10 questions to ask when you’re getting your chimney cleaned

1) What will you do to clean the chimney?

Your chimney professional should be able to give you a step by step description of how he plans to clean your chimney and what he will do to protect your household during the cleaning process.

2) Is there just soot in the chimney or is there creosote, too?

Creosote is a highly flammable substance and its presence in your chimney can ignite causing a chimney fire. The presence of creosote in the chimney may indicate poor burning practices or a burning appliance that is not working well. In either case you should know of its presence, how the chimney professional will remove it, and what can be done to prevent or limit the presence of creosote in the chimney going forward. Soot on the other hand is a safe substance as long as it is removed before its accumulation interferes with draft. It is, in most cases, easily brushed away.

3) Can you inspect/clean other flues in my house besides the fireplace?

Sometimes chimney professionals will give price breaks when more than one chimney or flue will be inspected/cleaned. If you’re having a chimney professional come to clean your fireplace flue, it’s probably a good idea to have him or her take a look at your furnace/water heater flues as well.

4) How long will it take?

Every flue is different, but on average a thorough cleaning should take about 45 minutes to an hour. This time can increase substantially if there is creosote present in your flue, if the flue is damaged in any way, or if there are blockages such as birds’ nests. If your chimney cleaning requires more time it’s good to ask and understand why.

5) Do you inspect the chimney, too?

We recommend you have your flue inspected with each cleaning. A thorough inspection can alert you to possible unsafe conditions in your chimney. But don’t take it for granted that this will be done unless you specify you want it done.

6) How often should I have my chimney cleaned?

Your chimney professional can make a reasonable estimation for time between cleanings based on your individual burning practices.

7) How much do you charge?

Be sure to understand what you are getting for your money, i.e. inspection and cleaning, or just a cleaning.

8) What certifications do you have?

Someone can be a skilled chimney professional even without certifications, but it may be comforting for you to know if your chimney professional is certified by CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America), F.I.R.E.(Fire Investigation Research and Education), NFI (National Fireplace Institute), or a regional organization like the Golden State Chimney Sweeping Guild in California.

9) How long have you been in business?

This is a good way to establish what level of experience your chimney professional has.

10) Will you have to go on the roof?

Some chimney pros clean from the top down, some clean from the bottom up. There is no one preferred method. In either case it’s good to know what their procedure will be, especially if you’re concerned about ladders damaging flower beds or other landscaping.

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