Your chimney is more than a tube attached to the roof. Chimneys vent gasses from the operation of fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, etc. In recent decades, improvements in technology mean that more chimney and hearth variations have been built. A good, professional chimney service company is your ally in adding the beauty of a new fireplace to your home and maintaining the safety and integrity of your fireplace and chimney over time. Unfortunately, all chimney companies are not created equal. Wise homeowners take the right things into consideration when choosing a chimney company.
1. Research Your Options
The internet is an easy way to start the process of finding chimney service companies who can work with you. Look for trends in all the reviews you find. To get a complete picture, don’t just read the good reviews but read the bad reviews, too. Everyone has some bad reviews but they can help you give you an idea of the most common problems. Look for indications to explain why were the reviewers unhappy. If you notice, for example, that a lot of reviews talk about the quality of work but several negative reviews mention that the technicians were late, that tells you that they likely do good work but are late a lot.
- The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is always a great place to start researching any company. Look for chimney services in your area and you can check their BBB rating. These ratings are vetted and trustworthy. Many times there will be reviews as well, including a history of how the company addressed any issues. Be sure to read the companies response to complaints.
- Google ratings and other online sites are another helpful source for reviews. Observe the trends in the comments.
- Many companies have social media pages that give you an idea of their work and interaction with consumers. Other companies do not, but offer excellent services in real life. Don’t let a social media flop stop you from checking into a company.
- The service company’s website should have a testimonials and a portfolio of past work.
- If you are interested in adding a hearth appliance like a fireplace insert or stove, only hire companies that deal with multiple manufacturers. If they only deal with 1 or 2 manufacturers, then they are likely to make recommendations based on what they want to sell you.
- Ask your neighbors who they have dealt with and if they would recommend them. Ask what they appreciated about the company and how any issues were resolved. Since even the best companies will have some issues, it is important to know how they fix any problems.
2. Know What Their “Certification” Means
How do you figure out if that certification is what you need? Go past the acronyms and do a search for the website of the certifier to see what the individual being certified has to know. Check to see what happens to those who claim certification and fail to meet the standards. See if certifications are lifetime or need to be renewed on a regular basis. Look at ongoing education and opportunities to stay current with industry standards.
- NFI (National Fireplace Institute) certifies planners in hearth design and installers in appliances using gas, wood, and pellet fuels. Each fuel requires different standards and involves different testing so you need to know which fuel their NFI certification is in. Some professionals have been certified in all of them. The NFI is the professional certification division of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Education Foundation (HPBEF).
- CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) certification is nationally recognized as essential for a chimney sweep and involves more than merely cleaning the chimney. Every chimney cleaning is an opportunity to inspect the chimney at the same time so CSIA sweeps are trained in this as well. The CSIA certification has to be maintained with triennial testing or ongoing education because the industry is constantly evolving. Only hire CSIA certified chimney sweeps because they are qualified to do inspections as well as maintenance.
- CCP (Certified Chimney Professionals) offers a basic certification showing knowledge of the field. Many chimney service companies ask all employees to complete this certification so that everyone in the company has a basic understanding of the industry. They also offer a program that certifies competency in relining chimneys, and a Certified Master Chimney Technician™ designation that requires a minimum of 8 years of full-time experience and a minimum of 6 years of certification.
3. Understand What Professional Estimates Entail
The guy in a rusty pickup truck who hands you a slip of paper he just scribbled his eyeballed quote on isn’t giving you a professional estimate. A professional will look carefully at what you want to be done and provide a typed detailed estimate. Many times you will get completely different recommendations and estimates from competing companies. This can be confusing. It happens because they do not always include the same components. In some cases confirm conflicting quotes or significant estimate amounts could result from technicians using different techniques. Some use techniques that are designed to provide long-lasting quality. Others use techniques that are designed to provide a shorter-term solution at lower costs.
What should be included in the estimate?
- A breakdown of the labor and materials. There should be descriptions and pictures where possible. Most chimney services will use equipment that gives the technician a photo or video of the inside of the chimney so damage can be identified. This makes photographic evidence a reasonable expectation in their estimate so ask for pictures of the job that needs to be done.
- A proposed schedule that states when work will be done or products delivered. It is a good idea to ask what happens if this schedule is not kept.
