Don't get burned by chimney mistakes


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you want your fireplace to work this winter, don't skip the fall chimney sweep and maintenance. Whether you're burning logs or firing up the gas fireplace, chimney maintenance should be a top priority every year. 

Angie's List: Chimney Cleaning

A chimney sweep uses large, stiff brushes and other tools to dislodge creosote and soot from the interior of the chimney. Some brushes are manual and look little different from the classic chimney sweep images in "Mary Poppins," but nowadays some of the brushes are electric powered.

After removing the damper assembly to open up a wider access area, the chimney sweep works from the bottom at the open fireplace. An industrial-sized vacuum cleaner is used to remove the mess and keep it off of your carpeting.

Experts say if you use your fireplace regularly (averaging twice a week through the cold months), you should have your chimney cleaned at least once every two years. If you have more frequent fires, an annual inspection is advised. Chimney cleaning typically costs about $150 to $200.

Angie's List: Chimney Inspections

After cleaning off the creosote, the chimney specialist looks up and down the interior to check for other issues – often using a camera or even a video recorder to get a better view. Among the things they look for:

  • Water damage. If rainwater is getting in the chimney or through cracks in the roof along the edge of the chimney it will damage not just the chimney but the rest of the house.
  • Structural damage. Cracks in the masonry or loose bits of mortar create gaps that fire can pass through.
  • Evidence of birds or animals. There's even a variety of bird so associated with its tendency to nest in chimneys that it is named the "chimney swift."

Some chimney cleaning companies also conduct video inspections. A standard cleaning and inspection might cost $140 to $200. A video inspection might be a little extra.

Angie's List Tips: Avoiding Chimney Repair Scams

  • Get multiple estimates: As with hiring any contractor, it's best to receive multiple quotes before proceeding with work. Be wary of upfront prices that seem to be good to be true, and don't let contractors pressure you into snap decisions.
  • Check the credentials: Certification by the Chimney Institute of America means they have gone through training in fire safety, and adhere to a professional standard of ethics. Also, check to see if your state requires a license for chimney sweeping.
  • Insured and bonded? It's important to check that the company has insurance before you hire. Insurance protects your home and furnishings.
  • Ask for proof: If a contractor recommends expensive repairs, they should be able to provide photo or video images of the problems. Make sure the images are actually of your home and be wary of anyone who pressures you to act immediately.

  • Angie's List Guide to Chimneys: http://www.angieslist.com/chimney-repair/chimneys.htm
    Angie's List Guide to Fireplaces: http://www.angieslist.com/chimney-repair/fireplaces.htm