Add chimneys to your post- #Napaearthquake assessment checklist

August 24, 2014

Following the Aug. 24, 2014 earthquake in Napa, California, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) reminds homeowners on the West Coast that the integrity of your chimney may have been affected. An inspection of your chimney by a qualified professional is in order to ensure your post-earthquake home heating safety.



Photo from KTVU-TV.

Your first concern should be the general condition of the exterior of the chimney and a concern that the chimney may also be so badly damaged or misaligned as to threaten people or property if it falls. If this is the case, immediately contact a chimney service professional and ask that the dangerous section is removed.

If you believe that the exterior of your chimney is basically sound, the immediate risk is lessened.

However, prior to using your fireplace, woodstove or furnace for the first time, the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends a Level II chimney inspection to ensure that your chimney’s interior has not suffered damage from the earthquake which would allow the escape of heat, products of combustion, or hazardous gas, into your living space.

In a typical Level II inspection, a video camera inserted into the chimney flue (between the stove/fireplace) on a lighted rod is indicated. In California homes where that flue is shorter (10 feet, for example) it is possible to do a visual inspection without a camera if you have a clear line of sight.

(What is a Level II inspection? See http://www.csia.org/homeowner-resources/chimney_inspections.aspx)

Chimney issues are not uncommon as a result of an earthquake. The Association of Bay Area Governments states that the 1994 Northridge, California earthquake damaged 60,000 masonry chimneys beyond repair.

“All systems with flues in your residence that provide venting, including the chimney and furnace as well as the clothes dryer exhaust, should be inspected before re-use,” said Ashley Eldridge, director of education for CSIA.

More: A visual roundup of chimney damage from CSIA’s Storify account.

More: Broken chimneys a common earthquake casualty from KTVU-TV.

Chimney inspections and preventative chimney maintenance is best left to a qualified chimney professional, like a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep. Find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep and learn more about caring for your chimney and home heating system online at http://www.CSIA.org.

CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps have earned the chimney and venting industry’s most respected credential by passing an intensive examination based on fire codes, clearances and standards for the construction and maintenance of chimney and venting systems. They are also well versed in the characteristics of fuels available for home heating such as wood, gas and oil. This knowledge allows them to expertly diagnose and solve chimney and venting problems.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to chimney and venting system safety. CSIA is committed to the elimination of residential chimney fires, carbon monoxide intrusion and other chimney-related hazards that result in the loss of lives and property. To achieve these goals, CSIA devotes its resources to educating the public, chimney and venting professionals and other fire prevention specialists about the prevention and correction of chimney and venting system hazards.

We express our condolences to those impacted by today’s earthquake.


National Chimney Sweep Training School inspiring for CSIA instructor

August 19, 2014


Michael Segerstrom, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep since 2004, is also a member of the CSIA board of directors and is a CSIA instructor. He taught at the National Chimney Sweep Training School in June — for the first time- and the experience left him inspired. This is an as-told-to article that appears in the August edition of Sweeping magazine.

This was my first full week of teaching the same group of students, not new faces every day, and teaching a class I had never taught before! The longest I had done was a 1-day, 8-hour class and I did it four times this year and I think as many times last year. I did a lot of 60 or 90 minutes classes at different trade shows.

I was nervous but I did have confidence going into it – a big confidence gain because I was asked.

Being able to work alongside guys who are legends or icons in the industry – guys like Tom Urban and Bob Fish and Ashley Eldridge. Just to be along side those guys. Inspiring is the word I would use.

Being in class, doing actual demonstrations and looking at guys when they see something for the first time, and being a part of showing that to them for the first time, is like watching when the light bulb goes off inside their head.

More: Sign up for the National Chimney Sweep Training School. (Hurry! The last class for 2014 will be held Sept. 22-27 at the CSIA Tech Center in Plainfield, Indiana.)

The study groups at night were good. Because we wouldn’t just study, but talk about the industry and the things that we’ve experienced, the new guys and those who have been doing it a while.

I really felt like I could make a tangible contribution to the industry. Not just by teaching off slides, but sharing my own experiences as it relates to things and answering guys’ questions and seeing most of them walk away CSIA CCS Certified at the end of the week.

It’s a pride thing. I want all of my guys to get 100s. But I understand that it is not an easy test to pass. You have to know what you are doing to pass the test.

Physically I was exhausted, standing on my feet for a week. And I almost lost my voice. By the time I got back to New Jersey my voice was just about gone.

I addressed the class on Friday, because I left and they tested on Saturday. The message I tried to deliver was, regardless of if you pass or fail tomorrow, take one thing that you learned, at least one thing, bring it back and try to implement it. Maybe it’s a new brush something that simple – just one thing and implement it.


There were several times during the class where we talked about common-sense approaches that guys had never thought about. Where it never occurred to them to try that. Like Bob Fish; when he inspects a chimney, he puts a knee board in front of it! For me, having been doing this for 17 years that something I had never tried … and when he explained it to me, the light bulb went off in my head!

More: Watch a promotional video on the National Chimney Sweep Training School.

