(ANGIE'S LIST) - For many families, gathering around a crackling fireplace is a holiday tradition. But you need to take the proper precautions. Angie's List says, whether you're burning logs or firing up the gas fireplace, chimney maintenance should be a top priority every year.
Angie's List founder Angie Hicks says "If you live in a brand new house and don't really use your fireplace you may not need a yearly inspection. But if you live in an older home they are very important because you might find that your foundation has settled and can pull the liner away and it can start to separate. So, you want to be sure it's in good condition each year."
Experts say if you use your fireplace regularly (averaging twice a week through the cold months), you should have your chimney cleaned at least once every two years. If you have more frequent fires, an annual inspection is advised. Chimney cleaning typically costs about $150 to $200.
A chimney sweep will use a large, stiff brush and other tools to dislodge creosote and soot from the interior of the chimney. Brushes may even be electric powered. Removing the damper assembly will open up a wider access area. A chimney sweep works from the bottom at the open fireplace. An industrial-sized vacuum cleaner is used to remove the mess and keep it off of your carpeting.
Once the chimney is clean, the chimney specialist will check for other issues. They should look for water damage, structural damage, and evidence of any birds or animals inside.
To avoid being scammed, Angie's List says to always ask for proof if a chimney specialist recommends expensive repairs. Hicks says "When talking with your inspector be sure they are using the pictures in a way that you can actually see things that identify your house in particular. Unfortunately, the most common scam that we hear about is when a chimney inspector uses pictures from another house. So, you want to be sure that the pictures you're looking at are your house and the damage to your chimney.
Angie's List Guide to Chimneys: angieslist.com/chimney-repair/chimneys