Hiring a Chimney Sweep? Here’s What You Need to Know!
If your chimney is acting up or you’re seeing black stains on your fireplace walls, you need to get your chimney cleaned by a chimney sweep.
Chimney sweeps are professionals that not only clean your chimney but also make sure that everything’s running smoothly and there are no faulty or broken parts.
However, it’s important to know that whoever you’re hiring is professional, competent, and will do a great job. And to know that, you need to understand the exact role of a chimney sweep, the chimney sweeping and fireplace inspection process, and what to look for in a chimney sweep.
And that’s exactly what we’ll talk about today.
So, let’s begin.
What to Expect During a Chimney Sweeping Process?
On average, a chimney sweep will take 45 mins to complete the process. However, the duration can increase depending upon the condition of your chimney, the presence (and degree) of creosote, or if any damaged or broken parts are fixed or replaced, respectively.
The Chimney Sweep Process
Depending upon the company and the level of sweep required, you can have one or more chimney sweeps at your door. You’ll find them wearing protective gear including goggles, gloves, and masks; and carrying various brushes, chemicals, and other equipment.
The chimney sweeps start off by laying drop cloth around areas that require cleaning to protect them from getting dirty. Some companies also bring along a vacuum that keeps on running during the sweep process. The vacuum does not aid in the chimney sweeping process. Instead, it’s there to collect the dust and debris that falls off during the process.
The chimney sweep can either start cleaning the chimney flue from inside the house or start from the rooftop. Regardless of the starting point, the chimney sweep will (and has to) clean your chimney from both sides for a thorough cleaning.
A chimney sweeping process involves the removal of soot and creosote from your chimney liner (flue) and fireplace (or stove) through various brushes. The process can also involve chemical treatment, if required.
The chimney sweep will also remove any blockages inside the chimney and often employ special cameras for a thorough inspection and cleaning of the inside of your chimney.
If during the inspection and cleaning process, there’s a need to repair or replace any broken part/s e.g. chimney cap, damper system, fireplace, smoke chamber, etc., the chimney sweep will let you know. You’ll then discuss the charges for the repairs or replacements and let the chimney sweep know how you’d like to proceed.
Chimney Sweep Report
Once done, you’ll be offered a report on the condition of your chimney, smoke ducts, heating appliances, and flue pipes. The report will include suggested repairs (if any) and advise you on your next steps.
You can also expect these professionals to share standard burning practices to ensure a safe fire.
You should pay special heed to what these professionals have to say since they’re well versed in fire prevention guidelines, standards, and protocols.
Chimney Sweep and Inspection Levels
Now that you’ve got a general idea of what your usual chimney sweeping process looks like, it’s time to get into a bit more detail.
The chimney sweeping and inspection is categorized into three main levels. It’s important to know about them so that you are well aware of what to expect from your chimney sweep.
So, let’s jump right in.
Level 1 Inspection
Level 1 inspection is required after replacing a chimney part or attaching a new appliance to your chimney. Or when there is an indication of an issue inside your chimney. But even if you use your chimney often and it is running as it should be, a level 1 inspection is required once every year.
During level one inspection, the chimney sweep does superficial surveillance of your chimney, vent, fireplace, heating appliance, etc. The purpose is to look for signs of any obstruction, damage, malfunctioning parts, rust, soot or creosote deposits, etc.
This can be done through a flashlight, but some companies prefer to use cameras for a more thorough inspection.
If there’s any obstruction, breakage, or soot and creosote deposits inside your chimney the chimney sweep will let you know (and provide pictorial proof) and a chimney sweep will be scheduled. This can either be done on the same day or can be scheduled for a later time.
Level 2 Inspection
You should schedule a level 2 inspection after making a major change to your chimney, e.g. installing a new chimney liner (flue) or switching from a wood burning appliance to a gas appliance. Or if there have been drastic events or weather conditions such as a tornado or a chimney fire. Sometimes, the chimney sweep finds signs during a level 1 inspection that suggest a level 2 inspection is required.
Level 2 inspection is more thorough. You’ll find your chimney sweep going into the crawl space, attic, etc. to get a closer look at the blindspots inside your chimney. The chimney sweep will check all the clearances from combustibles and ensure that all the standards set by NFPA 211 for the inlets, outlets, ducts, masonry size, etc. are met.
Again, once the inspection is done, you’ll get a detailed report (along with video or pictorial evidence) on your chimney’s condition. You’ll discuss with the chimney sweep how to proceed and schedule a chimney sweep or repair service, if required.
Level 3 Inspection
Level 3 inspections aren’t common and are required only if the evidence collected from level 1 & 2 inspections suggests that there might be some serious underlying problem.
Level 3 inspection is rare because it requires tearing and destruction of various parts of your chimney to get to the root of the problem.
Say, during a level 2 inspection your chimney sweep discovers moisture that might indicate serious water damage. If let be, it could cause serious structural damage and deterioration of your chimney. Therefore, the chimney sweep may cut out a few wooden pieces from your attic to get to the root cause of the moisture and fix it.
Level three inspection is the most intrusive and expensive and is only required when there is a danger of some serious damage.
How to Prepare for a Chimney Sweep and Inspection?
If you’ve scheduled a chimney inspection or sweep, here are a few things you need to do before the professionals knock on your door:
- Avoid using your fireplace or heating appliance 48 or (at least) 24 hours before the time of the inspection. It is important because your chimney and fireplace need to be cool and safe to touch for a thorough inspection.
- Remove decorations or other items from your mantel top to avoid breaking any of the items.
- Once cooled, remove any logs or ash from inside your firebox.
