Some of the key things to look for in order to choose the best chimney cleaners are experience, references and rates. Price is important, but if the cost is low up front, it could mean a sales pitch for major repairs when the chimney sweeper comes out to your home. Generally, anyone can start a chimney sweep business with little or no prior knowledge. For this reason, always ask for and check references before hiring a chimney cleaner.
Other things to consider are the tenure of the business and whether it has current and sufficient liability insurance. Also check to see if there are unresolved complaints reported on the Internet or with consumer advocacy groups. Numerous complaints can be a red flag that a business is either inexperienced or unresponsive to its clients.
Chimney maintenance and cleaning is important because it can help guard against carbon monoxide poisoning or fire damage. Even if you do not use your chimney much, it still is a good idea to have an annual inspection. Local ordinances sometimes require at least an annual inspection for safety reasons. Generally, the frequency of cleanings can be determined by how much you use the chimney.
After meeting any local ordinance requirements, do some preliminary tests to determine whether your chimney also needs to be cleaned. If soot falls down when you open or close the chimney flue, it might be time for a cleaning. Creosote buildup on the inside of the chimney is another sign that a cleaning is needed. Creosote comes from small wood particles that line the chimney and can cause excess smoke when a fire is lit.
Good chimney cleaners have a track record of arriving with all the needed equipment. The company will perform the work without damage to your chimney or your home and will not request a lot of expensive or unnecessary repairs. Like any type of repair service, some chimney cleaners run scams on unsuspecting customers.
One way chimney cleaners scam customers is to offer a low price up front and then add in additional costs during the cleaning. Use caution if you are told that the chimney has structural damage or new caps are needed to help reduce sparks from the chimney. A reputable chimney cleaner will not pressure you to agree to expensive repairs on the spot. Instead of making a quick decision, it usually is best to stop using the chimney and perhaps get one or two other estimates before agreeing to costly repairs.