CSIA education, chimney sweeping as a great career choice for U.S. veterans.

July 16, 2014

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.”

Here’s the letter.

Letter to CSIA from the VA


CSIA, MACA join forces on unique 2-day event

July 2, 2014

The Mid-Atlantic Chimney Association, also known as MACA, will sponsor an extremely beneficial two-day event in Virginia in August that will feature new Chimney Safety Institute of America course on chimney fires, as well as health and safety.

The Aug. 19-20 event at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel will be held in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Pricing starts at $199.

The event includes instruction from CSIA Education Director Ashley Eldridge and is open to all chimney and venting industry professionals.

MORE: Sign up here!

It coincides with a MACA meeting.

Eldridge’s presentation is based on the highly regarded whitepaper, “Chimney Fires: Causes, Effects & Evaluation” that was first printed in 1992 and prepared by the CSIA Chimney Fire Education and Research Task Force.

The white paper, already available at no cost to sweeps, is in its fourth printing.

“There is a need in the industry for this type of course, and we are meeting that need,” Eldridge said.

The task force included some of the most respected names in the industry: Chairman Jerry Isenhour; Jim Brewer; Eldridge; and P.C. Luter III, with technical services by David S. Johnston. “I believe people will benefit from knowing the content of the white paper.”

The Health and Safety portion of the two-day event is also going to be beneficial due to the industry need.

“They are difficult CEUs to acquire because most of the education that is offered in the industry is technical in nature. But, CEUs for health and safety are just as important, and in demand. We’re seeing more awareness on the need for health and safety, and CSIA is best equipped to do it.”

MACA Director of Education James Bostaph, who is also treasurer for the CSIA Board of Directors, added: “The safety part is sorely needed, and expertise in chimney fires from one of the authors of a landmark document for CSIA is vital. Sweeps who sign up will receive an immersive experience that goes beyond just a slideshow presentation.”


‘Gas Hearth class’ at CSIA July 14-18 is a can’t-miss event

June 25, 2014


A who’s who of leaders in the gas hearth industry will be at CSIA July 14-18 to teach the “Installing & Troubleshooting Gas Hearth Appliances” class, an opportunity you won’t want to miss.

Jim Brewer, a well-respected chimney sweep and subject-matter expert, and Mike Van Buren, a professional engineer and past HBPA technical director, will be lead instructors of this event, which is hands-on. It will offer 16 CSIA CEUs and give participants an opportunity to acquire the NFI gas credential.

“Mike and I have a lot of experience, and we enjoy sharing it,” Brewer said. Bob Priesing and Dennis Dobbs, industry veterans, will be on hand to participate.

MORE: Sign up for the class on Chimney Safety Institute of America’s events calendar.

“It’s an outstanding opportunity to receive training from some of the biggest names in the business,” said CSIA Director of Education Ashley Eldridge. “And the training on appliances is not proprietary. It covers all of the appliances out there.”

Brewer said the gas-fireplace market is becoming as popular, or more popular, than wood-burning types. “It’s a growing market that’s not being well tended” after installation. But it could be a good business opportunity for sweeps who want to service gas fireplaces, he said.

MORE: On CSIA’s Soundcloud channel, hear from Jim Brewer about why the gas fireplace program was created.


For additional information, e-mail CSIA Program Director Claire Rutledge at crutledge@csia.org. Note: Class size is limited, so don’t delay!


CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps and C-DET technicians, available for hire

June 20, 2014


The Chimney Safety Institute of America educates and certifies (through testing) chimney sweeps through the CCS credential. CSIA also certifies dryer vent technicians through our C-DET credential.

Everyone on this list has their own web profile page on csia.org and are findable by zip code.

One of the perks of the CCS and C-DET certification is having their name appear in the 4-page advertising spread CSIA has in the monthly edition of Sweeping.

Caption: Our CCS Review and Exam May 23 in Baltimore, Maryland was led by CSIA instructor Rich Rua (pictured)


New CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps – we added 36 certified sweeps in 11 states!


