Chimneys require regular inspections and cleanings to prevent soot build-up and chimney fires. It is estimated that an average of 17,600 chimney fires occurred annually between 2015 and 2017.
Chimney cleaning and repair is a hazardous task, and it is in your best interest to hire a professional near you for this job. In 2019, more than 5,300 fatal occupational injuries were recorded by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Out of this figure, 880 were as a result of falls, slips, and trips, and 99 were as a result of fires and explosions. Both of these are occupational hazards that are associated with chimney cleaning and repair. Many chimneys also have a high concentration of creosote. Creosote is a by-product of wood combustion that is not only highly combustible but is also a probable human carcinogen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 12 million people are diagnosed with cancer globally every year.
In light of this, it is important that you not only hire a professional to handle any chimney-related matters but that you hire the most qualified chimney cleaning and repair contractor nearby. You can do this by asking the following questions:
Are You a Licensed Chimney Cleaning and Repair Contractor?
Licensing requirements for chimney cleaning and repair vary from state to state. Generally, chimney cleaning alone does not require a government-issued license. However, in some areas like Maryland, New Jersey, and Connecticut, contractors that wish to clean and also repair chimneys are required to obtain a home improvement contractor's license. You can contact the consumer protection office in your state of residence to find out the specific licensing requirements for your area.
Note that although chimney cleaning does not typically require a license, it is always a good idea to hire a chimney cleaning and repair contractor near you that has been certified by a known professional body. Examples include the Chimney Safety Institute of America, the National Chimney Sweep Guild, and the National Fireplace Institute. Chimney cleaners and repairers that have been trained and certified by these types of bodies are generally more knowledgeable, especially with regards to industry standards and regulations like the Clean Air Act.
Are You a Bonded and Insured Chimney Cleaning and Repair Contractor?
Chimney cleaning and repair generally requires the use of ladders, creating room for slips, falls, and trips which were the second-highest cause of fatal occupational injuries in 2019. The high probability of an on-the-job injury occurring makes it necessary for you to hire a contractor that is properly insured. This insurance ensures that you are not held liable for any injuries that may occur as a direct result of your chimney cleaning and repair project. Before hiring a contractor, always make sure that you are provided with a copy of the contractor's insurance certificate. Also, make sure that the contractor has both general liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance.
In addition to being insured, your contractor should also be properly bonded. Bonding is a form of insurance that ensures you are appropriately compensated if your contractor defaults on the job. Many certified chimney cleaning and repair contractors that are insured are also bonded. However, you should never make this assumption. Always ask your contractor for proof of their bonding. It is also a good idea to contact the local consumer protection office near you to find out whether your area of residence has any mandatory bonding requirements for chimney cleaning and repair contractors.
What Kind of Work Are You Specialized In?
The first step taken during a chimney cleaning or repairing project is a chimney inspection. There are three levels of chimney inspections; Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.
In Level 1 inspections, the contractor examines only the accessible exterior and interior areas of the chimney and certain parts of the chimney connection like the chimney flue. Level 1 inspections do not generally require the use of specialty tools. They are done to verify that the chimney structure and flue are still sound and that there are no obstructions or combustible deposits. This type of inspection is mostly carried out on chimneys that have been continually used under the same conditions without any significant changes to the venting system.
A Level 2 inspection is required if there have been significant changes made to the chimney and the venting system. These changes include the replacement or addition of a chimney appliance, a change in the type of fuel used, or a change in the shape or material of the chimney flue. A Level 2 inspection is also required if it is suspected that an external event may have caused the chimney to malfunction. In this type of inspection, areas of the chimney not inspected in Level 1 like the internal surfaces and flue liners, crawl spaces, attics, and basements are inspected without removing or destroying any permanently attached portion of the chimney or the building structure.
A Level 3 inspection is required when it is suspected that there is a serious hazard that is hidden and cannot be properly evaluated by Level 1 and 2 inspections. In this level, special tools are used to access and properly evaluate concealed areas of the chimney or flue. Level 3 inspections may require the removal of certain components of the chimney like the interior chimney wall, as well as the removal or destruction of permanently attached portions of the chimney or the building structure.
It is important that you hire a chimney cleaning and repair contractor near you that is capable of performing all three levels of inspection and properly carrying out any necessary repairs that may be required after the inspection.
Who Will Do the Work?
Knowing who exactly would be involved in your chimney cleaning and repair job is an important question. During a chimney inspection, cleaning, and repair, the contractors involved will very likely enter your home. Knowing who they are gives you a level of security. If you hire your contractor through a firm, make sure that the firm provides you with the details on each worker that would be involved in the job. Also, make sure that each worker involved is properly insured and bonded.
Do You Offer a Warranty?
Many professional chimney cleaning and repair contractors offer warranties. A warranty is a guarantee offered to a person that pays for a product, good, or service. A chimney cleaning and repair contractor generally offers a manufacturer's warranty for each item that is replaced or installed during the cleaning and repair and a workmanship warranty for the job itself. It is always a good idea to get these warranties in writing. This way, you are properly informed of any specific conditions that may be attached to the warranty.
Will This Job Require a Permit?
A building permit is an official approval issued by a local government agency that allows you to perform certain home improvement activities. Permits are not typically required for chimney inspection and cleaning. However, if your chimney cleaning and repair job requires the removal of components or involves any masonry-related activities, then you may be required to obtain a permit.
