How to Hire the Best Chimney Sweep Near Me Based on Cost, Issue, and Other Considerations
A clean and secure chimney is essential to safely enjoy cozy evenings by a crackling fire. Wondering, “How do I find a chimney sweep near me?” Here are some tips.
Hiring the Best Chimney Sweep Near Me
There’s nothing like curling up next to a roaring fire on a snowy winter afternoon—but some maintenance is required to keep the roaring fire in the fireplace and out of your chimney. Chimneys aren’t a part of the house most people think about until there’s trouble: the brick starts crumbling, a squirrel sneaks through a broken chimney cap, or smoke comes billowing into the living room when a fire is lit. In reality, chimneys need regular cleaning and maintenance to remain safe, whether you burn a lot of fires or not.
Thinking of chimney sweeps might bring to mind the cavalier dancers on London rooftops that you may recall from Mary Poppins. In reality, they are trained professionals with keen eyes for small but significant problems in the chimney and firebox, and they have specialized equipment that will clean and repair the chimney without making a mess in the home. You’ll want to choose your chimney sweep with care, making sure you’ve selected a professional who will do the job thoroughly and honestly report problems and solutions. There are several components to consider in answer to the question, “How do I find a reputable, professional chimney sweep near me?”
Cost of a Chimney Sweep Near Me
Chimney sweeps charge for various services, and how much a cleaning costs will vary based on several factors. The national average price is between $129 and $378. This includes either a single professional using an appropriately sized wire brush to scrub the chimney’s walls from the inside or a team working from both inside and on the rooftop (which makes less of a mess inside). However, professional chimney sweeps will also inspect your chimney before and after cleaning, looking for structural defects.
Level 1 inspections are usually included in the cost of the sweep and include a visual check of the interior (using a flashlight) and the exterior. A chimney and fireplace inspection is intended for fireplaces that are well maintained and used regularly. If it’s been a while since your last cleaning, it’s worth asking for a Level 2 inspection, which involves sending a camera down the flue to check for structural damage. If your chimney sweep suspects structural damage may occur during the cleaning, they may recommend a Level 2 inspection before cleaning. This will add between $100 and $500 to the cost of your cleaning but may save you from paying for additional damage done during the cleaning. A Level 3 inspection is done only when structural damage is already apparent and requires that some of the chimney’s brickwork be dismantled for repair and replacement. This inspection will add $1,000 to $5,000 to the cost of your cleaning.
Common Issues a Chimney Sweep Near Me Can Fix
Chimney sweeps perform inspections of the physical chimney and provide repairs, install liners so older chimneys seal better, clean the chimney walls, assess how much air transfer is occurring between inside and out, and check to make sure there aren’t blockages or buildup that can increase the chances of fire or carbon monoxide buildup. They can install chimney caps and repair the flashing around the chimney to ensure it’s watertight. In addition, chimney sweeps can professionally install a fireplace insert. Chimney sweeps can also provide testing and assess whether your chimney meets the EPA’s clean air standards and recommend adjustments to help you improve. If the job involves the chimney or its components, a qualified chimney sweep is the right person to hire.
Signs You Need a Chimney Sweep
How do you know it’s time to hire a chimney sweep? Sometimes you have no option: smoke is pouring into your living room, you actually experience a chimney fire, or you notice significant water in the firebox. Ideally, you’ll have the chimney regularly swept—at least once per year if you regularly burn fires—and won’t need to call in the event of an emergency.
Problems involving fire and smoke are almost always emergencies, so if the smoke is out of control in your home, there are a few things to check quickly. First, make sure the damper is open. The damper is the door that closes off the chimney when there’s no fire and keeps your heated indoor air from escaping up the chimney. For a fire to burn, the damper needs to be open so the smoke can draft upward as the fire is fed by oxygen. If the damper is closed, there’s less oxygen to burn, and the smoke that does develop has nowhere to go, so it’s forced back into the house. If the damper is open and it’s still smoky, check the outdoor temperature. The colder it is outside, the greater the difference between the firebox temperature and the outside temperature, creating a good draft as the warm air tries to run up the chimney. The smoke will stay low in the chimney and ooze back inside if it’s too warm outside. If neither of these is the culprit, it’s time to call in help.