Tikar Carroll ● Midtown Sweeps ● Lakewood



Michael Palmquist ● Max The Chimney Sweep ● Trumbull

Nick Lavoie ● Max The Chimney Sweep ● Trumbull



William Mew ● A-1 Safety Chimney Services, Inc. ● Lombard

Shawn Rutledge ● Lindemann Chimney ● Lake Bluff

Barrett Warnke ● Lindemann Chimney ● Lake Bluff

Joe Beatty ● Lindemann Chimney ● Lake Bluff



Mike Harrison ● Olde Towne Chimney Sweeps Inc. ● Jeffersonville

Warren Ginder ● The Mad Hatter ● Indianapolis



Brandi Biswell ● The Flues Brothers Chimney Service ● Overland Park

Jarrett Bertoncin ● The Flues Brothers Chimney Service ● Overland Park

Glenn Sager ● The Flues Brothers Chimney Service ● Overland Park



Kyle Nunn ● Barnhill Chimney Company ● Lexington



Mark Torralba ● High’s Chimney Service, Inc. ● Gaithersburg

Vincent Decrisci ● Chimney Tek ● Pasadena

Brian Doyle ● Old Line Chimney Sweeps ● Pasadena


New York

Charles DeMarco ● Hudson Valley Chimney Service, Inc. ● Poughkeepsie


North Carolina

Chris Nesmith ● Clean Sweep the Fireplace Shop ● Waynesville

Johnny Ferguson ● Environmental Chimney Sweep Inc. ● Fairview

Vernon “Gene” Herring, Jr. ● Mr. Smoke Stack ● Raleigh

Joseph Quaile ● Chimneys Plus, Inc. ● Pittsboro, NC

Mike David ● Environmental Chimney Sweep Inc. ● Fairview

Christopher Sears ● Mr. Smoke Stack ● Raleigh

Alex Tinsley ● Clean Sweep the Fireplace Shop ● Waynesville

Chris White ● Owens Chimney Systems ● Indian Trail

Timothy Wiley ● Clean Sweep the Fireplace Shop ● Waynesville



Michael Wargo ● Estates Chimney Sweep, Inc. ● Chalfont

Andrew Homan ● Estates Chimney Sweep, Inc. ● Chalfont

Joshua Ross ● Thomas’ Chimney + Stoves LLC ● Kingsley

Dominic Martorana ● Mauger + Company ● West Chester

Avery Soderman ● Wells & Sons Chimney Service ● Gilbertsville

Philip Ciminera ● Lehigh Valley Chimney Specialists ● Macungie

Khristian Vicknair ● The Village Chimney Sweeps Inc. ● York

Tristan Burrington ● Antrim’s Complete Chimney Service ● Pottstown

Paul Powers ● Metnan Oil Company ● Tullytown



Jennifer Cross ● Darren D. Sharp, Inc. ● North Bennington


Congratulations to these 17 folks who earned the CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician credential.

Caption: Our C-DET Review and Exam May 9 in Chattanooga, TN was led by CSIA instructor Bob Priesing (pictured).bobpriesing


Dennis Dobbs ● The Fireplace Service Center ● Fort Payne

Scottie Davis ● Top Hat Chimney Sweeps ● Opelika

Dustin Doty ● The Fireplace Service Center ● Fort Payne



Michael Irace ● Lint-B-Gone LLC ● Wethersfield



Jim Robinson ● Santa’s Friend Chimney Service ● Brandon



Dalton Rose ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Smyrna

Jason Tucker ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Nashville

Mike Ash ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Smyrna

John Perdue ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Smyrna

Henry “Clyde” Knox ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Smyrna

Matt Keatts ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Nashville

Joshua Lee ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Smyrna

Chris Powell ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Smyrna

Tim Wilson ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Smyrna

Kevin Chitwood ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Smyrna

Charles Walters ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Smyrna

Mark Harris ● Ashbusters Chimney Service Inc. ● Smyrna


Join us: See our CSIA event calendar for your opportunity to get a CCS or C-DET credential!