When you hire a chimney cleaning and repair contractor, always ask whether a permit is needed for the job. Professional contractors near you generally know the types of chimney cleaning and repair jobs that require permits and the procedure for obtaining one. However, it is advisable that you contact your local building department to verify any information you are given concerning obtaining building permits in your area of residence.
Will You Provide References?
Professional chimney cleaning and repair contractors usually provide you with pictures of jobs they have successfully completed, even before you ask. If a contractor cannot provide you with information on similar jobs that they have done, then you should consider hiring other contractors near you. According to the Federal Trade Commission, any reputable contractor should be able to provide you with at least three verifiable references. You can also independently seek out reviews on your contractor by utilizing the services of a third-party website like Better Business Bureau and Yelp.
Do You Have a Business License?
In the United States, businesses that have less than 500 employees are considered small businesses. There are currently more than 30 million registered small businesses in the country, and this number includes many professional chimney cleaning and repair firms. These businesses are generally required to obtain a business license before operating in an area. Unlike a professional license that is issued to an individual, a business license is issued to the business itself. The requirements for obtaining a business license vary from state to state. Many areas typically issue these licenses at a local level. Note that in some states like California, Florida, and Texas, business licenses are issued at a state-level.
Always make sure that your chimney cleaning and repair contractor is authorized to operate in your area. You can confirm your contractor's business license by contacting the Secretary of State's office in your area of residence.Â
What Are Common Chimney Cleaning and Repair Problems?
The most common problems that require you to employ the services of a chimney cleaning and repair contractor are:
- Creosote buildup
- Flue cracking and damaged flue lining
- Cracked and crumbling mortar
- Blocked or damaged chimney damper
- Water damage
- Broken capping
How Much Does Chimney Cleaning and Repair Cost?
The cost of chimney cleaning and chimney repairs are usually calculated separately. These costs are affected by the level of inspection that is done and the extent of the damage that is discovered. In the United States, the average cost of cleaning a chimney is $100 - $300, while the average cost for carrying out chimney repairs is $500 - $750.
Some common chimney cleaning and repair cost estimates are listed as follows:
Chimney inspection costs:
Chimney cleaning costs:
Chimney repair costs:
What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of Chimney Cleaning and Repair?
The cost of cleaning and repairing a chimney is mostly affected by the extent of the damage that is discovered during the pre-cleaning inspection. Many chimney and repair contractors include the cost of a Level 1 inspection as part of their regular chimney cleaning fee. However, if the result of this inspection indicates that further inspections and possible repairs may be required, then the total cost of the cleaning job increases.
Other factors that affect the total cost of a chimney cleaning and repair job are the type of damage discovered, accessibility to the part of the chimney that is damaged, and the cost of the materials that need to be replaced. For example, repairing your chimney's damper can cost as low as $200 while relining your flue can cost you as much as $2,500 or more.
What Qualifications Should Chimney Cleaning and Repair Contractors Have?
No formal education is required to become a chimney cleaning and repair contractor. However, many professional chimney cleaning and repair companies and firms provide their contractors with in-house training and apprenticeship opportunities. Many professional contractors in this industry are also certified members of trade associations like the Chimney Safety Institute of America, the National Fireplace Institute, and the National Chimney Sweep Guild.
Do You Need a Handyman or a Chimney Cleaning and Repair Contractor?
Proper and safe chimney cleaning and repair is best left to a professional contractor and not any handyman near you. Professional chimney cleaning and repair contractors have been adequately trained and have also attained enough work experience to handle any issues that may be discovered during a chimney inspection. Professional contractors are also more likely to be insured and bonded. This ensures that you are not held liable if an injury occurs during the job or if the job is not properly completed.
What Are the Common Post Chimney Cleaning and Repair Expenses?
Regular maintenance is required after you have cleaned and repaired your chimney. This helps reduce the accumulation of creosote and other debris, and it also improves your chimney's lifespan.
One way to do this is by carrying out a level 1 chimney inspection and cleaning at least once a year. You may also need to install certain protective items if you do not have them. For example, you may need to purchase a chimney cap to protect your chimney against downdrafts. Chimney caps cost $150 - $250.You can also buy and use creosote sweeping logs that help loosen creosote residue in your chimney flue. These logs reduce creosote build-up in your chimney, and they cost $10 - $15 per log. Note that these logs should not be used as an alternative to professionally cleaning your chimney.
Another post chimney cleaning and repair expense that you can incur is the cost of cleaning up soot stains. This is usually the case if you try to carry out the chimney cleaning by yourself. To avoid this expense, it is advised that you employ the services of a professional chimney cleaning and repair contractor.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Chimney Cleaning and Repair Expenses?
Chimney cleaning is considered a routine maintenance activity and it is not covered by a standard homeowners' insurance policy. However, if your chimney is damaged by an accident that is listed as a covered peril in your insurance policy, then your insurance company may cover the costs of any required repairs. Wind, hail, fire, and lightning are the highest causes of property damage insurance claims. These perils are estimated to be responsible for a combined total of 67.1% of all homeowner's insurance claims filed in 2018.
You should always find out the type of perils that an insurance company covers before you purchase a homeowners' insurance policy from them.
Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My Chimney Cleaning and Repair Contractor?
Yes, you can. Many professional chimney cleaning and repair contractors near you would accept payment via digital channels. Nevertheless, you should always verify with your contractor before utilizing a digital payment platform to pay for a job. If your contractor is not okay with this method of payment, then you may have to use a traditional method of transaction like cash payments, check, or money orders. If you do this, always collect a receipt of payment for record-keeping purposes.