- All pertinent terms and conditions. For example, do they offer a warranty on their labor? Never pick a company that does not offer a labor warranty.
- The time period the estimate is valid for. A slow period might be one where lower prices are offered but when the heating season starts, chimney services are in demand and technicians are very busy.
- All pertinent payment terms or schedules.
Those who buy based on price buy twice
Never base your fireplace or chimney service decision solely on price. Don’t base your decision solely on price. Like the old adage says, “those that buy by price tend to buy twice”. You often get what you pay for and the best labor and materials cost more. Some companies use less experienced techs or cut corners to lower their price. This is where you need to dig deeper to see what is going on.
- Ask lots of questions. If you are unsure about anything, ask about it. A good chimney service company will welcome questions because they want their customers to understand how their home systems work and have confidence in the services being offered. Chimney service companies rely on repeat customers, and they want you to be one.
- Ask for an explanation of unusual prices. If the price is very low or very high, ask why. There may be a good reason…or not. If you do not think there is a good reason for an unusual price then ask for alternative suggestions.
- If the price quote is out of your budget range, ask where you can safely make some more economical choices. A good chimney service company will be able to work with you in many cases. You may have to compromise on a particular style of hearth appliance, but you should never have to compromise on safety.
4. Common Ways Bad Chimney Companies Cut Corners
Hopefully, you have not gotten an estimate from a guy off the street who knocked on your door to say he can clean your chimney for cheap. This is a common scam that can be avoided by researching and contacting the company yourself. But there are still some bad chimney companies that will cut corners and sacrifice quality for a low price, proving that the lowest price is not always the best option. How do you evaluate the price?
- Go online and see what comparable jobs cost in your area. Homeadvisor.com is one example.
- If you have several itemized estimates and one is substantially different, the itemization will provide a clue. If the lower cost is labor then question the training or experience of who is doing the work.
- Sometimes a low price indicates substandard products. The grade of concrete or mortar might be inferior, or there may be a lack of waterproofing. Anybody that tells you concrete and mortar do not need waterproofing on a chimney is not being honest.
- Occasionally it is acceptable to reuse bricks in a chimney repair. Sometimes it is not, so question why the other estimates do not include it.
- A difference in price on a part like a chimney liner they “just happen to have on the truck” can mean a shortcut that is going to cause problems in the future. There are many types of chimney liners and it would be rare for the right one to be that handy. A good company will explain the differences in parts and why particular ones should be used in your location. Always ask why a choice is made because the more you know, the better your decisions.
A good chimney service company will not object to you asking questions and getting other opinions before deciding to hire them. A questionable company will pressure you to commit immediately and use scare tactics to make you feel like your family is in danger if you don’t let them “fix” the problem immediately.
5. Interact With A Plan For Your Future
The chimney in your house is going to be there for a long time. Chimneys should be inspected every year and kept safely operational. That means that all your research should result in finding the chimney service you want to call when you need them in the future. The way that the company and its employees interact with you will help you evaluate your choice. Remember, it is better for both the customer and the company when chimney services are routinely scheduled.
- Take the appearance and attitude of the person providing you with the estimate into consideration. If the person giving the estimate is sloppy, then imagine what the person who does the work is going to be like. Chimney sweeps work with soot so there may be some under their fingernails but the overall impression should be one of professionalism and neatness. You want them to clean up after themselves, right?
- Notice if the installer seems to be steering you in a particular direction based on what they want to sell you rather than paying attention to your specific wants and needs. You will be living with your decision for a long time.
- Look for signs of stability like involvement with the local community. Other signs of stability are the length of operation and being a locally-owned, family operation that has roots in your area.
- Most chimney service companies will have a mission statement or their company standards on their site. This gives you an idea of the goals they have for their future and a sense of what to expect. They may have a standard of scheduling teams with plenty of time to get from one job to another so that they avoid being late. Other standards could be a focus on leaving a job site as clean as it was when they came so that you don’t have to vacuum soot from a chimney cleaning.
- If their site has a blog, read enough posts to get an idea of what they think is important. You don’t need to read every post or every page on the site but you can get a sense of the company from what they choose to put online.
