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What the home inspector missed, a chimney sweep caught

March 3, 2015
My CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep found the mantel was separating from the wall. A home inspector did not catch this, or what it possibly could mean.

My CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep found the mantel was separating from the wall. A home inspector did not catch this, or what it possibly could mean.

I am extremely appreciative of the home inspector whom my spouse hired to do a run-through of a 19-year-old house we intend to purchase. This professional identified potential mold in the crawl space as well as potential water-entry issues due to poorly installed decorative flashing on part of the roof. In both situations, we investigated further with the appropriate specialists in their respective industries.

The home inspector noted no concerns (positive or negative) about the factory-built Heatilator in the main living room, the centerpiece of the room because it is surrounded by a lovely hearth made of red brick facing.

But I knew enough about the unknowns involved with fireplaces and chimney systems to independently hire a pair of CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps, Bryan and Joe with Your Chimney Sweep of Indianapolis (and the closest to my zip code via CSIA.org.) I intend to use the wood-burning fireplace this winter, and there was no evidence that any recent chimney inspection had been conducted, so of course I wanted assurance that comes with an inspection. A Level 1 inspection would be a wise way to guarantee we were making a good investment.

The good news came first: the chimney flue was compliant with no visible defects observed. I could see for myself, as Bryan used a Chim-Scan so I could assess the interior. The company’s report borne that out: “Scan revealed no visible issues with the primary flue pipe connections.”

“Bad news,” Joe told me during a point in the inspection.

Bryan Smith, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep,  used a Chim-Scan to look up the flue of a home that I am considering buying.

Bryan Smith, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, used a Chim-Scan to look up the flue of a home that I am considering buying.

It was the condition of the rest of the chimney system that surprised me. From the report, which went from outside to inside.

    • Chimney termination does not meet the minimum height requirement,” with a reference to IRC 1001.6 /the 3-2-10′ rule. [You want your chimney to be tall enough to not experience interference on the roof. See video. Note that my CSIA sweep knew the codes.]
    • Chimney chase cover is concave and holding water. Suggest replacement with a stainless steel chase cover with the proper breaks for drainage.” Yep – that was easy to see. Snow had accumulated and melted, but should have not stayed on the cover.
"Chimney chase cover is concave and holding water. Suggest replacement with a stainless steel chase cover with the proper breaks for drainage."

“Chimney chase cover is concave and holding water.
Suggest replacement with a stainless steel chase cover
with the proper breaks for drainage.”

 

What was really troubling was the weight of the brick on the facade and hearth was pulling away from the wall.  The gap was at least one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch on the left and right sides, and across the mantel. Joe wrote in the report, “Facade is separating from the wall indicating improper/no support under the brick.” It was not known just from looking at this issue whether this was a 100 percent cosmetic concern (due to home settling) or something more substantial.

"Facade is separating from the wall indicating improper / no support under the brick."

From the report: “Facade is separating from the wall indicating improper/ no support under the brick.”

 

I contacted the home inspector to return to the home and report back. I was curious why he hadn’t caught what to me is obvious. This home inspector went back to the residence and into the crawl space; I still don’t fully know the cause. But I’m glad the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep made me aware; I made sure the homeowners’ Realtor got a copy of the report, so that they are aware.

Ashley Eldridge, in his 22nd year as CSIA’s Director of Education, frequently instructs home inspectors both locally and nationally. He was not surprised by the depth of what Bryan and Joe found.

“Home inspectors are generalists. A CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep is a specialist,” said Eldridge.

My realtor was right next to me during this inspection, and he had never watched a chimney sweep in action. As I explained to him, just because there were multiple issues observed, it didn’t necessarily “kill” the sale. It’s information, and information makes for a more educated consumer. If this house purchase goes through, I would budget to remove the old brick and rebuild the fireplace facing — this time with the proper support underneath.

Find your CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep at csia.org/search.

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‘Know who you hire to be certain of safe, clean chimney': Media report from @WRAL

February 26, 2015
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Robbie Markey, owner of Raleigh, North Carolina-based Mr. Smokestack: Any chimney cleaning company should be certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). The group sets certain requirements and a code of ethics, he told WRAL-TV.

