When a fireplace goes ballistic

In our main living room, we have a poêle à bois, or log-burner, that provides a nice, quiet source of heat during the winter season. But once a year, it’s the source of an incredibly loud, piercing noise that is pretty awful for Jan and me, and absolutely terrifying for our cat Souci.

The reason for the noise is the annual cleaning, which is required to ensure that the log-burner is safe and that the chimney is free of excess deposits that could burst into flame. Obviously, it’s a good idea, and I’m certainly not complaining about the service man who does the job for us.

In fact, the service is immaculately clean, and efficient. The service man puts down protective carpets, and bring into the house a long flexible tube that winds its way out the front door to his truck — where there is a powerful vacuum. He then brushes out the fireplace, and starts to vacuum away any excess dirt or ash. Because the vacuum machinery is outside, the noise in our house isn’t too overwhelming.

But then comes the chimney cleaning. For this, the service man has to crouch next to the log-burner, remove the cap at the bottom of the metal chimney, and start feeding in a rapidly rotating cable with a round metal brush on the end. (You may be able to see the metal brush sitting on top of the large wheel on which the flexible metal cable is coiled.)

High-tech cleaning, super-high noise.

Now imagine the noise: A fast-spinning metal brush is being forced all the way up our metal chimney, scratching against its sides. Fortunately, the process doesn’t take too long — several minutes, I would say — but the noise is clearly enough to drive us out of the room. And as for our cat Souci, she hides under the bed, simply terrified.

Jan and I (and of course, Souci) are delighted this happens only once a year.

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