Your chimney and fireplace work together to create an eye-catching home centerpiece and a source of warmth and comfort. (Plus, without them, how does Santa Claus slide down or Mary Poppins' chimney-sweeping friends pop up?)
Chimneys often appear to be the essence of durability -- literally rock-solid home features that don't need much attention. But despite their stalwart appearance, chimneys require regular cleaning and care inside and out to maintain.
Masonry chimneys are the most common, built from brick or stone and mortar and integrated into the home's structural design. They're highly durable; when properly maintained, they'll last more than 100 years.
"If you use your chimney regularly, you should have it cleaned once per year," said Rupa Mehta, Angi Outdoor & Everyday Services home expert. "You should address cracks and leaks as soon as they appear."
The most common repairs include filling brick and mortar cracks and installing new caps or crowns.
Repairing simple cracks or leaks on a chimney runs $160-$750, and completing them as needed can add decades to your chimney's life. However, even the best chimney needs to be replaced after enough decades in service.
"When a pro tells you that your chimney has suffered a lot of damage or is approaching its end of life, it's time to rebuild," Mehta said.
A partial rebuild costs $1,000-$3,000. Completely rebuilding a chimney can cost as much as $10,000.
When hiring a masonry pro to work on your chimney, ask about their experience with your specific type of chimney and materials. Chimneys come in a variety of types, and the right skills and experience play a big role in doing the work correctly. Ask for photographs of any damage they propose to repair.
Chimney and fireplace damage can be hard to see without being on the roof or inside the flue itself, particularly with masonry designs. Requesting photos will help you understand the scope of your job -- and ensure your pro's suggested repairs are accurate.
Protect your chimney by paying attention to detail and addressing problems as they arise rather than putting them off. Good usage habits will save trouble down the road as well. Here are four ways to keep your chimney in tip-top shape:
• Keep your chimney cap tight: Chimney caps protect your chimney from the elements. Without them, rain can go down the flue and deteriorate the mortar joints. Plus, animals love to use uncapped chimneys as hiding places, so you'll do both yourself and them a favor by keeping them out. When a chimney cap is damaged, it's often a better idea to replace rather than repair it.
• Get your gas fireplace inspected annually: Gas fireplaces offer easy and convenient flames, but don't take that simplicity for granted. A malfunctioning gas fireplace can release odorless carbon monoxide into the air. Get your gas fireplace inspected and checked by a pro every year. This service will cost $75-$125.
• Pay attention to masonry: You'll catch minor repairs before they become big and save money by regularly checking the exterior of your chimney for problems. Pros say a chimney neglected too long might need to be rebuilt from the roofline up. Replacing old mortar with newer materials, known as tuckpointing, costs an average of $200.
• Don't skip chimney cleaning: If you use your fireplace more than once or twice a week, you should hire a chimney sweep yearly. If you use it only for holidays or occasional weekends, you can go two or three years between cleanings. However, it would be best if you didn't go longer than that. This service usually costs $130-$380.