Hiring a chimney professional
In checking your chimney, a chimney professional can check all of the visible components of the chimney for damage, needed maintenance, and fire safety. A chimney professional is trained to look for dangerous or questionable conditions that a homeowner could easily miss. The experience he/she brings to the process of checking the chimney is well worth the modest cost.
So what should you look for in choosing a chimney professional? Here are some specific things to consider before you hire someone:
In many areas there are few requirements (or none at all) for becoming a chimney professional. So the homeowner must be careful to pick a good, legitimate company.
There are many good, reputable companies that offer chimney services. A little bit of homework will help you pick one
Checklist for hiring a chimney sweep
Ask what training the chimney professional has. How long has the company been in business? Some national organizations offer certification programs. So ask if the chimney professional is certified. And by whom? Call that organization and check.
Certification isn't a guarantee of great service and an un-certified chimney professional might be perfectly legitimate but certification is a measure of the training the chimney professional has received, and something you can verify by calling the certifying agency. Fly-by-night companies aren't likely to go to the expense and effort of becoming certified.
Make sure you know up front exactly what services the chimney professional offers. And don't hesitate to ask questions regarding your particular concerns about your chimney.
Ask what the charges will be. Sometimes it is hard for a chimney professional to give you an exact quote, since every chimney is different. But most companies will have standard rates for checking the chimney, cleaning standard flues, and other basic services.
For your own protection, when hiring any contractor, whether it is a chimney professional or anyone else, you should ask about insurance. Liability coverage is a must. Remember, the safety of your home is at stake. And what if the contractor is injured on your property? Is this covered?
Ask for references! Call at least a couple of other homeowners who have hired this company, and see what they think. Did the contractor explain things to the homeowner's satisfaction? Did they do what they said they would do? Did they clean up afterwards? Were they punctual? Most people are happy to tell you about their experiences good or bad with contractors that they have hired.
Once you have found a good, reliable company, schedule a date to have your chimney checked, and ask to be put on the schedule for annual visits after that.