What Is A Chimney Clean-Out Door, And How Do You Replace It?

Hiring a chimney sweep once a year is the best way to clean the chimney properly and to make sure that you can operate your fireplace safely. However, you need to take the time to clean it yourself at other times, too. Figuring out how to properly clean a fireplace takes multiple steps to remove all of the ash and other debris. Depending on the design of your fireplace, you may have a clean-out door available that can help with this process.

The clean-out door is a metal covering that sits on the backside of the fireplace, out of normal sight lines, or on the exterior of the home at the base of the chimney. It provides access to all of the ashes and other items that have accumulated inside the bottom of the chimney.

The clean-out door may consist of cast iron, cast aluminum, or stainless steel. It may have hinges that attach it to the frame and a latch, ensuring it is sturdy and that you can tightly close it when the fireplace is in use. Some models have covers that screw to the frame. You don't want smoke, embers, or ash to escape while you are using the fireplace, so a tight fit for the door is important. Using the clean-out door to inspect the chimney and to gain access to remove any unwanted debris that falls down the chimney, such as bird nests, is important for safe operation.

How to replace a chimney clean-out door

If your current chimney clean-out door is rusted or has a broken hinge, it's not able to do its job properly. You may want to consider replacing it. Always allow the fireplace to completely cool before you begin any work. Start by measuring the size of the current clean-out door and frame. Then look for a unit that matches the size, so you don't have to chip away any part of the existing chimney. You can find multiple clean-out doors at Home Depot for less than $100. 

You may need to use a chisel and hammer or a pry bar to pull the old frame away from the chimney. Attach the frame of the new clean-out door to the chimney, using wall anchors and mortar. The product you purchased should have the proper fasteners. Make sure the frame is level and square. Use mortar to fill in any gaps between the frame and the chimney brick or masonry. Then attach the clean-out door. If it has hinges, insert the hinge pins once it's aligned. If it uses screws or bolts, just fasten the cover in place. If you notice any gaps after installing the clean-out door, you can use fiberglass insulative weatherstripping to close off the gap. This material should avoid suffering heat damage as you use the fireplace.