Black Goose, Copperfield team up on a rescue

June 16, 2014







Note: This blog post is based on an article that appears in this month’s edition of Sweeping magazine. Photo by Black Goose Chimney. Caption: The stove, which was in use during the staff’s initial trip to the client’s house.

By Jim Bostaph, President – Black Goose Chimney | Treasurer, Board of Directors, Chimney Safety Institute of America

The phone rang at 12:40 p.m.

“Thank you for choosing Black Goose Chimney.  My name is Ike, how may I help you?”

It was Daisy Johnson from the Surry County Crisis Program.

Ike Rowland, our VP of Operations, asked how we could help. Daisy said she had a client with a no-heat emergency.

The client’s only source of heat was an old wood stove, and there were issues.

The address was outside our local service area, more than an hour away, but we were still willing to go.

MORE: Read about Jim and Ike and the Black Goose Chimney team.

She told Ike the budget for the trip fee, the inspection, the cleaning, and any repairs. She gave us the contact information for the client and we called within the hour.

One of our crews had finished early that day, so we were able to send them the same afternoon to do the inspection and see if there was a quick fix to the problem.

They found an old Wood Chief stove that was listed in 1978. The door would not stay closed, the glass front was cracked, the stove was rusted, most of the firebricks were missing or broken, and inside the stove, the metal brick clips and walls were warped.  Clearances to the side and rear were not met and the stove rested directly on the vinyl floor. 

The trip to the rooftop showed the clay liners did not extend “above the roofline and the scan showed the remaining tiles were all fractured.

MORE: Interested in inspecting your old wood stove and chimney? Hire a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep using our free zip-code locator.

What a mess! 

We called back to the Crisis Program and told them our recommendations were to reline the chimney and replace the stove, making sure the new stove met proper clearances and had the required floor protection. When we started talking dollars, she stated this range was well beyond the limited budget they were allowed.

Our next call was to Russ Dimmitt at Copperfield Chimney Supply.

He had helped us out with a similar charity project a few years back. Russ and Copperfield gladly donated a new stove, a Timberwolf Economizer, the connector pipes, liner, insulation, and component kit.

Ike — who is also a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep — and a crew returned to the home a few days later after securing a building permit and taking delivery of the materials. The old tiles came out, the new liner and insulation went in. The old stove went out, the new stove, floor protection, and connector pipes went in.  We even bricked up the old breach and installed a new terra cotta thimble in a better spot.

The atmosphere at our office was a happy one, we were able to help a family in need.  A few days later the phone rang again.  It was the client, stating the new stove didn’t heat as well as the old one; what could we do?  One more call to Copperfield.  Would it be possible to get the optional blower for the stove?  Russ was out at the time of the call, but we received a call back in less than an hour stating the blower was on the way – no charge.

One last trip to the home.  The blower was installed, the client briefed on the operation, the stove was fired up and the blower worked perfectly.  Smiles all around and the satisfaction of a job well done.

Thanks to Russ Dimmitt and Copperfield for all that you do to help!

Read more about Copperfield Chimney on their Facebook page.


CSIAccess makes debut

June 6, 2014

CSIAccess makes debut

CSIA’s new June 2014 report, available by e-mail and the web, is now live! Look for it monthly as one of the benefits of the CCS or C-DET credential available through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.


Finding solutions for leaking chimneys

June 3, 2014

By Stuart Karanovich and John Meredith


“When I was a young man I had a very good friend who owned a service station. One evening after a night out he confided in me that while he loved what he was doing, he was going broke and would probably soon be forced to sell. He knew that I had some business experience and asked if I would be willing to come by, take a look at his operation, and see if I could come up with some recommendations which might help him. Back in those days there was an attendant who pumped the gas. The problem was that was all he was doing. I suggested that they start looking at the WHOLE car, from the tires, to the belts, oil levels, hoses and wiper blades. Soon, cars coming in for gas were leaving with gas AND these needed repairs. My friend’s business quickly got back on sound financial footing and his customers raved about his service, all because they stopped doing just the obvious and started treating the whole car as a system.” — Stuart

I tell you this story because I see the same thing happening in our industry as it relates to water intrusion.

