Yes, it can certainly be one of those tedious little tasks that you forget about or forego in place of other more pressings life issues, however, maintenance of your chimney, brickwork, and fireplace on your home is definitely an important task, and there are more than a few reasons why.
The first and foremost, is obviously the safety of your home and the risk of fire. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) recommends getting an inspection and cleaning at least once a year, EVEN IF YOU NEVER USE YOUR FIREPLACE. Birds and other animals can cause destruction, cracks can form due to extreme weather changes, and water or moisture can become a problem. All of which you might have no idea is taking place. A knowledgeable, professional specialist can help you make sure your place is clean and ready to use safely. They can address any concerns that may be quick and inexpensive fixes at the time, but left undone could cause major problems down the road. A specialist, like our guys, know what to look for that we may tend to overlook due to the busyness of life in general. When it comes to a chimney and fireplace, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" doesn't work well, because the problems can arise suddenly from an unseen or left unfixed problem in the masonry.
When it comes time to sell your home, poor maintenance of the masonry could be one of the most costly deterrents to potential home buyers because of the risk and fear of the unknown in a poorly cared for chimney/fireplace in the home. This is one great area that can easily close down a sale, when it easily could have been fixed ahead of time. It is hard to earn trust with a potential buyer when they have no idea how well the fireplace works. Not knowing this will cause them to have a costly fireplace inspection, and then a costly "fix it" report. Not something home sellers want to deal with in an emergency, when they are trying to close a deal and not lose the house they want to purchase and move into. Most reputable fireplace cleaning, inspection, and repair companies will book out a month or even two. Emergency appointments can get unnecessarily costly.
Best idea is to stick to a regular maintenance schedule. If you like your guy, set up a yearly appointment. In our business, we will call these customers and set up their yearly appointment, usually at the same rates they paid the year before, or the cheapest value we are currently running. We want to have a relationship with our customers not a "one time, cheapest price, might as well because we have a coupon "type relationship with our customers.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to know if it's time to get some care on your chimney/fireplace:
If it been longer than a year OR if you use the fireplace OFTEN and should get it cleaned more than once a year.
If the draw of the fireplace doesn't seem like it's as strong as it used to be.
If you see the smoke filling back into the room
If the room looks a bit hazy
If there are broken pieces of brick on your yard.
If looking up at the chimney you see it leaning, deteriorating, or visible signs of cracking.
if the bricks or mortar actually looks wet or dirty, that can be moisture absorbed into it, which indicates the need for repair.
Bricks spalling, where the face of the brick has fallen off due to moisture behind it that pops the brick face off.
If bricks look like they are flaking and you see pieces of clay pieces on your roof.
If you recently bought the home, even if they gave you a history of the chimney/fireplace, a thorough qualified inspection is highly recommended.
If you think things are fine, there are no "symptoms", but the chimney hasn't been looked at in a while. Regular maintenance is important because if any of the caulking is breaking or pulled away, which cannot easily be seen, especially looking at the roof from the ground, you can get water travelling down the outside of the chimney, and/or the inside of the home, which is going to cause many problems, not the least of which, mold issues.
If you live in an area where the temperature changes from season to season are extreme. Going from hot sun on a roof to desperate cold freezes in the winter can wreak havoc on any building materials, particularly constructs that have multiple elements(think brick to caulking, for example), where spaces and gaps can form.
Our team at Element Hearth and Home has qualified technicians that are skilled in the fire safety codes put out by the National Fire Protection Association. They use a special camera system to take pictures and videos with bright lighting in order to get a real time look at areas commonly unable to be seen by the human eye. The inspections and cleanings are thorough, and the report clearly states any safety or constructive concerns.