A dirty chimney can cost you and your family your lives. Here are a couple of little known facts: Chimneys packed with soot and creosote can trigger house fires. And chimneys that are not properly vented can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. You can avoid any potential health hazards by hiring a chimney maintenance professional to inspect your chimney and ensure that it is in safe, working order.
Keep these tips in mind when looking for a chimney sweep.
How often do you need to have your chimney cleaned? There are two different guidelines.
One, according to the National Fire Protection Agency’s standards, “Chimneys, fireplaces and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance and repairs shall be done if necessary.”
The annual inspection and cleaning is a great idea, but far too few homeowners follow that advice, leaving them at risk for a chimney fire or other dangerous conditions.
There is a second guideline you can follow, too. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends a chimney be swept when there is 1/8 inch of sooty buildup. It should also be swept any time “there is any glaze present in the system,” according to the institute.
What to Look For
Choosing someone to clean or fix your chimney is a lot like picking any professional to work on your home. They need to be experienced, knowledgeable, capable and great at serving their customers — but that type of professional isn’t always easy to find.
One thing you can do is ask around for references. If any of your friends, family or co-workers have used chimney maintenance providers in the past, ask what they thought about the services they provided. Did they do a thorough job? Did they keep their work space neat and tidy, cleaning up any messes? Did they charge a reasonable price and show up on time to do the job?
You could also look for complaints and feedback from the Better Business Bureau or consumer-oriented websites. And you could ask the chimney cleaner if they have any certifications or current testimonials from happy customers.
There’s one thing you should always do before hiring someone to work at your house: Check on their insurance coverage.
Because most homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover injuries or damage that occur from people working on your property, the individual or company you hire will need to carry their own coverage. Otherwise, without a proper insurance policy, you could find yourself personally liable for any injuries or damage that happen at your house.
You don’t want to be on the hook for paying the bills if a chimney sweep hurts your property — or worse, hurts himself — while doing a job on your property. Always ask about insurance coverage and verify it, just to be safe.
Chimney maintenance people may find themselves very busy in the fall and winter, which is the heaviest season for fireplace usage.
If you notice anything unusual about your fireplace, such as smoke coming into the house or a buildup of soot, you should call a professional to check it out.
Fireplaces are wonderful things that keep our homes warm and cozy, but they can quickly turn dangerous if not properly cleaned and maintained over time. If you haven’t had your chimney inspected and cleaned recently, a good chimney professional will give you peace of mind.