Hiring a chimney service company is an investment in the safety of your home and family. It is worth the time to take these steps to decide which one is best for your needs.
Firstly, we want to wish all of you, your families, and your friends’ good health and safety as we face the concern of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Our hearts go out to everyone directly or indirectly affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are sending this message to let you know that the government announced that it considers servicing your chimney and fireplace to be essential under the commercial facilities sector. As a result,
In response to the threat of covid19 we have implemented the following additional safety measures:
- All of our technicians wear masks, booties and gloves from the moment that they arrive at your door through went they enter their vehicle to leave.
- Every employee has been trained to follow safety protocols.
- We follow all of the CDC’s separation protocols while servicing your home.
If you need chimney services of any kind, feel free to call us. We are always ready to help.
Customers across the Montgomery County and Washington DC area are falling in love with Napoleon fireplaces. It is the most popular brand that we install. Wolf Steel introduced the Napoleon line in 1981 with an innovative single-glass door of Pyroceram high-temperature ceramic glass and a cast-iron frame. Since then, this Canadian company has consistently added new products and features to its offerings in hearth appliances. Chimney service companies like ours appreciate the quality of Napoleon fireplaces. Here is a comprehensive guide to gas fireplaces from Napoleon.
Direct Vent Gas Fireplace Models
Napoleon has a wide selection of direct vent gas fireplaces that will seamlessly fit into any home’s decor. An existing masonry fireplace can be fitted with a direct vent gas fireplace. Exhaust from these models exit the chimney using a co-linear system. If you don’t have a fireplace or a chimney, you can still have a lovely gas fireplace in just about any room in your house because direct vent gas fireplaces do not require brick chimneys. Instead, a direct vent gas fireplace can pull combustion air from outside while venting to the outdoors through a system of flexible and rigid vents designed for the specific location of the unit.
- No need for an existing fireplace or chimney means you can have a hearth in your bedroom, bathroom, or anywhere the warmth and flicker of flames would be welcome.
- A zero-clearance gas fireplace can be professionally installed directly in the wall. The increased insulation allows zero clearance gas models to safely touch combustible surfaces.
- A professional can install a venting system that goes around joists, beams, and other structural features to directly connect the gas fireplace to the outside, keeping your home safe and cozy.
- Self-generating millivolt systems or regular batteries can provide the power for the burner and flame control. You can stay warm even during a power outage.
A direct vent gas fireplace can turn a seldom-used room into a cozy spot without adding venting worries. You get the warmth and flames of a beautiful fire at the touch of a switch and your room becomes a refuge from the cold. Napoleon offers a variety of sizes and styles in their series of models.
Napoleon Direct Vent Gas Fireplace Series
The Acies Series provides a luxurious experience with its new Divinity™ flame pattern and multiple media kits. This linear design series is available as a single-sided or a two-sided See Thru model.
The Ascent Multi-View Gas Fireplace is a See Thru or three-sided Peninsula style that offers multiple firebox configurations and electronic ignition with battery back-up.
The Plazmafire 48 and Plazmafire 31 each combine modern aesthetics and the convenience of a Napoleon gas fireplace with simple installation requirements that enable endless potential.
The Vittoria has a tall, slender design that fits into corners, entranceways, and other smaller spots. It can be very traditional or very modern depending on the surround and other options you choose.
The Torch is an attractive, modern, slim design featuring a single flame that reflects off its prism-shaped firebox. This is a perfect accent in small spaces.
The STARfire 35 creates a glowing ambiance with its high, centralized flame and customizable features.
The Park Avenue has exclusive designer accessories with realistic flames in a unique frameless design.
The Ascent Linear Series has multiple design options and many innovative features like the eFire app that allows you to control the fireplace from your favorite mobile device.
The Elevation X Series is a traditional full fire display in a premium format with a glowing ENDLESS EMBERS™ electric ember bed and Ultra High Definition log sets in a deep firebox for the most realistic experience.