- Smoke is flooding your house, or there is visible fire in the chimney. Call the fire department first if there’s a fire, but then you’ll need to consult a chimney sweep afterward for repair and rebuilding.
- Structural repair. If your chimney has cracked, mortar is crumbling out of the brickwork, or smoke is leaking into other areas of the house, avoid burning more fires and call a chimney sweep immediately to check for structural problems in the flue, brickwork, or liner.
- Blockage removal. If the creosote (a chemical that builds up on the inside of the chimney wall due to burning wood or paper) has gotten too thick on the chimney walls, your chimney could be blocked entirely. This is dangerous, especially if you have gas appliances that also vent through your chimney and can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide in your home. If your damper is open and the smoke is coming in instead of going out, call a chimney professional immediately.
- Water seepage. Suppose you don’t have a chimney cap (or the seal around your existing cap has failed). In that case, water and snow can seep into the flue without visibly showing any moisture, lowering the temperature in the firebox and making it difficult for the warm air to draft up and out of the chimney. If you’re having trouble getting a strong fire going only when it rains or snows, seepage may be the issue and should be handled immediately.
- A broken damper. The damper is the door that closes off the chimney from the firebox, operated by a lever. Opening the damper allows the smoke to escape upward, and closing off the damper keeps your heated home air inside. If the damper won’t open or close at all, it needs immediate attention.
Chimney sweeps are great resources in an emergency, but they can complete many tasks on a non-emergency basis, making emergencies less likely (and less expensive). If you’re wondering how much is a chimney sweep going to cost in an emergency, it’s a good idea to make an appointment for a cleaning and inspection now—before you find yourself making an emergency call.
- Routine seasonal maintenance, or a preventive call when you haven’t used the fireplace in a while, can be scheduled ahead of any planned use.
- If you smell strange odors when the fireplace is not in use, it can mean water damage or animal presence, so a maintenance visit is in order.
- Water inside the firebox isn’t an immediate emergency, but it means there’s a leak somewhere. The culprit is likely a loose chimney cap, but you’ll want to have someone take a look.
- Chimney sweeps can provide maintenance for the appliances that use your chimney, such as gas, pellet, or wood-burning stoves.
- Maintenance and creosote reduction is important to chimney safety; a chimney sweep can offer instructions on home maintenance and creosote-reduction practices so you can keep your chimney cleaner for longer.
Most of what chimney sweeps are cleaning out of the chimney is a chemical called creosote. When you burn wood, pellets, or oil, they produce gases that can create a sticky buildup that sticks to the chimney walls and eventually hardens. This substance isn’t dangerous or problematic with regular cleaning, but the longer you go without cleaning, the harder the substance gets and the harder it is to remove. As the buildup gets thicker, it becomes more likely that you’ll experience a backup or blockage, and it also makes it more likely that the necessary cleaning will damage the chimney. There are at-home products you can use to remove creosote gradually. You’ll want to ask your chimney sweep which ones might be appropriate for your situation. Still, these products can help reduce creosote in between professional cleanings and keep your chimney structurally sound.
DIY vs. Hiring a Professional Chimney Sweep Near Me
How hard can it be? You can buy a chimney cleaning kit for between $50 and $100, which suggests that cleaning a chimney is a good DIY project. But there are several elements to consider. If all you need is a quick, firm brush of the firebox itself in between professional cleanings, the kit may be a good plan. If the chimney is straight and you clean it regularly, a DIY kit can be a stopgap. But consider that most homeowners don’t know how a healthy chimney should look and aren’t trained to see the small cracks that indicate trouble while they’re still small and can be easily repaired. Skipping professional inspections can save money in the short term, but the money you’ve saved might be negligible if you discover that an expensive repair or rebuild is needed.
In addition, chimney cleaning is messy business—really messy. One false move can result in your entire home being coated with a fine layer of soot, ash, and chemicals, and light-colored furniture or fabrics near the fireplace may be irreparably damaged. Plus, it’s dangerous to crawl up on the roof if you’re not used to it, and the face full of ash you’re likely to get contains irritants to your eyes, mouth, lungs, and nose. It is a job best left to professionals who have equipment that prevents the splash of soot and protects the chimney sweeps from the caustic ash. In-between maintenance can reduce the frequency of necessary cleanings, but professional inspection isn’t something to skip.
