Winter is here, and what better way to spend those chilly nights than lounging around your home with a cozy fire burning? Be warned, however, that your chimney can easily become a safety hazard if it’s not properly maintained. Chimney fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and costly repairs are just a few of the many downfalls of an ill-maintained fireplace and chimney. Luckily, we’ve got some tips to keep your fireplace clean and maintained this season.
Regardless of whether you use your fireplace on a regular basis, annual inspections are recommended to ensure that no major problems are present. If you use your fireplace regularly, you should clean it at least once a year. Clean it right before heavy use, preferably in early fall.
DIY or hire?
Although you can clean your fireplace on your own, experts recommend that homeowners call in the pros, as it can be a physically demanding job. However, if you eventually decide to handle the project on your own, consider hiring a chimney sweep at least once so you can watch the cleaning process and get an idea of what’s in store. Also take into consideration the tools you’ll need to accomplish the job, as equipment varies depending on whether you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace. For comprehensive do-it-yourself tips, visit www.diynetwork.com and search for “fireplace cleaning.”
If you take the less demanding route and hire a professional, select one who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), 20 of which are within approximately 50 miles of downtown Atlanta. If you hire one who is not certified, be sure to ask the following questions:
1. How long have you been in business?
2. Can you provide customer references?
3. Do you have unresolved complaints filed within the city or state consumer protection agency or Better Business Bureau?
4. Do you have a valid business liability insurance policy that will protect my home and furnishings against accidents?
fireplace safety tips
- Use a fireplace screen. A metal mesh screen in front of the fireplace will catch flying sparks that could ignite or burn holes in carpet or flooring.
- Refrain from burning anything other than aged wood, including green wood (wood that isn’t seasoned), paper or any plastic products. This will help prevent a flammable, tar build-up called Creosote.
- If you do not use your fireplace regularly during the winter months, burn a small fire at least once to prevent critters from nesting in the chimney. Installing a chimney cap is another way to keep animals and debris out.
- Regularly check the chimney’s exterior and any connection points for visible damage. Never attempt to clean a chimney that may be structurally unstable; a chimney sweep can advise on stability.
The average cost of a fireplace and chimney cleaning during the summer
The average cost a fireplace and chimney cleaning during the fall, winter or spring
The average cost of a chimney and fireplace inspection only (excluding the cleaning)
—Terrell Bearden, owner, Atlanta’s Top Chimney Sweep LLC