As an owner-operator I still work in the field, I still go out on all the repairs and most of the sweeps and inspections. So it was pretty intuitive. I think I was able to connect because I have current field experience.

You’ll learn things that you’ll take for the rest of your career that will make your jobs easier. That will make you better at your job, and in the end, make your job more profitable. Or your boss, if you are an employee.

If a boss was considering sending his employee it will make them better sweeps. Whether or not they pass the test, they will learn things that they will be able to implement right away that will make them manage their time better, make them perform services better, and in the end make them a more profitable employee to have.

This was 20 students in a room. They had to learn stuff, so we spent a lot of time together. I feel like I made some friends. I hope I see all of them again, and 10 years we’ll still be friends.

I hope they do real well in their careers whether they are owners or employees.

The way the class was put together, the order of things, everything flowed and fit – nothing dated or inaccurate … It was a really comfortable program to teach.

It was my first experience with what is taught at the National Chimney Sweep Training School. It’s a solid program.

More on Mike: Visit his company web page.


CSIAccess e-mail newsletter for August 2014

August 11, 2014



CSIA plans upgrade to Successful Chimney Sweeping manual; 2014-15 fees to stay same

August 7, 2014

Chimney Safety Institute of America is always trying to stay responsive to the needs of our chimney sweep community.

Following today’s meeting of the board of directors, CSIA President Mark A. Stoner announced some important changes to: CSIA’s Successful Chimney Sweeping manual; certification fees; waiting period for retests; a whitepaper on after-market parts; logo violations; and the popularity of csia.org.

** The Successful Chimney Sweeping manual and testing are scheduled for a full rewrite in the upcoming 12 to 18 months, which means a release date by 2016. The SCS manual was revised and updated in October 2011, the eighth edition. The subject material in CSIA’s in-person and online review, along with the exams, are improved on an as-needed basis or as warranted.

Stoner said as many as 1,000 sweeps will be contacted through the 2014-2015 study year to “help participate in the project by helping us understand your daily activities as a chimney professional in your area.”

Stoner says, “This will be the most comprehensive study on the chimney sweep trade that has ever been performed. This data will help us create the best possible manual, review and test in our industry’s history.”

Until a new edition is published, sweeps should continue to rely upon the 2011 edition of the SCS manual, along with the 2013 edition of the NFPA 211, and the 2006 IRC.

** The annual certification fee that CSIA charges will remain the same for 2014-15 — $159 for those who are also in the National Chimney Sweep Guild, and $209 for those that are not NCSG members.  Fees for books/reviews/exams will also remain the same. Our pricing is discussed in the certification renewal area of csia.org.

** The waiting period for re-testing following a failure of either the CCS or C-DET exam is now 14 days, instead of 30 days, effective immediately.

Sweeps or techs can still take the test as many times as they need if they fail within one year of the original testing date, and the fees are at a reduced rate.

** CSIA’s board is exploring the possibility of constructing a new multipurpose facility on land CSIA owns adjacent to our 10,000-square-foot Technology Center at 2155 Commercial Drive, Plainfield, Indiana. This facility would be designed to accommodate more classrooms and equipment, so we could offer additional year-round training, such as indoor masonry classes.  “We’ve opened up talks to look into the feasibility in building another building. This is a step in the right direction for us. Part of building anything is the cost, and how are you going to fund that cost,” Stoner said. “So we are starting off with a very conservative plan.”

** A portion of proceeds from CSIA’s annual auction, in concert with manufacturers donations, is being used to pay for a white paper on the use of after-market parts. That white paper will include testing at Intertek labs. CSIA is hoping the project will be finished this Fall to present to the National Chimney Sweep Guild members, as well as CSIA CCS chimney sweeps. We understand how important this issue is to our sweep population.

** The topic of CSIA and NCSG logo violators have been talked about on many social networking sites, and Stoner wants all sweeps to know we take the issue very seriously.

As the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep and CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician trademarks continue to gain value, it has become more common for those who do not hold the credentials to hold themselves out as certified. If you find that a non-certified person is using our trademark, please let us know via the reporting form on our website so that we can continue to protect our trademarks.

On that page, we list “how to report violators.” Put simply, what you need to do is send as much documentation about the violation as you can — that can involve getting yellow pages photocopies, a “screen-grab” on a website, photos of the offenders’ van or equipment, anything you can think of. Just one complaint is sufficient, and sweeps can be rest assured that our offices are diligent about taking every measure to ensure that the offender get compliant or remove all NCSG and CSIA material.

The board is also planning to review our procedures for potential updates. We’ll keep you posted on the progress and any changes that are made.

 ** We expect another record-setting year for csia.org, the industry’s No. 1 website for helpful consumer information, where homeowners can turn to. Google Analytics tells us that the number of page views to the site from Jan. 1-July 27, 2014 is up 15 percent (406,363 vs. 353,249) compared to the same period in 2013. Also, the number of individual web users is up 71.9 percent (179,306 vs 104,255) and sessions is up 61 percent.

CSIA.org is also up dramatically from the same period in 2012 and 2011.

