HOBART | With tools and equipment dating back to the profession’s beginnings, chimney sweep Doug Keith helps keep Lake and Porter county chimneys clean – and safe.
“It is an old profession and chimneys and fireplaces haven’t changed much over the years,” he said. “We do have modern vacuums and systems to help keep dust under control, but the brushes and tools are pretty much the same as they were in the 1800s.”
As the owner of Four Seasons Chimney Sweeps along with his wife, Karen, Doug goes beyond chimney cleanings to inspections, rebuilds, repairs, including masonry work, re-linings and tuck pointing.
“Inspections are important because a lot of problems don’t get recognized until it’s too late. Of course, some are obvious like if bricks are broken and the chimney is deteriorating. I also look at dampers, smoke chambers and liners,” he said. “People don’t think about it, but dead leaves in a gutter can be a problem. I will trim trees back and clean out gutters as long as it’s not too extreme.”
Wood and gas fireplaces have separate issues and safety concerns. He said the Chimney Institute of America recommends having a wood burning fireplace and chimney checked out every year.
“When you burn wood, a byproduct is creosote, which is an oily, tarry resin that sticks to the chimney walls. If it is left unchecked, it could ignite. When the whole inside of a chimney starts to burn, it creates a vicious updraft that can pass through the walls. It can start shooting from the chimney like a Roman candle and shoot fireballs that can start the roof on fire,” he said.
“Gas burns clean so you don’t have the sooty build-up. But you should have it cleaned and inspected to make sure the integrity is there. It’s kind of like cleaning a furnace, it makes it more efficient.”
The chimney sweep also helps homeowners monitor dryer vents, which can be a fire hazard.
Doug jumped into the world of chimney sweeping after doing research on the business.
“The profession was making a comeback when fireplaces were trending back to wood. Now, it’s probably going back a little the other way with environmental trends. You can’t build a house with a wood burner in California.
“But people still like wood burners. It’s there for the aesthetic.”
Doug said after 20 years, most of his customers are repeat business and by word-of-mouth.
“The profession went away for a long time, then made a comeback. I am still here so I must be doing something right. I have learned you will fail your way to success.”