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 $175.
Avoiding Chimney Cleaning Scams
As in every profession, while most chimney companies are honest there are also scammers who may try to scare you into spending thousands of dollars to fix problems that don't really exist.
Don't fall for chimney scams
Angie's List members shared their horror stories about what to watch out for. Read more
These scammers often target elderly people living alone. They knock on the door offering a chimney cleaning at little or no cost, supposedly because they are "working in the neighborhood" or promoting a special deal to win new customers.
Once they go to work cleaning the chimney, however, the scammers tell the homeowner they've discovered a serious problem that must be fixed immediately to avoid disastrous results.
Some homeowners have been tricked into paying thousands of dollars for "emergency repairs" that were never needed and not performed.
A legitimate contractor also should be able to provide photo or video proof if any extensive repairs are needed.
Check whether your contractor is affiliated with groups such as the Chimney Safety Institute of America, which is one of only a few offering nationally recognized certification for the industry. Professionals accredited by the CSIA receive training and adhere to a standard of ethics.
You can ask your contractor to show you their CSIA or other professional credentials, proof of insurance and any additional licensing that may be needed for your job
Remember these tips to avoid getting ripped off:
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.