Chimney Sweep Cost: Is It Worth It?
Most of us understand the importance of having our HVAC systems inspected and cleaned twice a year – which is why we have a professional tech come out in the spring to take it apart, clean the coils, and do a complete inspection of all the things that could potentially break down. Because if we don’t? Well, then the A/C might give out on the hottest summer day, and no one wants that.
Then we turn around and do the same thing in the fall for our heating systems, whatever that may entail. And the whole time we feel the cost is completely justified because, truth is, we want to heat and cool our homes when we need it.
Unfortunately, chimney sweeping services don’t tend to get the same consideration. However, when you want to heat your home or enjoy a roaring fire, there is one very important thing to remember – you are lighting a fire in the middle of your house.
If there are things like debris or nests that are causing obstructions, or if there is a buildup of creosote on the walls of the flue, you risk that fire turning into a much larger one – and one that can cause a lot more damage to your home than you may realize.
Now, this isn’t about scaring you to get your chimney swept and inspected. It’s about seeing this happen over and over again in our communities and knowing these fires could have been avoided.
Long story short, if cost is your biggest concern when getting your chimney swept, you may be overlooking the importance and impact of this regular maintenance.
What Does a Chimney Sweep Do?
To better understand what you will be paying for, let’s look at what a chimney sweep technician should do when coming to your home.
Arrival & Prep
- They should arrive on time for the appointment in a company-logoed truck or van.
- They should be dressed in identifying clothing – again, with the company logo visible.
- They should have a badge showing their name and their Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certification.
- They should greet you and go over the reason they are there (sweeping the chimney, inspecting the chimney system, or both).
- They should wear booties in your home, as well as lay clean runners and tarps down to protect the floors and furniture.
- They should place barriers toward the front of the fireplace, so anything that comes off the walls of the flue will be caught in the firebox.
- They should bring in a HEPA-filtered vacuum to catch any fine particles in the air
- They should bring in any necessary tools needed to sweep the chimney.
- They should put on respirators, safety glasses, and gloves as required by their training
The Sweeping Process
- They’ll clean out the ash and any debris in the firebox (this must be cold, so do not burn a fire the night before a sweeping).
- They will attach a rod with a brush on the end to a drill and start running it up the chimney.
- When they can’t go any further, they attach another extender rod to reach up into the flue until they reach the top, making sure the entire chimney and flue have been swept and cleaned, knocking off particles and creosote.
- They’ll clean any debris and dirt off the smoke shelf.
- They’ll clean and sweep the firebox brick.
- They’ll clean out the firebox of all the debris, creosote, and soot that has come off the flue, then take it out of the home and back into the truck to dispose of properly.
- They might ask to meet with you if they see anything that’s concerning them about the health of the system, inquiring if you would like them to further inspect the chimney or fireplace.
- If no further analysis is needed, they’ll pick up their tools, vacuum, tarps, and runners, and take them to their truck.
- They’ll come back to the house to meet with you and present you with a report and invoice, as well as give you an opportunity to review their services. This way, others in the area can know they are professionals who take pride in their work and deliver superior service to their customers.
This is the process we follow at Winston’s Chimney Service, and we believe it to be the best. If you need a chimney sweep service in the Washington, DC, Northern VA, or Maryland areas, call us at 703-379-5006 or request an appointment online. We’d love the opportunity to service your chimney and venting system.
Is Cleaning a Chimney the Same as Sweeping One?
When it comes to “cleaning” a chimney there is no way to actually clean it like one would clean a bathtub. The residue on the brick or flue liner is an oily, sticky substance that has to be knocked off (or swept) using brushes at a high speed. Yet, while “sweeping” is technically the correct term, we find that many consumers do interchange the two.
So, to sum up… yes. To us, cleanings and sweepings are referring to the same service.
Another note: While the above method of sweeping is the most common type, there are times when we will need to add treatments to help break up the creosote buildup. When buildup is really thick and hasn’t been swept in a long time, it’s a lot more difficult to address, so simple sweeping tools won’t likely do the job.
Rarely do we have to do this when annual services have been maintained. That said, it does add to the cost in both materials and labor because the treatment has to stay on the walls for 24 to 48 hours to work – after which, it’ll get swept again to break it up and remove it from the home.
How Long Does It Take a Chimney Sweep to Clean a Chimney?
