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Mistake number one is to believe that if you can’t see it, it’s FINE. Just because you can’t see any obvious soot or ash or creosote in your fireplace does not mean that it isn’t in the chimney out of sight, above where you can notice it. It’s a dangerous assumption that is taking your family’s safety for granted. A chimney fire can start anywhere in the chimney where gooey unburned deposits of creosote on the chimney wall smolder and burn slowly even after a fire has been put out in the fireplace. When a chimney sweep cleans off the soot once a season, there is less of a chance that creosote will build up and become fuel for a chimney fire. A certified chimney sweep will show you or document for you any dangerous condition that is found as part of a safety inspection (that should be included with every chimney cleaning by a reputable local chimney expert).

What to do instead, to avoid this first mistake is to make sure that you search out and hire a “certified” chimney sweep for a yearly evaluation at the very least and an annual cleaning if you use the fireplace and heater chimney regularly. The evaluation will show any repairs or safety issues that need to be addressed so that you can have a safe heating season and warm home with a comfortable and secure living space around the fireplace.

Mistake number two is taking for granted that your heating contract covers checking the chimney for the venting of heater gases. When deterioration occurs in your heater flu, it can happen silently with no visible evidence until a major problem occurs. If the safety of your family is your top priority, in addition to have a heating contractor check the appliance for efficiency, hire a chimney professional to clean and evaluate your heater flue. This applies to all types of fuel, including gas, oil, wood or propane. Whenever a chimney is used in the home and the heater pipes vent into that chimney structure, a certified chimney sweep will be able to evaluate the integrity of the structure of that chimney and recommend repairs or relining if it is deteriorating.

What to do instead is to make sure that the professional you hire is certified, insured and comes with credentials, referrals and recommendations from other local customers. Word of mouth among professionals is a key ingredient. Ask questions of others you trust in the trades. Check the website of the contractor you are interested in hiring and verify the information you find there. Make sure that the chimney sweep is licensed in your state or local municipality. When a chimney sweep is certified by the Chimney Safety Institue of America, found online at CSIA dot org, there are regular testing requirements every three years to keep chimney sweeps up on the technical requirements and updated codes in their field.

Mistake number three is choosing to ‘go cheap’ for a chimney cleaning and evaluation. Professional chimney sweep services are a home maintenance cost that should be built into your home budget. Procrastinating on this type of service or repair is just playing Russian Roulette. And making a choice of the cheapest contractor, based only on price is taking a chance one might regret at a future point in time. It isn’t difficult to get a feel for the going price of the services a reputable local chimney sweep charges by making a few phone calls to local businesses in the Yellow Pages, online or print.

Not surprisingly, there are outfits that take advantage of this desire to find a cheaper alternative who call your home or send a flyer offering an extremely low price for a chimney safety inspection. When it seems too good to be true, it very well may be. Scams are possible when a homeowner is scared into having an expensive repair done on the spot and embarrassed that they fell for it after the fact. The technician who may or may not have credentials, can offer no guarantee, and may not even be from the area. If the repair wasn’t done correctly, the homeowner may have no recourse if the company is a transient one and has no local roots.

What to do instead is to ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be better to have no regrets and put in place a proven practice that will protect my family and our home? Why not hire a local certified chimney sweep service company today?

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