Is your chimney due for its annual cleaning and inspection? Remember: if it’s been more than year since this job was last done, then you should schedule an inspection as soon as possible!

Now, folks who are big on home improvement projects may be contemplating whether or not they want to just examine their chimney themselves instead of hiring (and paying) someone else to take care of it for them. But sweeping a chimney isn’t like sweeping a kitchen floor, and it’s not a task for the faint of heart. Here are three reasons to call a professional when your chimney needs a “checkup”:

Statue of Professional Chimney Cleaner

A professional will have the right tools for the job.

Cleaning a chimney can be a very dirty job. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows what a chimney is and what it’s used for! Most of us would rather stay far away from the soot, ash and creosote that tends to build up inside a chimney, and we’d like even more for that stuff to stay off of our living room furniture, carpeting or clothes. Dealing with chimney “gunk” is business as usual for a chimney sweep, though, so they typically arm themselves with special equipment (like protective gear and industrial vacuums) to keep the mess to a bare minimum. You want the filth to be gone, not just moved to a different area of your home!

A professional can discover issues that amateurs tend to miss.

Be honest: are you 100% confident in your ability to spot, diagnose and fix any issues that you may discover when cleaning your own chimney? Unless you’re a contractor or chimney sweep yourself, then the answer to that question is probably, “No, not really.” Tools and equipment are one thing, but technical know-how is another matter entirely. And when you pay a professional to clean your chimney, part of what you’re paying for is the sweep’s expertise.

A chimney sweep—one who’s been professionally trained and licensed—will not only be able to clean away grime and debris, but they’ll also be able to spot minor issues with your fireplace and your chimney’s inner structures. Small problems with these systems (including cracked brickwork, a damaged liner or loose flashing) can very easily turn into major problems if they’re not taken care of quickly and properly, so catching them early will save you some money in the long-run.

Professionals (should) have insurance.

Cleaning a chimney is usually much more dangerous than cleaning a kitchen or a bathroom. Not only does a thorough cleaning usually require that the sweep climb up onto the roof of a house, but it requires handling substances—e.g. creosote—that are flammable and potentially carcinogenic. Whenever you have work done on your home, there’s always some element of risk involved, and sweeping the chimney is no different. Although the job will very likely go off without a hitch, it’s also entirely possible for damage to be done to your property…or, worse, for someone to be injured on the job. The good news is that a reputable chimney inspection company will have liability insurance to cover any cleaning-related mishaps; if disaster strikes, you won’t be left holding the bill.

Now, the bad news is that not all chimney inspection companies have insurance and it’s not unheard of for unscrupulous companies to lie about their coverage. So before you let a sweep so much as touch your chimney, ask to see proof of insurance. A company with insurance will be happy to furnish their paperwork upon request, and a company that’s cagey about doing so probably isn’t worth hiring at all.


Even the most hardcore “DIY-ers” should think twice before they resolve to clean their own chimney. While it’s true that you can save some money by taking care of it on your own, you could also wind up making a huge mess or putting yourself in danger. You may also miss some important signs that your chimney needs maintenance beyond a simple cleaning. So do yourself, your household and chimney a favor: when it’s time for a cleaning, hire a professional!


Photo courtesy of Tony Bowden on Flickr