Up On the Roof

By , September 1, 2012

Because Friday appeared to be the last day of a run of sunny weather, we swept the chimney before the winter wood heating season. Besides, it was a blue moon—we couldn’t resist being able to say we sweep the chimney once in a blue moon.

blue moon 2012, Haines, Alaska

A “blue moon” rises over the homestead, 2012 (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

The process, though somewhat difficult, ticked along smoothly. Like last year, we rigged a plastic yogurt tub full of lead weights below our chimney brush, and dropped it down the stack. I swept the part of the chimney above our T-joint, then waited for Michelle to remove the insert she’d used to catch the soot, so I could drop the brush below the T-joint and finish the job. I glanced at my watch, and saw with satisfaction that the job itself, not including set up, would take less than 20 minutes.

Michielle called up the flue that she was ready. I dropped the weighted brush past the T and swept the lower chimney. When satisfied, I pulled my tools upward. I felt a snag, pulled harder, and suddenly lost the feeling of weight. Almost immediately, the chimney bristles appeared at the chimney top, minus the tub of weights.

Uh oh . . . .

I’m proud to say that I didn’t panic, even though the idea of a wad of lead and plastic blocking the base of our chimney the day before September, at the end of the coldest, wettest summer we’ve spent on the “homestead” lacked appeal. I credit my response on the curative power of denial. I simply couldn’t believe things were as bad as they looked!

Michelle and I met downstairs over the stove. We couldn’t remove the base plate that would allow us to unstack the stove pipes. We wrestled with the sections, trying to compress them enough to remove one of the pipes.

Then, I got an idea. We pulled out the stove manual and looked at the exploded view. We saw that we could access the base of the pipe if we removed the stove top.

We removed five bolts and lifted the heavy metal burner plate. I had assumed I’d need to slash open the tub with my knife and slip the lead weights out individually, but I found that I could simply grab the tub and pull everything out. We shoveled out the accumulated ash, stuck the chimney brush up from below and gave the last few inches of the pipe a good scrubbing, then thoroughly cleaned everything in sight. Never ones to pass up a good song cue, we even sang a few choruses of Chim Chim Cha Ree.

We now have a wood stove and chimney that may be even cleaner than when the stove was new. We also have perfected our cleaning method, having discovered a fairly easy way to clean the chimney more thoroughly than before. I found a good metal can to hold the weights next time. As an added bonus, I took advantage of the safety line and ladder, and thoroughly cleaned the roof seams to prevent leaks this winter. We’re one step closer to being ready for winter.

2 Responses to “Up On the Roof”

  1. Nance says:

    Good post . . . and good job! I will keep it in mind for our stove pipe chimney cleaning . . . : )

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    It’s an unpleasant job, but vitally important! Michelle and I discussed the whole cultural regard for chimney sweeps in Europe and England, where shaking the hand of a chimney sweep is considered good luck. It seems to celebrate the people who, through their dirty, miserable occupation, make people’s houses and communities safer. I wish that here in the U.S. we had a higher regard for the “dirty work” that improves our safety and well-being.

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