, by the chimney? please help! my basement is flooding!
On 2015-10-28 by Art Tate
My home is 25 years old. I have a wood burning fireplace with an ash dump 15 ft. deep with a clean out door at the bottom. It is full now at the top but there is no ash at the bottom. The pit is made of a matrix of concrete block. I have rammed rods down into it which opens it up a little but it soon clogs again. The fireplace has been use extensively. Is there a way to clean this pit out?
On 2015-06-17 by (mod) re: Dublin chimney ash dump repair
Hey Don thanks for the question.
I have some theories but no facts.
1. If the ash dump that was abandoned was not sealed and if water leaks into that space, even though it has been bricked up water + cresote = smells.
2. with no ash dump what is supposed to happen to the fireplace ashes ? Essentially you're expected to clean them after use of the fireplace or heater.
The requirement for an ash dump may be part of your local codes - are you asking about codes for Dublin Ireland or elsewhere?
On 2015-06-16 by Don in Dublin
Hi, I had a chimney ash dump that went to the exterior (outside)of a masonry chimney. The interior was in the floor of the burn box. The door and entire frame of the ash dump assembly on the exterior was falling out of the mortar and brick of the chimney. I had a chimney repair company come out and they removed the exterior ash dump door and bricked in the chimney where it had been. On the interior they removed the ash dump assembly and put in fire brick.
So the entire ash dump has been removed and bricked in now. They also put on a top sealing damper. I burned several fires over the winter and the chimney seemed to draw ok once the fire was actually going. Smoked some at first. However, with no fire and all the ash cleaned out completely the fire place just smells. It is so bad that it stinks up the entire living room. Almost to the point of the room being unusable.
Doesn't matter if the lower damper and top damper are closed or open. It just smells all the time now. Is this a problem created because the ash dump was removed and bricked in? If so, should this chimney repair company have known this would cause a problem if they knew what they were doing. Is there some kind of code (I'm in Ohio) that says every masonry fire place must have an ash dump?
Question: Do I need cleanout doors on my chimneys?
(Sept 10, 2011) Do I need cleanout doors? said:
I have two cleanout doors--the ash cleanout from the fireplace. (I never use that cleanout) and the cleanout door for the heating area, which I also don't use. (The gas furnace and gas water heater both go directly into the flue). So I'm wondering--do I need EITHER of these doors or can I seal them up? Thanks!
As long as the cleanout doors are properly fitted, snug, not leaky, they're not interfering with draft, and should be left intact to permit chimney inspection.
Question: fireplace enclosures?
(Oct 24, 2012) grant said:
i have a wooden enclosed fireplace. in the attic three sides are closed the one facing the interior has been left open . do i need to enclose it as well. if so what material do i use?
I am unclear on what you're describing, Grant. A "wooden" enclosed fireplace sounds to me like kindling designed to set a house on fire.
If you mean you have a zero-clearance metal fireplace enclosed in a wood structure or chimney chase, that can be safe provided the installation followed the manufacturer's installation instructions, including fire safety clearances (and of course complied with local codes).
I'm unclear on what was left open in the attic and what was enclosed and of course we don't know what type of chimney was installed. So I'm too chicken hearted to recommend specific steps or materials for an installation I know so little about.
Watch out: for safety I suggest asking your local building department of fire department to inspect this installation for safety and code compliance.
Question: should I fill in the chimney base with insulation?
(Feb 26, 2014) Anonymous said:
I was told to fill clean out area with insulation to stop draft?
Is that correct?
Anon I'm unclear what area you plan to fill with insulation but this does not sound like a safe, recommended treatment of a chimney. See my inspection recommendation for the reader just above.
Question: chimney cleanout installation details.
(5 Oct 2014) Nathan Miller said:
I have a fireplace with a chimney that slopes about thirty degrees above the damper towards the outer wall of the chimney, leaving it very difficult to clean debris above the damper.
This space is about four feet from my chimney flue. Now I have installed a cleanout door on the outside of the chimney, twelve by twelve. My glue is eleven by eleven. I put fire brick on the wall where part of the flue liner was broken out. Now my question, do I need to insulate the clean out door somehow?
Chimney cleanout doors are not normally insulated - and I'd be worried lest someone try doing so, especially if they applied a combustible material.
But you do want to be sure the door closes tightly so as not to subvert the chimney draft.
