How Much Does a Chimney Sweep Cost?
Chimney sweep costs can range from $129 to $378, with a national average of $252. Prices vary regionally and according to the level of cleaning required as well as other factors.
- Typical Range: $129 to $378
- National Average: $252
Wood-burning fireplaces are cozy amenities that appeal to many homeowners and home buyers, and fireplaces may even help save money on heating costs. Like anything else that gets a lot of use, though, a fireplace needs regular maintenance. As wood burns, it leaves soot and creosote (an oily byproduct of wood fires) on the chimney walls. These can build up and pose fire and health hazards.
Periodic inspections and cleaning are necessary to protect your home and keep a fireplace operating efficiently. While the National Fire Protection Association recommends at least one annual cleaning, the frequency of cleaning ultimately depends on usage. The chimney sweep—the person who performs the cleaning—will inspect and evaluate your chimney to determine when it needs cleaning. Here are the factors that determine chimney sweep cost as well as how to decide if and when you need a chimney sweep.
Factors in Calculating Chimney Sweep Cost
The national average cost for chimney cleaning is $252. However, several elements determine the final chimney cleaning cost. If it’s been a while since the chimney was cleaned, it’s likely to need more work, which will raise the price, especially if you use the fireplace often. Accessibility can also affect the price; steeply pitched roofs make the job more complex and more dangerous. The cost will go up if the work goes beyond cleaning to repair, such as installing a chimney cap or damper, fixing the flashing, or removing an animal or other debris.
Sometimes the inspection cost is extra, particularly if the chimney has suffered structural damage or if a new component is being retrofitted. Some companies charge by the hour, while others offer a flat rate and may even have package deals that include inspection and sweeping.
Chimney inspection costs typically correlate to the three levels of inspection. Level 1 is often included in the cleaning price but costs $80 to $200 as a stand-alone service. It’s a basic inspection for chimneys that are in good repair and regularly cleaned. It involves a visual check of the condition of the exterior and the fireplace components and whatever can be seen of the interior using a flashlight.
Level 2 inspections increase in cost and complexity and range from $100 to $500. This inspection might be required before making structural repairs, relining the flue, or retrofitting another style of heating component. The process consists of video scanning the interior surface to make a detailed assessment.
The most expensive inspection is Level 3, and this type is performed if structural damage has already occurred. It costs $1,000 to $5,000 because portions of the chimney may have to be deconstructed to examine the extent of the damage.
Roofs with acutely high peaks or steep pitches make access to the chimney more difficult and dangerous, leading to higher costs. If the chimney sweep has difficulty reaching the chimney by ladder or safely getting to the chimney, the cost to clean it can go up.
Time Since the Last Cleaning
If you use the fireplace regularly but don’t clean it annually, the cost of a chimney sweep could be higher than expected. Removing the buildup that has accumulated and solidified over some years isn’t easy. If chimney sweeping has been neglected, it’s likely to take extensive work to clean it. That could involve multiple sessions to remove layers of soot.
If you don’t use the fireplace often, it may be possible to extend the period between cleanings because there won’t be much soot buildup. However, if your fireplace is in use more than four times a week, you may need a more thorough or more frequent cleaning to keep it functioning safely and efficiently.
Chimney Cleaning Method
Chimney sweeps either work from the top down or the bottom up. Working from the top down usually makes less mess because the fireplace can be sealed off with tarps to prevent soot and debris from making a mess inside the home. No matter which direction they’re working, chimney sweeps may choose a wire brush attached to flexible rods that extend into the flue to scrub the interior walls of the chimney. Or they may use a system of weights and ropes instead of rods; this method is usually done from the top. The technique won’t significantly affect the cost, but it’s worth it for homeowners to know which method will be used to prepare the home accordingly.
Chimney sweeping prices can differ depending on your geographic location, with urban locations generally coming in at a higher price than rural areas where the cost of living is lower. Houses in remote areas may incur a travel fee.
Cleaning and inspection may uncover that the chimney cap is damaged or missing and needs to be replaced. The chimney cap is a screened cap that fits over the top of the chimney and is attached to the chimney liner or flue tile. It allows smoke and gases to escape but prevents snow, rain, debris, and animals from getting in. Not only does the chimney cap help prevent downdrafts but it also prevents chimney damage from freeze-thaw cycles. A new chimney cap installation can cost $150 to $700.
