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Do You Need a Chimney Sweep? 5 Telltale Signs

Chimney sweeps are something few people think about on a regular basis. In fact, those of us with chimneys in our homes often forget about this routine task altogether. There are enough items on the average homeowner’s “to-do” list already. Worrying about chimney sweeps is yet another thing to stress about — and pay for.

Like or not, if your home has a functioning chimney, the need for routine chimney sweeps is unavoidable. Neglecting this pesky maintenance issue can result in air quality problems, structural damage and even fire hazards inside your home. Rather than roll the dice with problem like this, it makes sense to get your chimney sweep over and done with when the time comes.

But how do you know it’s time for a chimney sweep? According to the National Fire Protection Association, chimneys should be professional checked at least annually. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a sweep will be necessary every year, but it may be. The important thing is to not to leave it too late.

Let’s say you don’t remember when the last time your chimney as checked, assessed or swept. What are some of the telltale signs that your chimney is due for a sweep?

1. You see dirt and deposits building up in your fireplace

Once there is a minimum of a quarter inch of soot built up in your fireplace, you know that the time has come to call a chimney specialist for an assessment. Dirty chimneys are responsible for many house fires each year. Residue that collects inside the chimney is flammable and dangerous if left alone, potentially even causing cracks in the bricks and cement around it.

2. You smell something strange

If you begin to smell strange things when you turn on the furnace, your chimney may not be ventilating. For heating systems to ventilate properly, they need access to the air through your chimney. If it’s too dirty, proper ventilation doesn’t occur and odors begin to build up in the home.

3. Winter is coming (and you haven’t had your yearly check)

People tend to use their indoor fireplaces a lot more during colder months (naturally), and the furnace is usually working overtime as well. For both of these reasons, it’s a good idea to get your chimney professionally checked (and swept and cleaned, if necessary) well before the cold weather hits. This will make sure that your air quality, ventilation and heating capabilities are optimal for winter.

4. Your fireplace is old and decrepit

Whether you’ve just purchased a home and aren’t sure about the fireplace, or just haven’t given your fireplace the time of day for a year or two, that old and decrepit appearance is a good reason to bring in a professional for a thorough chimney inspection and sweep. This will also allow you to identify other issues, such as missing mortar or other structural damage to your aging chimney.

5. You barely use your fireplace

Even if you rarely use the beautiful fireplace in your home, you should still plan to have it checked once a year. Doing so will keep your home safer, cleaner and more efficient.

Is it time for a professional chimney inspection?

There are a number of things to look for when choosing a chimney specialist to perform routine maintenance and repairs in your home. Look for a professional who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, and who has been written up by happy customers on social review sites like Google and Yelp.