Chimney sweep celebrates 20 years in Milford
MILFORD — With the inaugural snowflakes of the season already come and gone, it might be time to think about winter: plummeting temperatures, snow-covered driveways and those dreaded heating bills.
If you have a wood fireplace, chances are you’ve already chopped and stacked your wood. But have you thought about scraping the creosote out of the chimney?
According to the National Fire Protection Association Standard 211, “Chimneys, fireplaces and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits and correct clearances.” And though it is possible to clean your own chimney, hiring a chimney sweep could be a worthwhile investment.
When most people hear chimney sweep, they might envision Dick Van Dyke performing with the soot-covered children of “Mary Poppins.” Depicted in literature from “Oliver Twist” to “The Water Babies,” chimney sweeps have been around for centuries.
Today, chimney sweeping remains a thriving industry, as the heating systems for oil, natural gas, wood and pellet burning appliances need to be maintained.
Rick Magalnick, owner of Rick’s Chimney Sweep, launched his Milford-based business 20 years ago. “I don’t wear a top hat and tails and I don’t sing and dance, but over the years I have serviced 3,600 customers,” Magalnick said.
Graduating in the early 1980s from J.M. Wright Technical High School, Magalnick took a job in the machining industry before joining the Greenwich Fire Department in 1989.
“After I got on the firehouse, I was working part time at the machine shop down in Stamford, but when the industry got slow I needed a new part-time job,” he said.
Answering a help-wanted advertisement in the local newspaper, Magalnick went to work for a chimney sweep in Norwalk. Growing tired of the I-95 commute, Magalnick decided to launch his own business in 1996 sweeping chimneys and installing liners, caps and dampers.
“I was exhausted by the commute and thought ‘I could do this for myself,’” Magalnick said. “So I began buying tools and put my three years of know-how to work.”
He says while the chimney-sweeping industry has advanced with new technology and tools like vacuums, cameras and special tools, the standard chimney brush is still used.
“There’s a rotary system and power sweeping, but at the end of the day I use a brush and a rod,” he said.
Magalnick said it takes about 45 minutes to clean an individual fireplace. He said he works from the inside of the home, cleaning the damper and smoke shelf. “I leave no mess,” he said.
Servicing homes from Greenwich through New Haven and into Shelton, Magalnick has a customer base of about 3,600.
“I do about 400 chimney jobs a year, with the bulk of the jobs coming in from the end of August through the holidays,” he said.
Sue Salvaggio, of Stamford, said finding a reliable chimney sweep isn’t always easy.
“The chimney business is probably one of the hardest when trying to find an honest, reliable, knowledgeable source to clean your chimney. ... If you use Rick, you will have no worries,” she said. “I have had companies who came to my home, were done in 10 minutes and left it covered in dust. Rick does a very thorough job, is very neat and gives you an honest recommendation if there is a problem with your chimney.”
Salvaggio said she has used Rick’s Chimney Sweep since 2004.
“I feel safe lighting a fire for the season after Rick has cleaned and inspected my chimneys,” she said.
Magalnick said a good rule of thumb is to clean your chimney after every chord of wood burned. “Even if you don’t have a fireplace, houses still have chimneys and chimneys need to be cleaned and serviced at least once a year,” he says. “Every house has a heating system that should be serviced.”