Flashing is an L-shaped piece of sheet metal inserted where the chimney abuts the roof. Its purpose is to prevent leaks and water damage by diverting water from the chimney. Without it, water can get between the chimney and the roof and even get into the house. A chimney sweep will see if the flashing is damaged during a routine cleaning or inspection and can repair it, but there will likely be an extra fee. Typical flashing installation costs $200 to $500.
Chimney liners (or flue liners) are made of clay, ceramic, or metal and protect bricks and mortar from heat and corrosion to extend the chimney’s life and make fireplace use safer. They also protect the house from dangerous heat transfer, and they assist in optimized efficiency and ventilation.
Installation costs range from $1,600 to $5,000. Cast-in-place liners are more expensive but provide optimal insulation. A chimney sweep may repair a lightly damaged liner, but more extensive damage will likely require a full replacement.
Dampers are small flaps opened when a fire is lit to help guide smoke up and out of the chimney. They also assist in preventing downdrafts. A damaged or warped damper can either allow smoke into the house or pull indoor air out. Typical costs are $200 to $300 to install or $100 to $225 to repair, depending on the extent of the damage.
Animals and birds sometimes take up residence in the fireplace. Depending on the species, the number of animals, and the difficulty in removing them, professional (and humane) removal can cost $175 to $500. If repairs are needed once the animals are out, the cost can go up. Animals commonly found in fireplaces include bats, birds, squirrels, and raccoons. If you suspect a dead animal in the fireplace, call a wildlife trap and removal service.
Burning creosote logs can help loosen up to 60 percent of residue in the flue by chemically changing the oily creosote into a flaky consistency that falls into the fireplace. Most cost $10 to $20 per log. However, debris can still get stuck if a chimney is slanted, and if it drops into a fire in the fireplace, the creosote could cause a chimney fire. While creosote logs can help clear debris between cleanings, they should not be used as a replacement for a chimney sweep.
Do I Need a Chimney Sweep?
Without routine inspections, cleanings, and necessary repairs, a chimney can fail, putting everyone in the home at risk. Faulty chimneys can trap toxic gases like carbon monoxide in the house. Chimney fires can burn up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and this intense heat can cause structural damage, spread to the rest of the home, or even cause a chimney to explode if chimney maintenance has been neglected.
Beyond safety concerns, a fireplace that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time doesn’t operate efficiently. Regular cleanings can also warn of any repairs or other serious issues needing attention before they become an emergency.
Advised Frequency of Cleaning
The National Fire Protection Association recommends cleaning your chimney annually or whenever you have ⅛-inch or more creosote buildup. With heavy usage or indications of an issue, like odor or smoke coming into the home, more frequent attention may be necessary. It’s also a good idea to get more frequent cleanings if you burn more than two cords of wood or 36 fires a year, or if the wood you use is treated or green.
Elapsed Time Since Last Cleaning
If you haven’t had your fireplace cleaned in a few years, it’s likely to have a considerable buildup of tar, soot, and debris. This will probably make it more difficult to clean as well as more expensive. It’s even possible that more than one cleaning will be necessary to remove creosote buildup altogether.
Odor can indicate a variety of issues with your fireplace or chimney. The smell of tar can indicate creosote buildup. Unpleasant smells may stem from gases trapped in your home by a blocked chimney. They could also indicate water in the firebox, a rusty damper, or mold. Another cause of foul odor may be decaying debris, such as leaves or dead animals stuck in the chimney.
A weak fire indicates the need for a chimney cleaning—and the sooner, the better because inadequate wood burning can lead to heavier creosote deposits. Alternatively, if your fires don’t burn as efficiently as before, it could indicate an obstruction in the chimney.
If smoke appears in the house while a fire is burning in the fireplace, it means there’s a weak draft and is indicative of a problem with the chimney, the vent, or the flue. A weak draft can cause a fire to die out quickly or produce back-puffing, in which the fire gets backed up in the firebox or flue, forcing smoke and toxic gases into the house.
Changes in weather mean animals may be seeking a new place to nest. Changing seasons can also mean falling leaves, twigs, branches, or other debris that makes its way into your chimney. If you don’t use the fireplace often, this could lead to decay, mold, or mildew, which can create odors and inhibit proper airflow when you start a fire. Even worse, they could cause damage to the chimney.
The damper lets airflow through the chimney. If it fails to fully open, smoke and carbon monoxide may travel into the home. Soot and creosote can build up if the damper is broken. Signs it may not be functioning properly include a fire that doesn’t burn well, smoke coming from the fireplace, or downdrafts.
Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood, coal, pellets, or oil. When wood burns in a fireplace, the smoke rises and cools, leaving a black, oily residue on the chimney walls. These deposits thicken as more fires are burned. Creosote is highly combustible and can cause chimney fires if ignited. Removing it is crucial to have a safe fireplace. Creosote logs and chemical powders may eradicate low levels of creosote, but for heavy deposits, a chimney sweep needs to remove them manually.
Excessive creosote buildup or debris in the chimney can lead to chimney fires. Uncontrolled, a chimney fire can catch the roof or other parts of the house on fire and cause extensive damage. Signs that you have a chimney fire include heavy black smoke coming from the chimney or firebox and clicking or rumbling noise. Call 911, and use a chimney-specific fire extinguisher to contain the blaze. After the fire has been contained and put out, contact a chimney sweep to inspect the chimney and perform any necessary cleaning and repairs.
Carbon monoxide leaks can result from creosote buildup, but water leaks are usually caused by faulty or missing flashing or a missing cap on the flue. Dampness on the ceiling or walls indicates a water leak, as does water in the firebox. An inspection and possibly a cleaning usually discover issues that cause leaks.
Presence of Smoke
If smoke is back-puffing into the house, it indicates a problem with the damper or chimney cap, a blockage in the chimney, or a chimney fire. A weak draft, typically the result of a damaged damper, can produce a lot of smoke, but it can also be related to water damage resulting from a broken or missing chimney cap. Not only is smoke in the house unpleasant, but it can also be unhealthy, as it may contain toxic gases.
Benefits of Regular Chimney Cleaning
Regular chimney cleaning and maintenance are essential to keep residents safe. Cleaning the chimney will avoid chimney and house fires and prevent noxious gases from getting into the home. Regular cleaning should keep smoke and bad odors from filling your house as well. There are also efficiency advantages to regular cleaning. Heavy creosote deposits render a chimney less efficient, which can result in additional heating costs. Even a small amount of creosote can be enough to start a fire.
Regular chimney cleaning can save money in other ways, too. It can keep you from having to spend money on costly repairs by addressing minor masonry issues before they become major. Inspections are easier to conduct if your chimney is clean. That, too, can save money if the inspector doesn’t have to spend additional time cleaning your chimney to properly and thoroughly inspect it.
When creosote and debris such as twigs, leaves, nests, and animals block a chimney’s airflow, carbon monoxide can be redirected into the home instead. This invisible and odorless gas is lethal at high levels. The same combination of chimney obstructions—or just a heavy layer of creosote on its own—can also cause chimney fires, which may spread to the roof or the walls of the home.
A heavy layer of creosote or a damaged flue, chimney cap, or flashing can decrease your home’s energy efficiency by allowing cool air to circulate freely. Similarly, if the flue is blocked, there won’t be a good draw on the fire, so it won’t produce as much heat as it should.
It’s easier to inspect a clean chimney than one with soot and creosote buildup, which can obscure the smoke shelf or the damper and even hinder the detection of masonry issues or damage. When a chimney is covered in layers of creosote or soot, it may not even be possible to do a thorough inspection.
When a chimney is cleaned regularly, it’s less likely to have a harmful buildup of creosote and soot, damaging the bricks and mortar, the flue, or the chimney cap. If minor issues do arise, fixing them when they’re small usually costs less than letting them go undiscovered for years until they become significant problems.
Keeps the Chimney in Good Condition
Regular chimney sweeping reduces wear and tear on a chimney by removing soot, ash, creosote, and bits of wood. It also detects minor problems, such as cracked masonry, chipped bricks, or missing mortar, allowing the homeowner to repair the chimney before these problems become big issues.
Chimney Sweep Cost: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
With DIY chimney cleaning kits on the market, it may seem like chimney cleaning is an easy DIY job. While it may be possible to clean your chimney yourself, it’s not a task that many homeowners have the skill—or desire—to undertake. Cleaning chimneys is a messy job, and incorrect preparation or cleaning can push soot into your home, potentially damaging your furnishings. It’s also a dangerous job, especially if you’re working from the roof.
Chimney sweeps require protective gear like respirator masks and safety glasses to protect themselves from irritating and potentially carcinogenic material. You’ll need enough knowledge to diagnose any issues, and you’ll need to know how to make any necessary repairs should you come across any damage.
Because it’s a risky yet crucial job, you may feel safer and more secure knowing that a pro with experience, tools, and know-how is taking care of this task for you. A bonus is that a chimney sweep may recommend maintenance that can save your life and make your fireplace more efficient.
