Everything You Need to Know About Hiring for Chimney Cleaning
Chimney cleaning may seem like an unnecessary nuisance, but it’s far from that. Chimneys are designed to remove harmful gases from a fireplace while it's in use—but they only work effectively if they’re free from buildup and debris.
While products like creosote logs help maintain a chimney, they’re no replacement for a chimney cleaning service. Chimneys provide a complex system through which fire byproducts created in the fireplace can leave the home. When these components get damaged or are clogged, it prevents harmful byproducts from leaving the home. This can affect the home’s air quality and even cause fires. Whether you use your fireplace regularly or not, you need to have a chimney cleaning done to remove buildup and debris.
While some DIY cleaning options are on the market, you’ll want to find a reliable, professional chimney sweep in your area. This is because a professional will be able to spot problems with your chimney that need fixing, such as bad flashing, missing caps, or damaged flues. A chimney sweep typically takes about an hour, and you can expect the technician to take a long brush and remove creosote, leaves, and other debris from the inside of the chimney. If the company you hire to do the cleaning also repairs chimneys, they may recommend certain repairs, such as new flashing and dampers. They may also encourage you to upgrade your cap to prevent rodents or birds from entering the chimney.
Are you wondering, “Are there chimney cleaners near me?” or are you searching the internet for ‘chimney cleaning near me’? This guide will tell you more about how to prepare to hire local chimney cleaners, the costs involved, how to know if your chimney needs a cleaning, and common questions about chimney cleaning.
Cost of Chimney Cleaning
If you need a chimney sweep, expect to pay between $129 and $378. The national average is $252. However, chimney sweep costs may be higher or lower than the national average, depending on where you live. The cost on average in New York is about $547, while the cost in Tallahassee, Florida, averages around $154. There may be other factors that affect chimney cleaning costs. For instance, some chimney inspections are free. A cleaning usually consists of sweeping the fireplace and checking the liner, flue, firebox, flashing, and smoke chamber. However, if a chimney cleaner suspects that there is structural damage that they must check for, they may charge an additional cost for the inspection. This could run between $100 and $5,000 for the inspection alone.
The type of inspection will depend on how long it’s been since you’ve had a chimney inspection or cleaning. If you’ve never had your chimney cleaned, you can expect to pay more than if it is cleaned regularly. If the chimney sweeper discovers problems, they will share with you their findings and recommend what needs repairs or replacement. For instance, if you have damaged or missing flashing, they may suggest that you get it replaced, which could run $200 to $500.
Common Issues That Require a Chimney Cleaning
A fireplace can be a wonderful addition to your home. While cleaning the fireplace itself may not be a demanding chore, the chimney can have many hidden problems that are difficult to detect. Although there are homeowners who know how to clean their chimneys, there may be other underlying problems that only a trained technician can discover. If these problems aren’t repaired, they can lead to more costly issues with your chimney. Here are the most common issues that require a chimney sweep.
- Creosote. This carcinogenic chemical forms on the walls of a chimney when burning wood. It is a natural byproduct, but if your chimney isn’t cleaned as often as it should be, it can lead to chimney fires.
- Chimney flue buildup. The flue is where most of the creosote collects and where most of the cleaning will take place. Flues may require repair, which can be discovered through an inspection and cleaning. If your chimney flue is cracked, this could allow carbon monoxide to enter your home. Also, since the flue protects the combustible parts of a home, a house is more susceptible to catching fire if the flue is cracked.
- Obstructions. Creosote is one of the most common obstructions in a chimney. However, other obstructions include leaves and dead rodents.
- Dirty damper. A closed damper keeps the air from flowing out of your house when the fireplace is not in use. When it is in use, a damper should be open to let the smoke out. If you see dirt on this, it is usually an indication that your chimney is dirty and needs to be cleaned.
- Soot. This is a dark-colored fire byproduct that contains cancer-causing elements. It should be removed to improve air quality and to prevent corrosion on important components of the chimney.
Signs You Need Chimney Cleaning
Many homeowners may be tempted to light up the fireplace without having it cleaned for the year. However, an unclean chimney will show obvious signs that it needs cleaning. For instance, you may notice a lot of soot, or there may be a strange odor when you are burning a fire. Sometimes signs are not as obvious, but it is still a good idea to have your chimney cleaned whether there are obvious signs or not. This is especially true if it’s been over a year since you’ve used it or you can’t remember the last time it was cleaned. Here are some other reasons to have your chimney cleaned.
Sometimes the buildup in a chimney is so copious that you can’t use your fireplace until it is cleaned. You may even have to have repairs done to your chimney to get it working correctly. Repairing a single flue tile may cost about $200. However, if the chimney needs more serious repairs, it could cost several thousand dollars, depending on the type of repair needed. Below are some reasons you will need an emergency chimney sweep.
- You have recently had a chimney fire.
- Smoke enters the home when the fireplace is in use.
- Your carbon monoxide alarm keeps going off when you use the fireplace.
Chimney cleaning is essential, but in most cases, having it cleaned won’t be an emergency. Here are a few non-emergency reasons you will need to call a chimney sweeper.
- Your chimney requires an annual cleaning.
- Dead animals keep landing in your fireplace.
- The fire is not burning evenly or won’t stay lit.
