Imagine watching the local evening news that shows a story of a hapless victim of a chimney fire, resulting in a house burned to the ground. It makes you realize that it’s been far too long since you had your own chimney looked at, and you make a mental note to call a chimney sweep to set up an appointment. The next morning, you get on the internet to search for a chimney sweep and you realize that you don’t even know what to look for.
Many people aren’t aware that in most of the United States, there are absolutely no regulations on the chimney sweeping trade. This means that anybody can go out and claim they’re a chimney sweep and start a business. They may know little or nothing about chimneys, so it’s imperative to hire a chimney sweep company that has been specifically trained and is experienced with chimneys and fireplaces. Your family’s lives, pets and belongings may depend on hiring a qualified chimney sweep.
So what do you consider when hiring a chimney sweep? Certainly not someone dressed like Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins!
What to consider in finding a qualified Chimney Sweep
There are a number of chimney sweep certifications in the U.S. but by far the most mainstream is the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). To become certified, an individual is required to take a test every three years based on the International Residential Code, the National Fire Protection Association 211 Manual, the Successful Chimney Sweeping Manual, and then sign a strict code of ethics. To find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, go to the CSIA website at www.csia.org and put in your zip code in the upper left corner. It will then provide you with a comprehensive list of all the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps within a 50-mile radius.
General Liability Insurance
Whether it’s a tree removal company, a plumber or a chimney sweep, make sure that any contractor working on your property always carries general liability insurance. Ask to see the proof of insurance. This is for your protection as a homeowner. As an example, if a tree removal company chops down a tree and it lands on your neighbor’s roof, if that contractor doesn’t have insurance, guess who pays for the damage to your neighbor’s roof? YOU!
State Contractor’s License
In California, any work that amounts to $500 or more (labor and materials) requires a contractor’s license. This protects the homeowner. Find out the status of a contractor’s license by going to the California State Licensing Board website at www.cslb.ca.gov. You can check the license by license number, contractor’s name or name of the business. An average chimney sweeping service falls well short of the $500 limit, but if the chimney sweep performs any repairs, it could exceed that limit and it’s best to know in advance. The contractor’s license also adds to the legitimacy of the business.
References by friends, family, or co-workers
One of the best ways to find a reputable chimney sweep company is word of mouth. Find out from your friends, family or co-workers if they were happy with the chimney sweep they’ve used, but be sure to follow up by checking the status of their certification, insurance, and contractor’s license.
Reviews and Reports about the Company
Check out the company’s reputation on Yelp at www.yelp.com, Angie’s List at www.angieslist.com or Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. If you see a lot of bad reviews, it’s best to go to the next company on the list.
Caveat Emptor – Phone Scams
This is Latin for “Let the Buyer Beware” and this is especially true for any homebuyer who receives a phone call from someone, anyone, who calls you on the phone to solicit your business. You have absolutely no way of knowing who is actually calling you. Even though you are on the Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov, that won’t stop an unscrupulous company from lying to you and convincing you that they are your chimney sweep company and it’s time for a chimney sweep. We’ve even had these unscrupulous companies call our loyal customers. Our customers have even responded by saying that they use our company and these unscrupulous companies have said that we were no longer in business. Remember: NEVER do business with anybody who calls you on the phone! And this rule of thumb doesn’t just apply to a chimney sweep service.
Spending a few minutes of extra effort will ensure that you find the right chimney sweep company and that your house won’t end up on the local evening news!
17 thoughts on “5 Things to consider when hiring a Chimney Sweep”
Thanks for this helpful post on things to consider when hiring a chimney sweep. I have never lived in a home with a chimney before, so I really don’t know how to handle my new house which has one. I will be sure to look for a certification when hiring someone to clean my chimney. I also will ask around at work to see if anyone has a good reference. Thanks for the help!
My parents have a beautiful fireplace and chimney on their house, and they weren’t sure who to call to get it cleaned. I really like that you say to check the reputation of the company online before you hire them. It would be nice to make sure that they are going to be a good fit for your home.
My brother recently moved into an older home. He noticed that the chimney is very dirty, and he wants to ensure the safety of his family by hiring a professional chimney cleaning service. I didn’t realize how important it is to choose a company that has general liability insurance to ensure you’re covered should an accident occur. I’ll be sure my brother knows about this consideration.
Your brother can find a qualified chimney sweep by going through the Chimney Safety Institute of America at http://www.csia.org . Enter the zip code in the search box at the top and it’ll give him a list of all of the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps from closest to furthest away within a 50-mile radius.
I didn’t realize that checking Yelp and Angie’s List can give you a good idea of what customer service they have provided in the past through reviews. My sister just bought an older home that has a chimney. Hopefully, she can use these tips to find a service that can keep her family safe from any fire hazards. Thanks!
I agree with you that it is better to hire a professional chimney sweep because they know a lot about chimneys and fireplaces that ordinary residents do not. It has been a while since I last had the chimney cleaned, and I’m really afraid of starting a fire. I don’t want to lose our home this winter season. I think it’s for the best to hire a chimney sweep as soon as I can. Thanks!
I totally agree with you about hiring a professional to have your chimney swept. Also if it’s been a while, you should have it inspected before you start using it. Be sure to use a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep. You can find one at http://www.csia.org .
Keep in mind that you’re calling during the busy season when many of the reputable chimney sweeps can be booked up for weeks (or months) in advance.
I like that you mention getting personal recommendations from friends and family when looking for a chimney cleaning service. By asking people you know and trust, you can save yourself a lot of time. It’s worth the effort to make sure that you hire the right people to do the job.
I appreciate your tips for hiring a chimney sweep. Our chimney gets used a lot, especially in the winter, so I think we need to get it cleaned. I’ll be sure to look for a company with enough insurance, since we never know what might happen!
It’s great to learn more about hiring a chimney company. I like how you said that they need to have insurance, just in case. Working on the chimney isn’t the safest thing ever, so insurance makes sense! We’ll be sure to check for that.
I love that you mentioned that we should ask our friends for referrals when looking for a chimney sweep. I recently moved into a new house and I wasn’t sure how to start looking for a company to come and clean the chimney. I’m going to ask my neighbors if they have a chimney sweep they can recommend.
I decided to open up my fireplace for the first time in a few months because my family wanted to roast some S’mores, and I noticed that there are a few cracks in the left side of the fireplace. It would be great to get these repaired before they become a bigger problem, and finding a professional in my area is my first priority. Thanks for explaining that I should make sure the professional I hire has insurance, a license, and is certified.
Thank you so much for introducing me to what liability insurance is and why it matters. Even if I know that any expert is much better than I am, I can definitely see the importance of being 100% sure that they’re safe to work with. I’ll make sure I look for a chimney sweep expert that has all the qualifications so our fireplace can stay clean and safe.