How this matters to you? When our numbers go up, your numbers are going up.

“The average chimney sweep listed gets over 80 clicks annually from homeowners requesting their phone numbers,” Stoner said. “That means that is costs about $2-3 per lead from our site. In marketing terms alone, it’s one of the very best, least expensive types of advertising that you can do for your business.”

** Chimney Safety Institute of America is proud to announce that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has confirmed the integrity of CSIA course offerings, and our commitment to serving our U.S. military members. The “in-compliance” letter to us also stated, “The education and training opportunities that your institution continues to provide veterans and their dependents are appreciated.”


Our chimney-themed video library reaches 10,000 views

August 4, 2014

People like to watch – and you don’t need a frolicking cat to get them to hit the play button.

At the Chimney Safety Institute of America, we know that firsthand. Our relatively new YouTube channel just exceeded 10,000 plays, with three-fourths of our audience having tuned in during 2014.

Our YouTube channel was created in 2012 with only a handful of videos.

We’ve added more than 50, many of which we filmed ourselves or through a public relations company (Bohlsen Group, of Indianapolis) that did some great filming for us, including several voice overs.

The channel is a reflection of Chimney Safety Institute of America’s dual mission of industry education mixed with homeowner resources, so a viewer is bound to encounter a testimonial from a “brand new sweep” talking about the value of the CCS certified sweep credential … as well as a helpful video about purchasing firewood in the summer so it can season in time for Thanksgiving.  don’t even mind being informed, if the content is easy to understand as well as concise, and to the point.

The most-watched videos on our page include a demonstration of what a chimney fire looks like inside of the flue.

Some facts and figures:

CSIA YouTube viewers have watched an estimated 9,735 minutes this year, 62 percent of which was via a personal computer. Smartphone/tablet views accounted for 36 percent. The tiniest percentage watched from their game console.

We continue to upload new videos regularly, as this helps consumers and other interested parties know what’s happening at the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the resources that are available to them (including locating a CSIA chimney sweep in their zip code) on our website, csia.org. Our site has a lot of help that’s in text form as well!



Video can be a great resource for CSIA certified chimney sweeps to showcase their skills, and should be part of your public outreach. 


CSIA Online Education

July 30, 2014

The Chimney Safety Institute of America is proud of our online offers. Our e-learning includes more than 70 classes, including specialty courses such as “Lining Masonry with Stainless Steel.”

Here’s a slideshow presentation on Prezi that can walk you through what CSIA’s “chimney academy” looks like.


You can see for yourself what the pages will look like once you’ve enrolled in events such as the CCS Review and the C-DET course. It includes instructions on where to put in your login and password.

Here’s the place to find course descriptions on the CSIA website.


Sweep one for Zack

July 28, 2014

Zack Darpinian, a CSIA Certified Sweep with Full Service Chimney in Olathe, Kansas, was severely injured in a car accident July 25 on his way to work. His otherwise routine Friday, and his life, were turned upside down.

He suffered severe head trauma and is still in serious condition at a local hospital.

Although Zack’s progress has been amazing over the first 3 days after the accident, he has a long way to go.

The trauma to the right side of the brain was so severe, that the left side of the body is not as responsive as we’d like it to be and he’ll need a lot of physical rehab once he is allowed to leave the hospital.

Fortunately, he remembers his friends and family, but with all head trauma situations, there are bouts with memory loss, and the severity of that situation has not been fully assessed.


Sweep One for Zack. Donate to a special account.

Zack, who will be 19 on August 3, came to Full Service Chimney with an engineering background and “just a boat-load of aptitude,” said Robert Berry, owner of Full Service Chimney.

“That background coupled with his observation skills, his ability to understand Code and the underlying principles therein, as well as his fortitude and drive to teach homeowners about chimney safety lead him to a very successful start in this chimney career field,” he said.

We also would mention that part of Zack’s zeal to work with Full Service Chimney and be the best sweep he could be was because he was recently engaged and wants to stay in the area, marry his high school sweetheart, and raise a family.

Zack earned CCS badge No. 8478 when he passed his exam on July 19, 2014. His profile is listed on our CSIA website.

Even though he is a newcomer to the field, he has already made a positive impression on Jeremy and Brandi Biswell, who own a competitor (The Flues Brothers Chimney Service) in Zack’s area. It was Jeremy and Brandi’s combined encouragement to Zak that helped him pass the test on his second try and get his CCS credential.

Please help us relieve some  of the stress of the medical bills, daily expenses and lost wages so we can help get Zack back on his feet and back to the life he wants to begin with his fiancee, Kalee.

CSIA has established a special account on the gofundme site: Sweep One For Zack. We hope you’ll visit the page and donate the income from you might charge for one sweeping job.

If you aren’t comfortable with that site, you may send donations to Zack in care of Full Service at the following mailing address. (Cards are also welcome)

Zack Darpinian

c/o Full Service Chimney

P. O. Box 10144

Olathe, KS 66051

The Full Service Chimney family is:  Robert, Mary Jo, Alexis, Ritchie, Jake, Noah, and Zack!



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