How to Find a Reputable Chimney Sweep Near Me
Hiring a chimney sweep is kind of like choosing a car mechanic if you don’t know anything about cars. How will you know if the chimney sweep has done a complete job? How will you know if you’re upsold services you don’t need? The answer is that you probably won’t, so you need to select a trustworthy, professional sweep with healthy references. Here are some things to look for:
- The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) trains and certifies chimney sweeps who have completed their courses and maintain educational credentials. Make sure any chimney sweep you hire is certified by this organization.
- Check with friends and neighbors, along with local online recommendation sites, to see who they’ve worked with and whose work was solid.
- Make sure the sweep is insured with a liability policy that covers their own safety (so that your liability policy isn’t on the hook if the chimney sweep is injured on a ladder) and protects your home from accidental soot escape.
- Check the Better Business Bureau in your area for complaints against the business and their resolution. Remember that complaints aren’t an issue—the important part is what the complaints were actually about and how they were resolved.
Questions to Ask Your Local Chimney Sweep Service
Every professional who comes into your home should be someone you’re comfortable with. Because it’s hard for someone not trained in chimney maintenance to anticipate all the concerns and verify the work, there are some questions you need to ask before hiring a chimney sweep.
- How often do you recommend that a chimney be professionally cleaned? The answer should be about once per year, with the caveat that chimneys that build creosote faster may need to be cleaned more frequently, or as soon as the creosote builds to ⅛ of an inch.
- Should my chimney be cleaned even if I heat with natural gas? The answer to this question should be yes; while natural gas doesn’t leave the chemicals behind that other substances do, structural issues can still arise due to water leaks or animals nesting.
- What kind of inspection will you perform? What criteria would drive you to move to a Level 2 inspection?
- Do you have a position on chemical chimney cleaners? While a good chimney sweep will likely respond that a professional’s physical inspection and manual sweep will provide the best maintenance and that chemical cleaners shouldn’t replace those methods, they may be able to make suggestions about using those cleaners in between professional sweeps.
- Does CSIA license you? Are all of the sweeps who work for you licensed?
- Do you carry liability insurance for my property and appropriate insurance to protect your workers?
- If you find major structural repairs are needed, can I seek a second opinion before completing the work?
- How will you minimize the mess inside and protect my home from soot?
Q. How much does a chimney sweep cost?
The average cost to inspect and clean a chimney is $252, with the possibility of a higher range should the chimney have a lot of buildup or any structural damage. The services associated with chimney sweep cost will likely save money over expensive repairs resulting from infrequent maintenance.
Q. How often should I sweep my chimney?
The CSIA recommends cleaning once per year or when the creosote buildup in the chimney reaches ⅛ inch—whichever comes first. Depending on how often you use your fireplace, you may need to have the chimney swept more than once per year.
Q. Do chimney sweeps need a license?
Not a license, per se, but you should only hire chimney sweeps who carry a certification from the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). To maintain this certification, chimney sweeps must maintain a certain level of training, and companies must send out only CSIA-certified technicians.
Q. How do I know when I need a chimney sweep?
Your chimney will let you know. Smoke coming into your home instead of rising up the chimney, fires that won’t kindle or won’t burn strongly even when they’ve been built with good materials, and a damp odor are all telltale signs that your chimney has a problem. And also, if you haven’t had the chimney swept in more than a year, it’s time to make a call.
Q. Can I sweep my chimney on my own?
You can, but you may be surprised at how big the mess is, and you may end up replacing a lot of furniture when you can’t get the soot or the smell out. If you’re uncomfortable with being on a roof and don’t know how to do so safely, the consequences can be much more dire. It’s better to leave the job to professionals, especially since you won’t be able to identify the subtle damage to the structure that could be fixed easily now if spotted by a professional but could turn into an expensive and large repair if it’s allowed to develop.
Q. What happens if I don’t clean my chimney?
The best-case scenario is that your house will have a slightly dank odor when it’s humid, a bird or squirrel might come in, or you’ll have some smoke blowing back into your home. The worst-case scenario is a chimney fire, especially if it happens after you’ve turned in for the night. Fireplaces provide a wonderful and cozy atmosphere and keep the house warm, but they contain fire. Fire doesn’t care that you meant to get the chimney cleaned last month—so maintain the chimney and don’t give the fire a chance to take hold.