We go out to clean a chimney and while we’re there we notice the chimney doesn’t have a cap, the crown is cracked, or the flashing is missing, and we correct it.

We did the obvious, but we didn’t treat the chimney as a system. In other words, we pumped the gas! And when we did, we may or may not have fixed our customers problem.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not opposed to fixing the obvious problems that you encounter in the field. What I am suggesting is that you look at water penetration through the lens of the chimney as a whole, see it as a system. You will provide a better service to your customers, eliminate unpaid call backs, and increase your profits.

Most experts agree that the durability of external masonry chimneys depends primarily on its resistance to water penetration.

Water damage may include corrosion, deterioration, dimensional damage, efflorescence, freeze-thaw spalling, staining, damage to interior finishes and ultimately, structure failure.

Chimney design, material selection, and quality of construction are the most important factors in determining the ability of a masonry chimney to resist water penetration. Proper construction practices are beyond the scope of this article. Instead we will concentrate on understanding the causes and mechanisms of water penetration in an effort to better diagnose and solve these problems before severe damage occurs.


The main source of masonry water intrusion is driving rain, which is most evident at the corners and top of a chimney system because of changes in air flow patterns at these locations. When masonry chimneys are exposed to driving rains for several hours they will usually reach their saturation point. Depending on conditions, saturated walls can take from one to several days to shed most of this water.

Trees, plants, and micro-organisms like algae, prevent it from drying, which often leads to leaks and/or damage to the chimney structure.

Mortar Joints

This is often complicated by the use of other than type N mortar as recommended by the Brick Institute of America (BIA) for above grade exterior structures such a chimneys. Proper tooling of the joints will also affect the chimneys ability to withstand water intrusion. The BIA recommends that only concave, v-shaped or compacted grapevine mortar joints be used for exterior masonry because these methods compress the mortar to achieve a better bond with the brick. Weathered joints are also recognized as acceptable for exterior use. None of these joints don’t tend to collect water and therefore provide better rain resistance than flush, struck, raked, or extruded joints, which are acceptable for interior applications.

Condensation Problems

Water damage can also be caused by condensation within the chimney system itself. Chimney systems are especially vulnerable to condensation because water vapor is a large component of flue gasses. Most of the water vapor escapes out of the flue, but some will pass through tile liners and mortar joints between the liners, especially if they are cracked, deteriorated or missing.

The greatest exposure to condensation occurs during the heating season as surface wetting and use of the system produce high humidity in the air cavities surrounding the liners. When the temperature of the outer chimney wall falls below the temperature in the air cavity, condensation often occurs on the inside walls. Independent testing has determined that each masonry unit is capable of absorbing up to 1/2 lb of water from condensation.

Stress Cracks & Volume Changes

Stress cracks and volume changes in the masonry can also be responsible for water penetration. Stress cracking may be caused by movements in the foundation, structural frames, wood expansion, vibrations and fire. Volume changes can be caused by temperature, moisture, water or salt crystallization, or corrosion of embedded metal. Water can enter a chimney system through these cracks where it accumulates until it either penetrates to the interior, drains to flashings where it is redirected through weep holes, or simply evaporates.

Masonry Absorption

Although masonry is relatively dense, it is also a porous material composed of a network of interconnected pores called capillaries. These capillaries circulate water by means of suction. Capillary suction is an important factor for openings smaller than .01 mm, while hairline cracks can range from between 0.0 mm to 1 mm in width.