Some other reasons to clean your fireplace or chimney primarily relate to decor. For instance, if you plan to paint your fireplace, it’s a good idea to have the chimney cleaned first so any debris or residue doesn’t drop down and ruin the paint. Another reason you may want to have the chimney cleaned is if you are planning to remodel it—you may as well get the dirt and grime out of it before you renovate it so that you can use it as soon as it’s done. Finally, it’s a good idea to clean the chimney if you plan to sell your house. A fireplace that hasn’t been cleaned or maintained may affect the value of your home, and having it cleaned can make you aware of any repairs or replacements that need to be done. Along with chimney cleaning, you can search for “fireplace cleaning near me.”
DIY vs. Hiring a Professional Chimney Sweep
You may be wondering how to clean the chimney yourself. Unfortunately, cleaning a chimney can be pretty dangerous, and if you are not sure of what you are doing, it can make matters worse. It’s best to leave chimney cleaning to a certified professional to avoid fires or other problems with your chimney. Besides, a trained technician will clean your chimney and spot issues that need repair.
How to Find a Reputable Chimney Sweep
Finding a reputable chimney sweep may be challenging because it is an unregulated industry. This means that any weekend warrior can set up a chimney sweep company. Luckily, there are certifications that a chimney sweep can acquire from nationally recognized associations. Therefore, if a business or individuals claim to have these certifications, you can check to see if they are current. If you are trying to narrow down your choices, it’s a good idea to choose three to five companies in the area and acquire written estimates from each. Compare the estimates and ask questions about the differences in rates. Here are some ways to vet chimney companies.
- Check the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been resolved.
- Read reviews of the companies on their websites and on reputable home improvement sites.
- Check their certification on the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) site.
- Ask for references from friends, family members, or neighbors.
Questions to Ask Your Local Chimney Sweep
Chimney cleaning is not a job that amateurs should do. While you can clean your own chimney, hiring a professional to do it is a good idea. One reason to hire professionals is because working on the roof can be dangerous terrain. Without the proper equipment to do the job, you can slip and injure yourself or be hit with flying debris coming out of the chimney. Also, walking around on your roof may damage the shingles, particularly if you’re not wearing proper shoes. One more critical reason to consider hiring a professional is because they may be able to spot more serious problems that need to be fixed that aren’t related to cleaning. Here are some questions to ask to ensure that you’re hiring the right team for the job.
- Is your business fully insured? Since chimney sweepers must get on top of your roof in most cases, it’s a good idea to make sure they are insured so that you won’t be responsible for any medical bills resulting from an injury that happens on your property.
- How many years have you been in business? Along with making sure that they are fully insured, it’s a good idea to ensure that the company has been in business long enough to have quality experience cleaning chimneys.
- Are your technicians CSIA certified? A company or individuals of the company cannot claim to have such certification if they don’t. If you want to do some research for yourself to verify a company’s claims, you can check for local certified sweepers on the CSIA site.
- Is the chimney inspection free? Sometimes a chimney inspection is free, particularly if you get regular cleanings. However, chimney sweeps may charge for Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 inspections, which vary in price.
- How much will chimney cleaning cost? This is one of the most important questions to ask, and it’s a good idea to get the price in writing.
- Does your company have unresolved complaints? It’s a good idea to hear the truth from the company itself. However, if they aren’t forthcoming with this information, checking their reviews or the Better Business Bureau site can provide you with the information you need.
- How long will it take to complete the job? When getting a cost estimate, it’s also wise to get a time estimate. A chimney sweep usually takes between 45 minutes and an hour. However, if they have to replace a flue or liner in your chimney, it may take up to 8 hours.
- Do you provide chimney repair services, too? It makes sense to hire a chimney cleaner that can also repair your chimney so that you can get all issues resolved at once. However, if they don’t do repairs, you’ll have the information you need to hire a repair service and can search for “chimney repair near me.”
Chimney cleaning can be a quick process whether you decide to do it yourself or hire someone. If you develop a routine for scheduled cleanings with your local chimney sweep, you can minimize significant problems. This is particularly true if the company you hire specializes in repairs and can fix chimney problems after cleaning it. Our guide provides many details on the costs of cleaning a chimney and other useful information. However, here are answers to simple questions you may have about the process.
Q. How often should I clean my chimney?
According to the National Fire Protection Association, it is a good idea to have your chimney cleaned once a year. Even if you don’t use your chimney much, it should still be inspected because animals may build nests in the chimney and block your flue.
Q. How do I know if my chimney needs cleaning?
Several factors could indicate that your chimney needs cleaning. Below are the most common:
- Smoke builds up in the room when using the fireplace
- Fires aren’t as strong as they used to be
- There is a strange odor coming from your fireplace that’s similar to tar
- The chimney walls have oily residue on it
- You often hear birds or squirrels in your chimney
Q. What time of year should I clean my chimney?
Most homeowners wait until the fall or winter when they’re regularly using their fireplace to get the chimney cleaned. Getting your chimney cleaned in the spring or summer may give you more scheduling freedom, but there’s no right or wrong time to get a chimney cleaned.
Q. What happens if I don’t clean my chimney?
If you don’t have your chimney cleaned once a year, creosote builds up in your chimney, which can lead to a chimney fire. Also, a dirty chimney can cause toxic, deadly gases such as carbon monoxide to build up that are harmful to inhale.