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DayCreek Journal

October 17, 2004

Chim-Chimney

For those of you who didn't know, I lead a second life. Pictured above is myself with my other wife Mary and our two kids: Daryl and Daryl.

Chim-chimney, chim-chimney, chim-chim-cheree, a sweep is as lucky as lucky can be ...

I haven't had to stoke the wood stove as of yet, but with cloudy, cool weather now in place I thought I better put on my chimney sweep outfit and tackle the job at hand. Failing to maintain a wood stove and chimney can lead to chimney fires and it's something I hope I never have to experience.

Like many other aspects of our house building adventures, cleaning a chimney is something that I never have tried before. How hard can this be? You go up on the roof, take the chimney cap off, stick a brush down the chimney, swoosh it around a bit and that should do it. Right? So you would think.

I decided to do this on Wednesday morning before the cold front hit. The forecast called for winds gusting over 30 MPH in the afternoon and I didn't want any gremlins knocking me and/or the ladder off of the roof.

The weather was pleasant that morning, but having learned from a previous experience, I secured the ladder to the roof so that it could not possibly fall down. So far, so good. I also remembered to keep a phone with me this time. (For those of you who missed out on my roof dilemma years back, I invite you to read the journal from October 28, 1999.)

I brought out my 6" brush with the fiberglass rod attachments so that I could extend the brush all the way down to the stove inside the house. Hmmm...should I screw together all the pieces of rod before I'm up on the roof or attempt to do it while I'm up there? I compromised and threaded the rods together into two long lengths. The roof is rather slippery (metal) and I envisioned rods flying everywhere.

So up the ladder I went with rods and brush in hand. Once on the roof, I tied a rope to myself and around the cupola in case I was to slip. Having on a good pair of gym shoes helped my feet from sliding, but I wasn't going to take any chances.

I scaled my way over to the chimney and forgot that the chimney cap is secured with a metal strap that requires a screwdriver. Drats! I found a place to secure the brush and rods, untied the rope, went down the ladder, down into the house and got my trusty screwdriver. Climbed back up, secured the rope and moved my way back over to the chimney.

I loosened the screw on the strap, turned the cap counter clockwise and took it off. Cool. Looking at the chimney I could see that there was about a 1/16th of an inch of soot in the pipe which came off very easily. I'm not sure if this was due to the dry hardwoods, EPA-rated stove or occasional chemicals that I use to prevent creosote, but I was relieved that there wasn't much cleaning to do.

I stuck the brush down the chimney and although there was a little bit of resistance, it didn't seem to take much force to push the brush downward. I pushed it down about three feet or so and decided to pull it back up the chimney. The brush would not BUDGE! (I knew things were going too good to be true.) The way the brush was barbed, it would only go in one direction. I could push it, but couldn't pull it. What kind of a nasty trick was this anyway? Who designed this brush from hell? I tried with all my might, but the brush would not pull upwards. The brush was stuck. How was Santa ever going to deliver presents if he couldn't get down the chimney?

So...I had to take the chimney apart. Luckily, the first section of chimney is above the roof line and I was able to unstrap it and unlock it just like the chimney cap. When I removed the section of pipe, I could clearly see the brush and I was able to stick my hand down to pull it out. Even with my hands firmly in place around the bristles and rod, I was not able to wiggle the brush back out. Eventually, after bending some of the bristles and cussing, the brush gave way and out it came.

I couldn't believe that the 6" brush was just a tad too big for the supposedly 6" chimney. With time running out before the weather turned ugly, I decided that instead of going back to Menards to get an answer to this problem, I would fabricate some other device to clean the chimney.

Since the soot was very loose, I thought maybe I would just ball up a rag and tie it to the rod. But then I thought that with sheet metal screws protruding through the sections of stove pipe, that would not be a good idea. Necessity being the mother of invention, I finally decided that I could use a different kind of brush for the same purpose. Flushed with excitement, I reached for the toilet bowl brush. After a few yards of duct tape and bending of the brush, I was ready to make a clean sweep of it.

Back up to the roof I went with the toilet bowl brush duct taped to the rod. The brush worked quite well, although I'm sure it wasn't as thorough as a real chimney brush. I discovered that as I moved the brush down the chimney, the resistance became less once I reached the stove pipe inside of the house. It appeared that the insulated chimney sections are slightly narrower than the 6" stovepipe.

But what was I going to do the next time the chimney needs to be cleaned? Wednesday night I drove over to our friendly neighborhood Menards and discovered that there is a 6" plastic bristle brush. I'm assuming that the plastic bristle brush won't get stuck like the metal one did, since the bristles are softer. Of course, you know what "assuming" can do.

"Cordoorbee"
What do you get when you combine cordwood, a door and adobe? Why of course, Cordoorbee. Following suit with the window frames, I decided to do the same with the back door. I should have given myself a few extra inches when constructing the door frame to compensate for plaster-work, but nonetheless I am quite satisfied with the results. It will take a few weeks to dry to get the full effect of the wall so stay tuned—I'll be sure to share a few more photographs when the time comes.

This wall is a "signature wall" containing artist renderings from all our friends who have attended our spring moonfests and/or autumn applefest celebrations. "Fests" tend to bring out the creativity in people and there are some memorable moments now recorded in our back door wall.

The concept of log-signing has evolved over the past few years and I regret not having a palette of colorful markers that I now have on hand. Color really adds to the log-ends.

As I stated a few journals back, this is your chance to add to our wall collection. So far, I have received around a dozen resquests from our internet readers and have already received our first signed log. (We've gotten requests from as far away as South Africa.) So don't be shy! Jo and I would love to put your log in the wall too! Just use the Comments Form located on the left-hand column of the page and we'll give you the details. If you live in Southeast Minnesota, you are always welcome to stop by and pick up a log to sign, but if you are outside of the area we do request that you ship a log to us. (Sorry about that.) We prefer a softwood log, an 8" length (or greater) and it must be debarked.

The days are getting shorter and shorter...I better get back to work!

The bright yellow summer plumage of the American Goldfinch has now turned to a dull gold—a sure sign that winter is on its way.