Vent Free Gas Fireplace Models
Napoleon offers a broad selection of vent free gas fireplaces that do not need vents at all. Sometimes referred to as ventless fireplaces, these units are designed to circulate the gas back into the house. Vent-free fireplaces use safety features like auto shutoffs. Auto shutoffs activate when the oxygen level in the room is low. Auto shutoffs are an excellent safety feature. However, because the gas is circulated back into the house, there is conflicting views on whether vent-free units should be installed. Some in the industry argue that it is safe under certain conditions and others strongly feel it is too risky. Vent-free gas fireplaces are prohibited in some states. Some local zoning codes also prohibit vent-free units. The advantage of a ventless gas fireplace is that it can be installed without the structural requirements of direct vent fireplaces.
Things to remember about vent-free gas fireplaces
- The unit must be installed in a room that is large enough to provide the oxygen needed for combustion and dissipate the fumes safely.
- The unit must be meticulously installed and maintained according to the manual so that it operates at top efficiency.
- Carbon monoxide detectors must be strategically located to alert the homeowner of dangerous levels. Additional sources of fumes, like a number of burning candles, can affect air quality and cause problems for sensitive individuals.
- Even where all these standards are met, your location may prohibit vent free gas fireplaces so a professional service familiar with your codes should be consulted.
If you live where a ventless gas fireplace is allowed, Napoleon’s many safety features along with professional installation and maintenance might be a good fit in a particular room. This would be a decision you should make with a fully certified installer who can inform you of the pros and cons involved in that choice.
Napoleon Vent Free Gas Fireplaces
The Torch Vent-free Gas Fireplaces Is an elegant, tall single torch flame in a reflective prism firebox.
The Plazmafire Vent-free Gas Fireplaces offer an appealing view of its Topaz Crystaline ember bed and a slate brick panel or Mirro-flame porcelain reflective radiant panel.
Dynamic Heat Control™ Plus
Have you ever wished that your fireplace could spread the warmth around a little more effectively? The Dynamic Heat Control™ Plus system is an innovative solution to the problem of too much heat in one room and not enough in the rest of the house. Napoleon direct vent gas fireplaces can be used to heat other rooms in your home. This system connects to other areas in the home so that the heat produced by the fireplace can be directed to any location in the house, even in the event of a power failure!
If it is not needed inside, the heat can be exhausted outdoors. This makes it possible to enjoy the warmth of your fireplace when the weather is cold and the visual beauty of the flames during the warm nights of summer. Napoleon’s Dynamic Heat Control™ Plus is a game-changer for many homeowners who want more efficiency from their hearth appliance. It gives you the power to adjust the temperature all over the house and the peace of mind you need during a winter storm that turns the lights out.
The patent-pending Dynamic Heat Control™ System quietly manages heat so well that sensitive or combustible materials can be installed right above the fireplace. Artwork, soundbars, televisions, and more can be enjoyed at the same time the fireplace is being used. This feature is only available in certain series and models.
Napoleon Gas Fireplaces are high-quality products. Whether you choose the Direct Vent models or a Vent Free Model, you are going to get a good unit but is it right for your home? Wise homeowners choose to have a professional come to their home and look at the hoped-for installation site so they can be fully aware of all the factors involved.
A professional consultation gives you expert advice on your particular options and a working estimate of what the actual process will cost. A good company will be able to handle everything from estimate to installation and provide continued maintenance services so you can kick back and enjoy your fireplace with no worries.
Enhance The Surroundings Of Your Fireplace
The wall that your fireplace is on and the features that surround it can make a huge difference in looks. There are many ways you can enhance the surroundings of your hearth to highlight this cozy asset.
- Install a veneer to act as a frame for your hearth. The days of shoddy “lick & stick” veneers are gone, and today you can choose from stone, brick, and many types of tile. A contemporary stone wall might be perfect. Bricks? Art tiles to match the age of your home? You choose!
- Consider the mantel above your hearth. Do you want more space for decorating? Deepen the ledge with a kit or replace it with a salvaged mantel unit taken from a historic house. From a simple beam to an elaborately carved mantel, there are many ways to add the perfect touch to your room.
- Some homes have beautiful built-in bookcases on both sides of the fireplace, along with several tiers of ledges above the hearth. Pre-built bookcases can be connected with moldings for a similar look. If this appeals to you, but you lack the skills, research custom woodworkers in your area.
- Paint is a fast way to change a boring fireplace wall dramatically. If you want to paint the bricks, make sure it is a paint that is safe for fireplaces.
