Chimney Cleaning: How Often and How Much Does It Cost?

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If you’re anything like most homeowners, the words “chimney sweep” mostly conjures up images of Dick Van Dyke dancing across the London skyline. But chimney sweeping is actually a vital part of homeownership. Chimneys require regular cleaning to keep them safe to use. So what does cleaning entail? And how much will it cost you, after all is said and done? Below, we’ll answer all your “burning” questions about hiring a chimney sweep for your home.

Feet warming by fireplace

Chimney Cleaning: It’s a Safety Issue

If you’re not familiar with the ends and outs of fireplaces, you may think that chimney cleaning sounds like a scam. After all, aren’t chimneys supposed to be sooty? They are, after all, designed to funnel smoke out of your home.

But chimney cleaning has a lot more to do with your home’s safety than it does with aesthetics. Untended chimneys develop a layer of creosote, an extremely flammable substance made of smoke residue and wood particles. Dirty chimneys enormously elevate your risk of house fires. These chimney fires can result in a massive, explosive infernos or even a quiet, slow-burning fires that blazes undetected and destroys your flue, the surrounding masonry, or even nearby TV antennas.

What Does a Chimney Cleaner Do?

Now that we’ve (hopefully!) managed to convince you of the importance of cleaning your chimney, let’s talk about what a chimney sweep actually does. First, chimney cleaners inspect your chimney’s exterior, as well as the interior—the firebox, liners, smoke chamber, and flue.

If there’s a significant buildup of creosote, they’ll use a number of different methods to remove it, including a chimney brush, a chemical solution, or a special tool called a rotary loop. If the buildup is really bad, or if there’s obvious damage, they may make recommendations for replacement, as well.

row of chimneys

How Often Should You Clean Your Chimney?

The answer to this question depends on how much you use your chimney. If you rely on central heating as your main source of home warmth and only use your fireplace occasionally, it won’t need an annual inspection. But if you burn a fire more than 30 times a year, you probably need to have it checked out every year.

It is possible to clean yourself, but it’s not recommended. That’s because you may not have the tools or expertise needed to handle really damaged or dirty chimneys. And, of course, climbing up on your roof for any reason is dangerous.

However, if you want your professional cleaning to proceed smoothly, and to improve the safety and performance of your fireplace and chimney, you can purchase a creosote sweeping log. Burning one of these special logs makes creosote deposits flake off the surface so it’s easier to clean. But that’s not an adequate replacement for professional service.

log burning

How to Hire a Chimney Inspector or Cleaning Service

Here’s where the tricky part comes in. When hiring a chimney sweeper, you need to do your due diligence and check out their credentials first. That way, you can make sure your sweeper is really qualified.

If they’re legit, they’ll be able to produce a Chimney Safety Institute of America certification. And as with any contractor who works on your home, also ask to see references and proof of liability insurance. Look up their reviews on the Better Business Bureau, Google and Yelp, too. Among other things, that will give you a sense of the company’s longevity. You don’t want to be one of their guinea pigs!

What You Can Expect to Spend

Now let’s talk dollars and cents. A basic sweep and inspection runs around $100 to $250. But it could be more if your roof is very steep or hard to get to. You may also have to pay for additional repairs if your chimney shows signs of damage. If your cleaner does recommend additional work, make sure you get some photographic evidence before agreeing. That will keep scammers in check.

With a cleaner, safer fireplace under wraps, you’ll have your own reason to sing chim-chim-cheree!

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