(Nov 29, 2014) Dazy said:
I have a gas insert now in my old fireplace... may I , and HOW, can I fill the old Chimney cleanout because I get alot of cold draft from it?
Dazy I moved your question and our reply into the article series above at
SEALING a CHIMNEY CLEANOUT DOOR
so that I had more room for a detailed reply. Let me know if question sremain.
Question: water on the chimney cleanout
(Dec 16, 2014) D.Burrows said:
We have a gas furnace in a furnace room, connected to an exterior brick chimney below grade. the chimney clean out door from time to time water appears on its ledge. Would the be condensation from the chimney? or another problem.
You or your chimney sweep will need to open the cleanout door to answer this question; if the chimney is flooded from outside water sources that's a different topic from condensation running down the flue.
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NFPA #211-3.1 1988 -
Specific to chimneys, fireplaces, vents and solid fuel burning appliances.
NFPA # 54-7.1 1992 -
Specific to venting of equipment with fan-assisted combustion systems.
Gas Appliance Manufacturers' Association has prepared venting tables for
Category I draft hood equipped central furnaces as well as fan-assisted
combustion system central furnaces.
National Fuel Gas Code, an American National Standard, 4th ed. 1988 (newer edition is available) Secretariats, American Gas Association (AGA), 1515 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA22209, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Batterymarch Park, Quincy MA 02269. ANSI Z223.1-1988 - NFPA 54-1988. WARNING: be sure to check clearances and other safety guidelines in the latest edition of these standards.
Fire Inspector Guidebook, A Correlation of Fire Safety Requirements Contained in the 1987 BOCA National Codes, (newer edition available), Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA), Country Club HIlls, IL 60478 312-799-2300 4th ed. Note: this document is reissued every four years. Be sure to obtain the latest edition.
Uniform Mechanical Code - UMC 1991, Sec 913 (a.) Masonry Chimneys,
refers to Chapters 23, 29, and 37 of the Building Code.
New York 1984 Uniform Fire
Prevention and Building Code, Article 10, Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Requirements
New York 1979 Uniform Fire Prevention & Building Code, The "requirement" for 8" of solid masonry OR for use of a
flue liner was listed in the One and Two Family Dwelling Code for New
York, in 1979, in Chapter 9, Chimneys and Fireplaces, New York 1979
Building and Fire Prevention Code:
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Ceramic Roofware, Hans Van Lemmen, Shire Library, 2008, ISBN-13: 978-0747805694 - Brick chimneys, chimney-pots and roof and ridge tiles have been a feature of the roofs of a wide range of buildings since the late Middle Ages. In the first instance this ceramic roofware was functional - to make the roof weatherproof and to provide an outlet for smoke - but it could also be very decorative.
The practical and ornamental aspects of ceramic roofware can still be seen throughout Britain, particularly on buildings of the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Not only do these often have ornate chimneys and roof tiles but they may also feature ornamental sculptures or highly decorative gable ends. This book charts the history of ceramic roofware from the Middle Ages to the present day, highlighting both practical and decorative applications, and giving information about manufacturers and on the styles and techniques of production and decoration.
Hans van Lemmen is an established author on the history of tiles and has lectured on the subject in Britain and elsewhere. He is founder member and presently publications editor of the British Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society. Available at the InspectAPedia Bookstore.
Chimney & Stack Inspection Guidelines, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2003 - These guidelines address the inspection of chimneys and stacks. Each guideline assists owners in determining what level of inspection is appropriate to a particular chimney and provides common criteria so that all parties involved have a clear understanding of the scope of the inspection and the end product required. Each chimney or stack is a unique structure, subject to both aggressive operating and natural environments, and degradation over time. Such degradation may be managed via a prudent inspection program followed by maintenance work on any equipment or structure determined to be in need of attention. Sample inspection report specifications, sample field inspection data forms, and an example of a developed plan of a concrete chimney are included in the guidelines. This book provides a valuable guidance tool for chimney and stack inspections and also offers a set of references for these particular inspections.
NFPA 211 - 3-4 - Clearance from Combustible Material
NFPA 54 - 7-1 - Venting of Equipment into chimneys
Brick Institute of America - Flashing Chimneys
Brick Institute of America - Proper Chimney Crowns
Brick Institute of America - Moisture Resistance of Brick
American Gas Association - New Vent Sizing Tables
Chimney Safety Institute of America - Chimney Fires: Causes, Effects, Evaluation
National Chimney Sweep Guild - Yellow Pages of Suppliers
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones