Using wood fireplaces as the primary source of heat in homes and businesses once again has led to a resurgence in chimney sweeps. Certifications from the Chimney Safety Institute of America and personal recommendations are good ways to find a qualified professional.
Regular chimney sweeping can reduce the wear and tear on a chimney, catching minor problems such as cracked masonry or loose bricks early on, when they are easier to fix.
Creosote is a deadly byproduct of incomplete combustion. It’s flammable and can quickly spark chimney fires. It also builds up and clogs flue walls. A chimney sweep’s job is to clean away this dangerous substance and prevent it from building up over time.
Regular chimney sweepings reduce the risk of creosote buildup. They also help detect minor problems, such as cracked masonry or loose bricks, and repair them before they worsen.
Chimney sweeping prices increase when the chimney has a significant creosote buildup. There are three degrees or stages of creosote: level 1 has a velvety texture and is easily removed with a rotary chimney brush; level 2 creosote has a crunchy, tar-like consistency and must be removed with a specialized tool called a rotary loop that attaches to a drill; and level 3 creosote is a hard, sticky glaze that’s almost impossible to remove without removing the flue liner as well.
Whether the chimney has creosote buildup or not, it’s always better to have a professional clean the chimney than to let it reach dangerous levels and possibly cause a chimney fire that could destroy the home and its contents. Getting the chimney cleaned regularly saves money in the long run and keeps everyone safe.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that homeowners schedule chimney cleanings every time they see 1/8″ or more of creosote buildup. They should also get it cleaned when they use two cords of wood or more each year and if they burn treated or green wood.
Chimney sweeps clean a variety of parts in the chimney including the fireplace and flue, chimney liner, and damper. Dampers can be damaged by chimney sparks and by animals that try to get in and out of the fireplace.
Flashing is sheet metal that is formed into an L-shape and sits at the joint of the roof and chimney, directing water away from the joint. Flashing is also used around vents and where pipes penetrate the roof.
Because chimney sweeping is dangerous, it’s best to have a professional do it rather than trying to do it yourself. Climbing on a roof in freezing temperatures isn’t safe, and chimney sweeps’ calendars fill up quickly during winter when homeowners use their fireplaces more often.
A chimney sweep will need to access your fireplace, chimney and flue. This can be difficult and dangerous if there are animals in the chimney. Whether animal removal is necessary or not, it can add to your chimney sweep cost.
Sweeps can use specialized rods to scrape away creosote, debris and other buildup from the chimney lining. They can also use a chemical treatment to break down the glazed creosote into something that is easier to remove. They will also suck up all debris with a HEPA vacuum.
This is a messy job, so a professional will set up plastic or drop cloths to minimize the mess. They may also need to move furniture in the area of the chimney or fireplace. If this is a problem, you should make arrangements for them to come back later. You should also clear out any firewood, toys or other items that could be in the way of the sweep.
A chimney sweep will inspect your fireplace and flue for damage, pests, buildup, and structural problems. The sweep may also recommend masonry or other in-depth repairs. This can add significantly to the bill.
A basic inspection and cleaning typically cost $75 to $200. This includes removing creosote and clearing animal debris from the chimney walls. If the chimney hasn’t been swept in several years, expect to pay more. This is because it’s more difficult to remove accumulated soot and creosote.
The location of your home can also affect chimney sweep costs. Chimneys located in urban areas generally cost more to service than those in rural areas. In addition, houses with high or steep roofs require more expensive specialized equipment to reach. The chimney sweep’s experience and expertise also affects cost. Choose a sweep who is bonded, insured, and has been in business for at least three to five years. They should have permanent truck signage and online reviews, and be certified by the organizations they claim to belong to.