Don’t get swept out when dealing with chimney sweeps

About one in three Americans use a fireplace as a primary heat source in their home. Unfortunately, there are many scammers looking to make your winter even colder. Your Better Business Bureau offers tips for finding a legitimate, trustworthy chimney sweep.

Many people are unaware of the upkeep and maintenance that comes with owning a fireplace or the risks of a dirty fireplace. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), often fires are due to the buildup of creosote in chimney flues. Creosote is a black tarry or flaky substance in your chimney. So, the CSIA recommends having your fireplace cleaned and inspected annually.

Your Better Business Bureau offers these chimney sweeping tips:

• Get recommendations from family and friends. If they’re pleased with the chimney sweep, most likely you’ll be too.

• Get a written estimate on company letterhead, detailing everything agreed upon.

• Consider the chimney sweep’s reputation, years of services and services provided.

• Be wary of anyone showing up in an unmarked vehicle.

• Make sure you feel comfortable with the chimney sweep.

• Determine if the chimney sweep belongs to a professional organization like CSIA. Professional organizations typically offer continuing education.

• Be sure chimney sweeps are insured and bonded.

• Don’t pay cash. Pay by check or credit card.

Remember, burning a safe fire this winter should be your priority. Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials. Also, leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures the fire receives enough air and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney. If you don’t have glass doors, make sure you use a fireplace screen.

If you have any questions regarding chimney sweeps, you can always get help from your BBB, such as a list of more than a dozen BBB Accredited chimney sweeps and business reviews on ones you’re considering. Visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

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