As you might be able to tell from the above information, giving someone a specific time frame for a sweeping job can be tricky. If you have kept up with your annual inspections, burn a half to a full cord per season, and we can easily access the unit, then we should be able to get a sweeping appointment completed in 1½ to 2 hours.
However, if it’s not been maintained and is really dirty, things will take longer.
It will also take longer to sweep multiple flues and/or multiple types. For example, if we come in and clean a wood-burning fireplace, but you also have an oil-fueled furnace that needs a chimney sweep, our whole process is going to lengthen. The equipment changes a little bit, and now we are doing multiple flues with different fuel sources.
The location of the different appliances can also be a factor. While there are a lot of open fireplaces in our service area, there are also a lot of stoves and inserts that we sweep. These are typically located in cramped areas where they aren’t as accessible and easy to service.
Every time we add another factor into the equation, the length of time in your home goes up.
Finally, consider that we might see something that needs more attention than just sweeping. It might be we are seeing cracked panels in a factory-built fireplace, spalling of brick in a masonry one, a damper that’s not tracking properly, or something else. These are the times that we want to make sure we have time to inspect the chimney, as well as sweep it.
Why? Because the best time to inspect is right after it is swept.
Doing this does two things for you, as the homeowner. First, you get the advantage of us already being at your home, so we can knock it out while we are there. Second, when we do catch things that need to be addressed, it’s normally less expensive for us to get it taken care of early than to let it go for another season or so – during which time things just get worse.
What Are the Dangers of Being a Chimney Sweep?
If you look at our home page, you will see we are huge supporters of a charity called Sweep Away Cancer – and there are reasons for this. We have colleagues that have been in the industry for many years that have been diagnosed with cancer. Most have had long-term exposure to harmful chemicals, such as creosote, that can cause cancer, respiratory problems, and skin irritation.
This is just one of the reasons the industry started CSIA – the Chimney Safety Institute of America – many years ago to create certifications and safety standards around the profession of chimney sweeping services.
However, that’s not the only thing we watch for when servicing and dealing with chimney and venting issues. Other concerns include:
Carbon Monoxide: Carbon monoxide poisoning is another real problem when working in areas that are not ventilated well. The gas is odorless, colorless, and deadly, if inhaled. It can also be a real problem in the home if there is a blockage in the chimney system.
Falls: Of course, when you work on roofs, use ladders, and have scaffolding equipment to climb, there are hazards involved. Falling off of ladders and roofs is always a possibility, and it’s something we have to take extra precautions towards.
Collapses: One thing we don’t talk about a lot is the risk of a structural collapse when a chimney is in really bad condition. It’s why we use lifts and scaffolding, as well as wear hard hats and harnesses, when working on chimneys and doing any type of repair, restoration, or rebuilding work.
In the end, we understand very well there are dangers in the chimney sweep profession – and we take it all very seriously. We hope you understand as well, and know we will do everything we can to keep our employees and your family as safe as possible while working on your system.
Is It Okay To Sweep Your Own Chimney?
We’re never going to tell someone it’s not okay to do their own maintenance on any part of their home – that’s their decision. If you feel you are qualified and understand the anatomy and physics of a chimney and venting system, then who are we to tell you can’t sweep your own chimney?
But would we recommend it? In most cases, no. Just remember – you are lighting a fire in the middle of your house. If you don’t have the knowledge, the safety equipment, and the experience to sweep your own chimney, please call us at 703-379-5006 and let us take this one.
All we do at Winston’s Chimney Service is work with fireplaces, stoves, inserts, and everything that has to do with them – from sweeping to entire rebuilds and renovations. We eat, sleep, and live chimneys, so our customers don’t have to worry about their safety when lighting a fire. So if you have any doubts about cleaning your chimney yourself, leave it to us.
Which brings us back to the original question…
Is the Cost of a Chimney Sweep Worth It?
Now that you know what a chimney sweep actually does when they come to your home, the importance of what they do when they are at your home, and how long they will spend taking care of that system in your home, we’d say it’s safe to conclude that… yes, the cost of a chimney sweep is well worth the peace of mind and improved safety and efficiency it brings.
Call Winston’s Chimney Service, at 703-379-5006 or schedule an appointment here online, and we’ll get you and your family taken care of soon.