How to Find a Chimney Sweep to Keep Your Fire Burning Safely
Finding The Best Chimney Sweep
Finding a chimney sweep is an essential part of keeping a good fire burning. A chimney's primary role is carrying away smoke from the house and providing good air circulation to keep the fire burning. As useful as they are, lots of homeowners will find themselves in a position where they need their chimneys cleaned and they do not even realize it.
Even if it looks solid from the outside, it could still be plagued by structural problems on the inside that might cost you your whole house.
Why you Should Consider a Chimney Sweep
When your chimney begins to deteriorate, it could be because of missing or broken bricks, damaged flue tiles or even a deteriorating mortar. Something as harmless as a hairline crack may easily open up when exposed to high temperatures and the escaping heat could set your whole house on fire.
As a home deteriorates with time, the chimney is often overlooked. Chunks from the deteriorating structure may accumulate in the flue passageway and block the exit of dangerous gases like carbon monoxide.
The flue can also be blocked by animals looking for shelter or birds looking to meet. Even when the flue is in perfect condition, it might not be the right size to ensure the best performance from the fireplace.
Another common occurrence is incorrect installation of a fireplace insert. This means the clearances allowed for combustion are not up to safety standards. Should excess heat radiate into the walls or floors, the ignition temperature of the materials being heated decrease. The fireplace or stove will not perform as expected in this case.
As soot builds up in the flue it becomes more and more necessary to get in touch with a chimney sweep.
What Does a Chimney Sweep do?
A chimney sweep's job is to clean the chimney by removing soot and any other blockages that may occur inside. This includes the possibly carcinogenic compound creosote that builds up in the smoke chamber, damper, firebox and chimney liner.
A buildup of creosote in your chimney creates potential for a fire because it is a highly flammable substance. If you have a malfunctioned stove or appliance, the rate of creosote buildup will be even higher.
The obvious problem, in this case, is how do you know there is a blockage due to squirrels or too much creosote in your chimney? That is where chimney inspections come in.
What is a Chimney Inspection and is it Necessary?
A chimney inspection covers the most basic to relatively complex issues that may inhibit performance. It falls into three different tiers, each with their own pricing depending on the service provider.
Level 1 Inspection
Level one chimney inspections usually involve a basic visual check of the chimney and fireplace. This does not include any kind of special equipment or climbing up to the roof for further observation.
The chimney sweep will come up to your house, probably with a flashlight and look for any signs of damage, soot and creosote buildup. Afterwards they will advise you on whether or not it needs sweeping. If you agree to this, the sweeping process should involve extension poles, brushes and possibly a vacuum.
The cost ranges from $80 to $200.
Level 2 Inspection
A level two chimney inspection is usually necessary when your house has experienced major changes or sustained some serious damage. In the event of a natural disaster like an earthquake or tornado, or if you have just bought a house, this inspection might be necessary.
This usually includes everything that happens during a level one inspection only this time the chimney sweep will visit the roof to look for signs of disrepair. The chimney sweep might also be armed with specialized tools like video scanning hardware and might be followed up with a sweep if necessary.
The cost ranges from $100 to $500.
Level 3 Inspection
This kind of inspection is hardly ever necessary and involves tearing down the whole chimney and rebuilding its walls. This is only necessary after substantial damage, such as after a chimney fire.
It will cost between $1,000 to $5,000.
Can you use a Chimney Cleaning log Instead?
A cleaning log is a special type of firewood that manufacturers infuse with additives for adhering to creosote in your chimney as the log burn. When carried up the flue by hot gasses, they are deposited into the walls of the chimney and supposedly reduce creosote buildup.
In theory, this should work. Over a period of about three weeks the creosote should become brittle and fall away from the chimney easily when brushed. However, it is important to read the fine print when using such products. For instance, many of them come with the instruction that 'it does not replace professional cleaning and inspection.’
How to Find a Local Chimney Sweep
When searching for a chimney sweep it is important to first look for so someone who is local to your area. Least of all they should understand the geography of where you live and the general architecture of houses around you. This also helps you avoid additional travel costs they may burden you with, saving you a ton of money.
Finding a local chimney sweep should not be a difficult process. Being in the age of the internet, the first place to look is online. There are several chimney sweep directories you can find on the internet. Once you have settled on one near you, search for how they have been reviewed, maybe on their Facebook page and decide whether or not you want to settle with them.
Finally, you can also find a local chimney sweep through friends, family and neighbors. Ask your next door neighbor if they know a professional chimney sweep and whether they have insurance.
Insurance is not strictly necessary but it is something nice to have in case they cause some form of damage to your property. If you have found good quality, local chimney sweep who is evenly matched, whether or not they have insurance could be used as the tie breaker.