- Adding a fireproof floor immediately in front of the fireplace changes the look of your hearth and protects your floor. Brick, stone, and tile can echo existing detail and enhance the beauty of your room.
Change The Way You Decorate Your Fireplace
Decorate your mantle for the season by changing what you display on a regular basis. The fireplace mantel is ideal for vignettes of cherished items and memorabilia.
- Cut some flowering branches in late winter and put them on the mantel in attractive vases or jars. The warmth will encourage early blooms, and you will enjoy hints of the coming Spring season.
- Lean a large mirror against the wall so that candles or lights are reflected, and more light is in your room.
- Experiment and learn what you like. If you don’t like something, change it until you do!
- Be sure to read our previous article about mantel decorations.
Update Your Existing Fireplace
A fireplace that is not doing the job it was designed to do needs to be updated because it isn’t efficient. It also can be a safety hazard if repairs are needed. The solution is simple: explore your options and choose what is best for your home and your budget.
- Many times all it takes are glass doors that will keep the flame safely inside while allowing heat to warm the room. These doors are available in many styles to match any fireplace style. They also increase fireplace safety.
- A fireplace insert can turn a black hole into an energy-saving hearth feature that burns gas, wood, or pellets according to your preference. A professional consultant can explain the pros and cons of each.
- Sometimes repairing your existing fireplace is the best solution. If your home has historical significance, this will keep its features intact.
One of life’s greatest simple pleasures is curling up in front of a blazing fireplace with a hot beverage and a good book or enjoying the company of family and friends. As the temperature in the Washington DC Metropolitan area falls, there will be many opportunities to enjoy your fireplace. However, having a safe and aesthetically pleasing experience requires some chimney and fireplace maintenance before the season begins. Whether your fireplace is a burns wood or gas, there are some things that you should do to prepare your fireplace for the winter. Some of these things do not require a chimney service company like ours to do the work.
Clean your fireplace and surrounding area
Your fireplace is the centerpiece of your home, so you want it to look good, especially during the winter when it’s in use. Use a broom, not a vacuum cleaner, to sweep up and remove any leftover ashes in the hearth. Clean the surrounding masonry with soap and water or a commercial cleaner. If you have a glass spark guard, a good cleaning with water and vinegar will give you a clear view of your fire. You can also use ash to clean the glass. Here is a video that you may find helpful.
Have your fireplace and chimney inspected
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, every fireplace and chimney should be inspected by a professional chimney sweep at least once a year. A chimney professional will do a complete examination of both the exterior and interior of your chimney as well as the fireplace. They will ensure that everything is functioning properly, that there are no obstructions of flammable deposits in your chimney, and that the masonry or stonework doesn’t have damage that could possibly cause a fire. Never attempt to inspect your chimney yourself. Always hire a professional.
Have your chimney cleaned
During your annual inspection the technician will determine if your chimney needs to be cleaned. If they recommend it, make sure that you follow their advice. Never delay getting your chimney cleaned. Burning wood smoke contains chemicals that can build up on the inside of your chimney in the form of creosote, which is highly combustible. A chimney sweep service will remove these dangerous deposits so that you can fully enjoy your fireplace.
Install a cap on your chimney
A chimney cap outfitted with a wire mesh cover that fits over the top of the chimney will keep snow, rain, animals, leaves and other items out of the chimney and fireplace. If you already have a cap, check it to make sure it hasn’t been damaged. Replace it if necessary.
Use a spark barrier
If you don’t already have one, it’s a good idea to invest in a metal or glass spark guard. Stray sparks and embers can ruin your carpet or rugs. They can also catch fire. A spark barrier also keeps the kids and pets from accidentally falling into the fire or throwing things into it. Spark barriers come in a wide variety of styles and can add beauty to your fireplace.
Choose the right firewood
Wherever you get your wood, make sure it’s a hardwood like oak or maple to ensure maximum heat and the least amount of smoke. Soft resinous woods like pine will build up more creosote and lead to more cleaning and chimney maintenance.
Here is a great video about picking the right firewood.
If you’re ready to have your fireplace and chimney prepared for the winter, All Pro Chimney is ready to serve. Contact us today for a free estimate.