- A professional and experienced chimney sweep will do everything possible to protect your home and furniture from soot and debris. Still, there’s a chance that your furniture will get dirty or even bear damage during the cleaning process. So it’s best to remove any furniture or decorative items placed near your fireplace. If nearby furniture is too heavy to remove, you can cover it with protective sheets or plastic.
- Make sure there are no pets or children roaming around inside the room during the inspection and sweeping process.
- You should share your concerns and tell your chimney sweep if you noticed anything unusual while using your chimney. This can include glaze, poor ventilation of smoke, foul smells, black stains, moisture, or anything else that may have raised your eyebrows. Sharing these concerns with your chimney sweep will allow them to address these issues immediately and with more care.
You can also ask your chimney sweep if you have any questions regarding your chimney or the best chimney practices, such as what kind of wood to use, how to properly maintain your fireplace, etc.
What to Look for When Hiring a Chimney Sweep?
Hiring a chimney sweep can be a straightforward process if you know what you’re looking for.
You can either find a chimney sweep service provider through a personal recommendation or search any of the trusted databases provided by the National Fireplace Institute (NFI) or the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
Since most states don’t require a chimney sweep license, anyone can call themselves a chimney sweep. Therefore, before scheduling an inspection or sweeping, make sure you ask the service provider the following questions to ensure that you’re getting the right services by a professional chimney sweep.
Questions You Should Ask Your Chimney Sweep
Are you certified?
Certifications don’t promise excellence, however, they do provide a sense of trust that the service you are hiring has gone through a rigorous process of testing and selection.
So, don’t forget to ask your service provider for certifications. Some of the institutes that train and certify chimney sweep professionals include Fire Investigation Research and Education (F.I.R.E.), National Fireplace Institute (NFI), and Chimney Safety Institute of America ((CSIA).
You should also ask about how long they have been providing their services.
It’s a good idea to go with the service that has the most certifications and years of experience.
How much does the service cost and what does it include?
Different chimney sweep services have different packages. It’s a good idea to ask for the details of the service you want to buy. What will the inspection involve? What tools will they use? What parts of the chimney will be cleaned? And how thoroughly?
Knowingly all this will let you know exactly what you’ll get at the asked price, making it easier to compare prices of different services and avoid getting surprised by the bill.
Other Questions to ask your chimney sweep
You should ask your chimney sweep the expected duration of the sweeping process. This will allow you to schedule out time from your other affairs for the sweeping process.
Another important thing is to ask if they have a valid business liability insurance policy. Having it will protect your house and furniture in case of an accident.
You should also ask about the condition of your chimney liner and what should be done if it’s not in a good condition.
Chimney sweeping is a process that involves a lot of dust, debris, and residue. Ask your service provider if they’ll clean up afterward or what they’ll do to ensure minimum spillage of debris.
How Much Does a Chimney Sweep Cost?
Here’s a price table for various chimney sweep operations to give you an estimate:
|Low-Cost Estimate 100 to 200 USD||High-Cost Estimate 300 to 600 USD|
|Service||General inspection and cleaning (if required)||Thorough inspection and cleaning|
|Inspection Level||Level 1, 2||Level 2 (with camera)|
|Usage||Rare use or weekly use||Daily use|
|Cleaning||Rare cleaning||Yearly cleaning and inspection|
Factors Affecting Chimney Sweep Cost
While the table above gives you an estimated cost of various chimney sweeps and inspection services, there are a lot of factors at play when calculating the cost of an actual chimney sweep. These factors are discussed below:
Your locality is the number one factor when it comes to the cost of a chimney sweep. Chimney sweep services in one state might charge a higher fee for the same service than the ones in another state.
Date of Last Cleaning
The time of your last chimney sweep also affects the price of your current chimney sweep. If your chimney was cleaned recently, that means there won’t be much debris, soot, or creosote. However, if the last cleaning session was a long time ago, the creosote and soot deposits would be in greater concentration and much harder to remove. Thus, increasing the cost of the chimney sweep service.
Ease of Access
While you might not think of it, it makes sense that if your chimney top is difficult to reach, it would make the chimney sweep’s job quite a hassle. For example, if you have a steep rooftop, not only does it make it harder for the chimney sweep to reach the chimney, but it also makes it dangerous. Therefore, if your chimney is harder to reach, expect a heftier price for the service.
It’s common sense that the larger your chimney is, the more time it’ll take to properly inspect and sweep it. Hence, cleaning a larger chimney would cost higher than cleaning a smaller one because of the extra time and effort it requires.
Frequency of Use
If you use your fireplace often, more soot, creosote, and residue will be generated and get stuck inside the chimney. Therefore, It requires a deeper cleaning and increases the price tag.
Repair or Replacement
If there are any broken or damaged parts that might need to be repaired or replaced, that would obviously add to the cost. For example, if your chimney cap needs replacement, it could cost you around 150 USD for an 8×8″ measurement, and the price increases with the size.
While level 1 inspection is generally carried out with a general cleaning session, if you want a separate level 1 inspection, it would cost you around 100 USD. Level 2 and level 3 chimney inspections demand a higher cost.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), you should have your chimney inspected by a professional chimney sweep at least once a year. Doing so ensures that your chimney is functioning effectively and is safe to use.
However, before hiring a chimney sweeping service, make sure to ask for its certifications and references to ensure that you’re hiring a competent, experienced, and professional agency.
But can’t you clean your chimney yourself? Why do you need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to a professional chimney sweep? While you can clean a chimney yourself, there’s a lot to chimney sweeping than just brushing out the soot. And it’s better left to the professionals.
To know more about why you should always hire a professional chimney sweep, you can check out our article on DIY chimney sweep.