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What to Know About Chimney Cleaning and Repair

Creosote, the black or brown residue of combustion that collects on the inner surfaces of a chimney flue liner, is highly flammable. If allowed to build up, it can catch fire, causing cracks in "fireproof" brick, stone or clay flue liners and allow heat to reach nearby wood framing and other combustible materials in your home. A dirty chimney is the cause of many house fires each year.

Have your chimney inspected and cleaned, preferably in late spring or early summer when heating season is over. That way, you'll have enough time to schedule any repairs you may need before the heating season begins in the fall.

Shopping for a Chimney Sweep

  • NEVER hire a chimney sweep who shows up at your door uninvited.  There are many home improvement scams that commonly take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners; fly-by-night chimney sweep scams is one of the most prevalent.
  • Many sweeps apply for certification by CSIA or membership in the NCSG. These organizations promote professionalism in the industry by testing applicants and offering continuing education opportunities to keep members up to date on changing technology and fire safety.
  • Chimney sweeping is not considered home improvement, but all related work, such as installation or repair of a chimney cap, liner repair and even mortar replacement require a home improvement registration.

Things to Know Before Having Your Chimney Cleaned

For $90 to $150, a professional chimney sweep should thoroughly clean your fireplace and chimney and check for defects. Many sweeps lower video cameras and lights into chimneys to get a close look at walls and liner surfaces, and to take a visual record of the chimney's condition for the homeowner.  Be sure you agree to only the services that you want and need.
You want the chimney sweep to:
  • Check the firebox for damaged brick and missing or crumbling mortar.
  • Open the damper completely to be sure it moves freely and fits snugly against the smoke shelf.
  • Use a flashlight to check the damper for cracks, pitting or rusted-out sections. (Broken or corroded dampers should be replaced by a professional.)
  • Look for any debris that may restrict air flow and remove it.
  • Check for broken or damaged bricks or flue liners. (Vertical cracking in the liner is a sure sign of a previous flue fire and is a serious problem that will need repair.)
  • Check and remove creosote deposits greater than 1/8 inch thick.
  • Sweeping a chimney is not considered home improvement, but any repairs are covered under the Home Improvement Law, such as installation or repair of a chimney cap, liner replacement or repair, and even mortar replacement. 

If upon cleaning your chimney, your chimney sweep tells you that there is damage that needs replacement or repair, you should contact your local building official and ask if the activity requires a building permit. 

 

REMEMBER: Chimney sweeps may not be credentialed for chimney repair. Those performing chimney repair work must have a Home Improvement registration.


 


Chimney Repair is Home Improvement 

Chimney repair goes beyond cleaning and sweeping, and persons who perform chimney repair must be registered as a home improvement contractor in Connecticut.
  • Repairs covered under the Home Improvement Law include everything from installation or repair of a chimney cap, liner replacement or repair, and even mortar replacement. 
  • If upon cleaning your chimney, your chimney sweep tells you that there is damage that needs replacement or repair, please first contact your local building official and ask if the activity requires a building permit. Then find yourself a registered home improvement contractor to do the job. It may be the same person who cleaned your chimney, but it doesn't need to be.
  • Contractors who are registered with the Department of Consumer Protection must carry a Connecticut-issued home improvement registration certificate with them. The salespeople are also required to carry the certificate with them.
  • Before hiring anyone to repair your chimney, ask to see their certificate and their identification. Feel free to contact the Department of Consumer Protection to verify the legitimacy of that certificate and to check on any complaints against this contractor.  Call us at 860-713-6110 or use online license verification.
  • Home improvement law requires that contractors put a notice of cancellation in their contract, giving the homeowner three days to change their minds and cancel the job. 


Avoid Chimney Repair Fraud