Best Time to Hire a Chimney Sweep
The best time to hire a chimney sweep is in the late summer or early fall so there’s plenty of time to get your chimney cleaned before you put it to use. Because you don’t typically use your fireplace much during these seasons, it’s an excellent time to take care of this annual chore—not to mention that the weather tends to be better. Plus, if you get it done early in the year, it’s ready and waiting for you when cooler weather strikes.
Spring, summer, and early fall usually offer better weather for cleaning a chimney, making it a safer proposition for the chimney sweep. Climbing onto a roof covered in snow or ice isn’t an easy undertaking. Working on a chimney cap or flue can be considerably more complicated in freezing weather. Additionally, if you procrastinate by waiting until fall to book a cleaning, you may run into scheduling complications. When more people use their fireplaces regularly, it’s more likely that they’ll come across issues that need attention, meaning chimney sweeps’ calendars can fill up.
Some companies offer discounts for work done in the spring and summer off-season. By spreading out their work year-round, they’re better able to serve their customers. To encourage their customers to think ahead, some offer pre-season deals.
Of course, if you’re experiencing any issues with your fireplace or you notice any signs of potential problems, don’t wait; call a chimney sweep to take care of it right away. To find a professional chimney sweep, you can start by Googling “chimney companies near me.”
Questions to Ask About Chimney Sweeping
It’s vital to hire a chimney sweep who knows what to do, has the right tools, and is experienced. An expert will know what kind of inspection your chimney needs and will come prepared for the job. Experience often means a chimney sweep has the proper tools and qualifications and knows what to look for in an inspection—and what to do to fix any problems discovered. An online search is the easiest way to find chimney pros and get an idea of their businesses. References and word-of-mouth recommendations are reassuring, but reviews may tell a more complete story of the company’s performance.
- Will a CSIA-certified chimney sweep do the job? The Chimney Safety Institute of America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to chimney safety. Certification means the chimney sweep follows their safety guidelines and regulations. Check the chimney sweep’s credentials.
- What type of chimney inspection do I need? There are three levels of chimney inspection. Level 1 is a basic inspection when no issues are anticipated. Level 2 may be required if you’re buying or selling the property. Level 3 is necessary if there is known damage or extensive wear and tear. Each level has a different price and amount of invasiveness, so it’s important to know what to prepare for.
- Do you use video scanning? This provides a clearer picture of what’s going on in your chimney. It also means you’re seeing what the chimney sweep sees, and it provides the same view so you can make an informed decision regarding any repairs.
- Do you have insurance? Liability insurance will protect you if anything happens while the chimney sweep is on your property or if any damage is done to your home.
- Will you be cleaning from the top down or bottom up?
- Is there any preparation that I need to do for the interior or exterior of my home?
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you have references?
- How many people will this job require?
- Do you use safety equipment like harnesses and hard hats when on the roof?
- How often do you recommend I get my chimney cleaned?
Many people are attracted by the looks of a fireplace but know little about the maintenance and upkeep. For your health and safety, you should know how often you need to sweep the chimney—and what could happen if you don’t.
Q. How often should I sweep my chimney?
If your fireplace usage is minimal to average, the National Fire Protection Association recommends having the chimney swept annually. If you use your fireplace often (36 or more fires a year) or burn treated or green wood, you should have the chimney cleaned more frequently to avoid creosote buildup.
Q. Is it a landlord’s responsibility to hire a chimney sweep?
Maintenance (including cleaning), inspections, and repairs of chimneys are the responsibility of the landlord. If tenants notice issues, such as smoke billowing into the home or a crackling sound that might indicate a chimney fire, they should notify the landlord immediately. Ultimately, it is the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that appliances—including fireplaces—are in good working order.
Q. What happens if I don’t sweep the chimney?
If you don’t have the chimney swept, creosote will build up. This highly flammable substance can start a chimney fire that may spread to your roof or walls, causing significant damage and risk to life. A chimney filled with buildup can also trap toxic gases in the home. In addition, if the chimney isn’t cleaned, it won’t operate efficiently, leading to higher energy costs for the homeowner.
Q. How do I know that my chimney needs to be cleaned?
There are many signs that a chimney needs to be cleaned. Smoke in the house indicates that the flue is not functioning correctly. Noises such as clicking, popping, or rumbling might mean a chimney fire. Damp or discolored ceilings and walls by the fireplace, water in the firebox, or foul odors could be a sign of damaged flashing or a damaged chimney cap. If you can’t get a good draw or if the fire is weak, it might be a sign of a blockage in the chimney or a damaged flue.