Dick Van Dyke played an adorable chimney sweep in the hit Disney film Mary Poppins and made people around the world realize they needed to check their chimneys. However, many homeowners still haven’t added this essential home maintenance task to their Fall routine. 

A chimney ensures that any fumes from your fireplace exit through the roof and do not build up inside your home. Keep reading to learn both how often you should clean your chimney and common signs it needs attention in addition to the top dangers of leaving your chimney dirty! 

How Often Should You Clean Your Chimney?

You should clean and inspect your chimney at least once a year. Chimney cleaning pros usually recommend that you inspect it before you light your fireplace for the first time in the season. 

However, if you live in a cold climate and use your fireplace more often, you may want to clean it two or more times a year. This ensures that there aren't any obstructions and that any fumes it produces have a safe way to leave your home.

Signs You Need Chimney Cleaning

Before you pay a chimney sweep pro to get on your roof, you may want to look for some signs that it needs cleaning. 

Check the walls of your fireplace and nearby walls for oily spots or oily residue. This is a sign of creosote, which usually builds up on the top of the chimney and then works its way down. Creosote is also a sign that there isn't enough airflow in the chimney. 

You may also find that you have a hard time starting a fire and that the fires you do start don't last very long. These are signs that buildup inside the chimney prevents oxygen from reaching the flames. Other signs that you need to clean your chimney include:

  • You pick up on odd or strange smells coming from the chimney.
  • There are sounds of wild animals living in your chimney.
  • The smoke produced by your fire stops halfway up and doesn't exit your home.
  • You notice air flowing around the base of the chimney and leaving the fireplace.
  • Soot falls from the top of the chimney.

Possible Dangers

Before you look at the average chimney cleaning cost, get an idea of some of the dangers that can occur if you postpone the issue. 

  • One of the problems is that it lowers the air quality of your home. 
  • Creosote and other debris can build up inside the chimney and release some of the fumes from your fire into your home. You may find that you cough or have breathing problems when you sit next to the fireplace. 
  • The buildup also reduces the amount of oxygen in the chimney and can cause soot to reach your lungs. 
  • Those with allergies can have even worse reactions to the soot. Even if you don't have allergies, you may experience breathing problems and other symptoms as the result of poor air quality due to a dirty chimney. 
  • Gases can easily accumulate inside your home and affect both your family and pets. The gases are even more dangerous to the elderly and those who have certain health conditions. 
  • You may find that you suffer from frequent headaches and skin and eye irritations. 
  • Research also indicates that regular exposure to those gases will increase your risk of developing cancer later.

One of the biggest dangers of living in a home with a dirty chimney is that it can cause a fire. When you only use your fireplace a few times a year, you have no way of knowing what the inside looks like. 

Keep in mind that there is a good chance that wild animals can climb inside, including squirrels and bats. While some of these animals build nests, you risk some of those animals dying inside the chimney. 

All of that causes obstructions that give the flames and fumes nowhere to go. As the flames rise and hit those obstructions, it allows the fire to grow larger. The flames can try to move back into your home or eat through the walls of your home.

How Much Does Chimney Cleaning Cost?

The average cost of chimney sweeping depends on its size and when you last cleaned it. If your last cleaning occurred several years ago, the company may charge extra due to the huge buildup of debris and possible repairs needed. 

There are cleaning kits that include everything you need to sweep the chimney yourself. They often retail for $100 or less but may require other tools to help you get onto the roof and to the top of the chimney. Since going up to the roof is a dangerous task, especially when you’re not used to it, it’s highly recommended to hire a local company to do so. Keep in mind that the service is cheaper than fixing your home after a fire or spending money on medical bills.        

Contact a local chimney cleaning company and request a free quote to start using your fireplace this season! 


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