Chimney Flashings

According to the Brick Industry Association, without flashing a chimney system, any intersection or interruption of materials becomes an avenue for moisture to enter the system. They recommend flashing at three primary areas: the base of the chimney, the intersection of the chimney and the roof, and at the chimney crown.

The base of the chimney is constructed in much the same manner as a brick cavity wall. Flashing should be used at the juncture of the foundation and the brickwork. The flashing should extend through the exterior wall and turn up behind the exterior face of the brick.

Where the chimney system passes through the roof, base and counter flashing should be installed. The base flashing should extend a minimum of four inches along the roof and four inches up the chimney face, with tabs at all corners. The counter flashing should be lapped over the base flashing a minimum of three inches. It should extend through the chimney wall and be bent upwards into the air space between the chimney and flue tile. All joints in the counter and base flashing should be completely sealed.

Flashing the chimney crown is often overlooked when looking at water penetration. The BIA recommends that the flashing be placed directly below the crown, extending through the chimney and either inserted into a gap between the tiles or up over the top flue tile and bent over the top of the flue opening. Using this method of flashing does not negate the need for the use of sealant at the juncture of the flue liner and chimney crown.

Chimney Crowns

Most of the crowns that we encounter are either improperly designed or failing, and a prime source for water to penetrate the chimney system. Poor crown construction is one of the leading causes of chimney deterioration. According to the BIA, crowns should be constructed of concrete, not mortar, they should also be two inches thick at the thinnest portion, slope downward from the flue liner, and extend over the edge of the chimney at least two-and-a-half inches in all directions. They should also have a drip edge no closer than one inch from the wall of the chimney and there should be a bond break between the crown and the flue to allow for expansion and contraction.

I have attempted to cover the most common sources for water penetration in masonry chimneys, but this list is far from complete. I am sure that some of you have encountered water penetration problems that seemed to defy logic, or at the very least was not an intuitive find.

The Chimney Problem Checklist

John Meredith, CEO and founder of SaverSystems, recognized many years ago the need to treat water permeance in masonry chimneys as a system and developed the Chimney Problem Checklist to assist in doing so.

Using the Chimney Problem Checklist and its over 30 points of inspection for each chimney, a technician will be able to accurately determine all possible causes of water intrusion into the chimney system. Armed with that knowledge, you will be able to confidently determine the methods that need to be undertaken to satisfactorily recondition the chimney system.

Working from the Chimney Problem Checklist, the homeowner can then be presented with a proposal that addresses all deficiencies observed during the inspection. Let’s say that we observed small cracks in the crown, water being readily absorbed on the face of the chimney, and a missing (but required) cricket. Our proposal would be written, listing each repair and its cost.

We would also include a separate line item for a discount if the customer opted to have all repairs completed. Our proposal would also state that for us to warrant our water remediation, all repairs suggested would need to be completed.

If our customer decided to have only the crown repaired and a water repellent applied to the face of the chimney and to defer having a cricket installed, then acceptance of our proposal would carry the understanding that if they continued to have water penetration issues and we had to return to correct them, it would not be warranty work, eliminating an unpaid call back.

An important point to be aware of, is that water penetration in a chimney system can often be caused by several conditions. Each condition by itself may not be enough to overwhelm the system, but when taken together do, allowing water where it should not be.

If a customer chooses to correct some, but not all of the conditions you have uncovered during your inspection, water penetration may stop for a period of time, only to reappear when the defect(s) not corrected deteriorate further, and are then able to overwhelm the system, allowing water to penetrate. In those cases, revisiting your original proposal and educating the homeowner will avoid unpaid warranty work.

Through the use of The Chimney Problem Checklist, and by viewing water penetration issues in masonry chimneys as a system, you will solve more of your customers’ problems the first time, maximizing their satisfaction, and your profitability.

Note: This article originally appeared in the May issue of Sweeping magazine, the monthly magazine provided to members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild. 

Next steps: Contact the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep in your area. This person, certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America, may be able to help! Use our free zip-code finder at csia.org/search.


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