A Clean Chimney is Key to Safer, More Efficient Combustion
If you have a working fireplace or wood stove in your home, chimney sweeping is a must. Over time a substance known as creosote builds up inside the chimney and can lead to fires and damage. National Fire Safety Council, Inc. (NFSC) recommends cleaning your chimney at least once per year and perhaps more depending on how often you have fires and what type of wood is burned.
What You Should Know About Chimney Cleaning
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Annual cleaning is part of a good chimney maintenance program. In addition to ridding your chimney of excessive creosote and ensuring that it's in good working order, a qualified chimney sweep service will perform a safety check of your entire fuel-burning system, including the fireplace or stove, the flue, and the roof. These checks are essential to the proper and safe operation of your system.
Expect to hire a chimney sweeper at least once per year. If you go through more than one cord of wood in 12 months, you may want to schedule an additional cleaning. The same holds true if you burn "green" wood (unseasoned) or large amounts of softwoods, both of which produce more creosote than seasoned hardwoods such as oak, birch, and maple.
No matter what type of chimney you have, the process of cleaning them is the same. Metal, cinderblock, brick, and other masonry chimneys are all cleaned with metal wire brushes. Prices typically do not fluctuate with different chimney types, either.
What Does a Chimney Sweep Involve?
Every chimney sweep starts with an inspection of your system. There are 3 different levels of chimney inspections available. A level 1 inspection is used for a chimney that is currently in use and involves a visual inspection of the chimney liner's condition as well as a check of your firebox, damper, and other moving parts. Level 2 inspections are more in-depth and required when there is a sale of the building or structural changes are made to the chimney. They are also performed when a new chimney liner is installed or you change the type of fuel being burned. A level 3 inspection is needed when a level 1 or 2 inspection identifies potential structural problems or possible hidden hazards.
Other important facts you should know about the chimney cleaning process include the following:
- If your chimney is less than 30 feet tall, expect most of the work to be done from the inside.
- A good chimney sweep will protect the inside of your home by tarping the hearth and chimney off from the rest of the house. Make sure the company you hire also uses a vacuum designed for chimney cleaning, as the process can get quite messy.
- The firebox, walls, and damper should be cleaned to remove soot and creosote. Chimney sweepers will check for rust, missing or broken parts, and brick/mortar failure.
- Several passes with a wire brush attached to a drill are made first in the upper smoke chamber and then throughout the rest of the chimney. Harder-to-reach areas are accessed by attaching 4 foot sections of fiberglass rod to the drill.
- For a thorough inspection, most companies offer video scan services to check the interior lining of the chimney.
- An average cleaning lasts between 1 and 2 hours.
Chimney Sweeping Costs
Compared to the cost of repairing a chimney or dealing with fire damage that results from a lack of maintenance, chimney sweep prices are very affordable.
- Expect to pay $200 to $250 for a typical firebox and chimney cleaning. Most companies offer free level 1 inspections with this service. Plan on spending an additional $10 to $20 for every ten feet of chimney beyond the first 40 feet.
- Simply sweeping the open fireplace costs $75 to $100.
- If you have a wood stove or a fireplace insert, expect to pay $150 to $200 for a professional cleaning.
- A video scan of the chimney flue will cost at least $200 (not included in a standard cleaning).
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