Keeping your chimney and fireplace clean and in good working condition is essential for aesthetic, functional, and health-related reasons. A poorly-maintained fireplace or chimney can produce a chemical buildup, a gas leak, or even a fire risk that could put your home and your family’s well-being in danger. A carefully maintained fireplace, on the other hand, should be able to last for the entire life of the home. However, it can be hard to stay on top of all you need to do and how much it can cost to keep everything in good shape.

Basic Cleaning Costs

Don’t go more than a year without having a professional inspect your chimney, or potentially slightly longer if you’re not regularly using it. Most chimney repairs will range from $150 to around $700, but regular inspections and sweepings will help you avoid larger, more expensive repairs. A standard chimney sweep will cost just $100 to $300.

A chimney sweeping will reduce fire risk and health risks from gas by cleaning out the chemical buildup left over from your fires. Those chemicals are mostly creosote and tar, and they need to be cleaned out regularly. For a smaller investment of money and a much larger investment of effort, it’s possible to sweep a chimney yourself. However, ensuring that you’re cleaning effectively can be difficult, and hiring a professional to sweep your chimney is a good opportunity to have a fuller inspection as well. A professional will see the problems you won’t and save you more money in the long run.

Fixing Cracks

Cracks in your chimney, even small ones, can cause serious risks by letting sparks and gases escape onto your roof or into your house. They’ll form first around the corners of the chimney and are important to catch early. If they’re caught while they’re small, they can be easily fixed for just around $175. They need some masonry work but do not required tools such as air impact wrenches.

As they grow and cause deeper structural damage, however, they may require repairs worth thousands of dollars. If it gets bad enough that the whole chimney needs to be replaced, that could cost you nearly $10,000. Luckily, regular inspections should be enough to catch cracks before they develop into something serious or dangerous.

Water Problems

Left untreated, cracks can allow water into the chimney, which can lead to problems with mold or even rot in wood areas around the roofline. Fixing the leak and replacing some of the wood could cost you up to $350, although you may be able to shave off a hundred or two by doing some of the work yourself.

Maintaining the Crown and Spark Arrester

The crown of the chimney is an essential part where cracks can lead to big problems fast if left unattended. This vulnerable part of your chimney is responsible for keeping rain and pests out, protecting both the chimney and your home. It also keeps the rest of your house safe by keeping sparks contained with the spark arrester, which reduces the fire hazard to the rest of your roof.

Signs of Trouble

In order to keep your chimney in good shape, you should be watching out for certain signs. However, always be sure to call a professional as soon as possible instead of waiting. If you can see significant chemical buildup on the sides of the chimney already, or if you smell anything odd around the fireplace, that should be cause for concern.

If you see cracks or any sort of leak in your chimney, have a professional take a look right away, before it gets any worse. If you catch problems early, they’ll be much cheaper to address. It’s also helpful to regularly check around your chimney for gas leaks of carbon monoxide or anything else. Make sure you watch for smoke and have a CO detector working properly.

Maintenance to Do on Your Own

Official standards say that you should have fireplaces and chimneys inspected and potentially swept once a year to keep them in working order, and there’s no real substitute for having a professional come to clean your chimney and inspect it for problem areas and maintenance needs. If anything goes wrong or isn’t done quite right in your chimney cleaning or maintenance, the result could be worse problems such as a fire or a gas leak, so you want to bring in a professional whenever possible.

However, you can do some things on your own to maintain your fireplace, extend its life, and generally reduce the need for expensive repairs. Burning some organic materials, such as citrus rinds and potato peels, can help your chimney fare better for longer before its next inspection by preventing creosote from building up quite as fast and by drying it out and reducing the fire risk.

You can also buy chimney cleaning logs for about $15.00 to $20.00 each to help break down some of the creosote and tar that’s accumulating in your chimney. This is similarly just a temporary measure and is no substitute for a professional cleaning.