Beware of amateur chimney sweeps

Beware amateur chimney sweeps

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In Quebec, there are more than 1,000 chimney fires every year. To avoid such a disaster, here are some tips.

Several years ago, I agreed to have a traveling chimney sweep do my chimney. Mistake ! The gentleman did his job wrong: he left a pile of soot on my interior hatch and in the hearth, and stole my chimney cap. A few days later, a crazed squirrel covered furniture and walls in soot and blood before I could expel it, at the cost of intense strategic maneuvers.

If such a chimney sweep rings at your door, refuse. Otherwise, make sure he has an itinerant merchant's permit from the Office de la protection du consommateur (OPC). He will therefore have paid a deposit, which could be used in the event of a claim.

Some dodgy chimney sweeps circulate with bogus contracts, demand a deposit of $1,000 before disappearing, or refuse to carry out the work for a whatever reason, but insist on being paid, reports Charles Tanguay, spokesperson for the OPC. 

He also told me that chimney sweeps pretend to be chimney experts, claiming that yours is non-compliant, immediately proposing useless work worth several thousand dollars. Ask for a second opinion.

A chimney sweep costs between $125 and $250, depending on the complexity and pitch of the roof.

It is best to sweep in the spring, when the deposits (soot, creosote, tar) are less resistant (and the service is faster). Consumers benefit from group discounts.

Insurance

What happens if a chimney sweep is injured in your home? This is covered by the CNESST or its civil liability insurance, not yours.

Normally, a home insurer will not require periodic sweeping. Obviously, for two or three fires per winter, a sweeping every two years is enough. “Hard wood” (maple, beech, cherry) is preferable to “soft wood” (conifers), which generates a lot of deposits in the ducts. A cord (unseasoned wood) retails for approximately $150, excluding delivery. 

Finally, Montreal, Quebec and Longueuil have not banned fireplaces, contrary to rumor. But your device must comply with a very strict standard for fine particle emissions (2.5 grams per hour). In Montreal, you need a permit and sign a declaration 120 days after installing or replacing a device. Don't forget to tell your insurer. 

Tips

  • Ask your neighbors or ask for references. Pay only when the work is complete.
  • A good chimney sweep also involves cleaning the hearth and inspecting the rooms.
  • Ask for a contract with full contact details for the chimney sweep, permit number from the Régie du bâtiment du Québec ( RBQ) or the OPC, as well as proof of civil liability insurance.
  • Does your chimney require work? Are you looking for a chimney sweep? Contact the Association of Heating Professionals (poelesfoyers.ca • 1 855 748-6937), which offers training in chimney sweeping and appliance installation.
  • Keep your firewood outside, under a tarp, to avoid insect infestations and a significant increase in humidity in the house. Contrary to some beliefs, wood dries best outdoors. Buy it in the spring.

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