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At the Chimney Safety Institute of America, we frequently talk about how important it is to understand how your chimney works, from the firebox to the rain cap. We talk about what you should and should not burn in your fireplace, as well as the importance of correctly handling fireplace ashes.

But that real understanding begins when you schedule your annual chimney inspection (or your mid-burning season inspection) with one of over 1,500 CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps that are located from coast to coast.

That inspection will give you insight into any performance issues or defects, so you can enjoy the cozy warmth of your fireplace or wood stove with confidence that you’ve lessened your risk of an unintended chimney fire.

When we say ‘chimney inspection’ we mean ‘chimney inspection by a CSIA certified professional‘ and you can locate them on our zip-code locator, csia.org.

It’s not just ‘us’ saying that, either.

WRAL-TV in North Carolina reported Feb. 25 this article: ‘Know who you hire to be certain of a safe, clean chimney.’ The article focused on a homeowner that used a company with no clear connection to the National Chimney Sweep Guild nor CSIA. The worker arrived in an unmarked white van. During the service, the house filled up with thick, black smoke, and left dust on all the furniture and belongings.

The homeowner said her service was over in 30 minutes, yet still left a mess. Afterward, the homeowner “wondered if her chimney even got clean or whether she was still at risk for a house fire.”

That should never happen with a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep. We always recommend that people take a few steps when considering which chimney sweep will perform an annual inspection or related service on their chimney or vent. As WRAL-TV reports, they do need regular maintenance!

Fortunately, when the media did a follow-up article, they focused on Mr. Smokestack, a company that is a member of the National Chimney Sweep Guild and also employs CSIA certified professionals, including Robert Markey [see his profile on our website.]

[Mr. Smokestack is located on twitter at @mrsmokestacknc.]

MORE: FROM CSIA’s WEBSITE: How to hire a chimney sweep

Because proper care and attention to service can help protect people from unnecessary fires and carbon monoxide poisonings, it is important to choose the professional wisely. While the CSIA recommends that people consider a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, there are additional questions that should be asked to ensure that the person hired is a credible service technician.

  • How long has the chimney sweeping company been in business?
  • Does the company offer current references?
  • Does the company have unresolved complaints filed within the city or state consumer protection agency or Better Business Bureau?
  • Does the company or individual carry a valid business liability insurance policy to protect your home and furnishings against accidents?
  • Does the company ensure that a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep will be on the job site

These are important questions! So when you schedule your inspection, take @WRAL’s advice and get it done right — by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep!

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Put out a chimney fire by yourself? Your next step is to contact a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep

February 18, 2015

Southern Indiana-based television news reporter Gabrielle Shirley covered a chimney fire in Newburgh, Indiana this week. Her social media observations were quite revealing!

Yes, the picture of a firefighter perched high atop a snowy roof is interesting. But what caught our eye was this observation:

What a smart move by these homeowners. They keep a fire extinguisher handy and were able to put out the blaze. They obviously called 911, which you want to do just to make sure, or “double check,” that the situation inside the flue is stabilized for the night.

It’s probable that the reason for the chimney fire was do to that culprit, creosote.

MORE: Watch this video of what creosote looks like when it’s removed from a chimney.

Now, the homeowner needs to seek out professional advice for a qualified chimney sweep, such as someone certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. In 2014, we created a brochure for homeowners that was designed to be given to firefighters that responded to a chimney fire. One of the most common questions a homeowner will ask after the chimney fire is put out, is, “Is it safe to use my fireplace or wood stove.” The answer is, no!

MORE: Find out what to do after a chimney fire. Download our free brochure meant for the public.

“What You Need to Know After a Chimney Fire” was created by chimney sweeps, many of whom also have public safety backgrounds. Our goal with this nationally-distributed publication is to provide guidance to victims of a chimney fire or fireplace-related incident, making at least one aspect of their recovery less difficult and less confusing.

Best of luck to the family. We hope they get their chimney inspected and their firebox up and running, and can enjoy the cozy warmth without the worry.

Find a qualified chimney professional at csia.org today!

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Meet the CSIA top team devoted to educate chimney sweeps and dryer exhaust techs

February 17, 2015
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Introducing the Chimney Safety Institute of America board of directors’ leadership lineup for 2015-16: Chuck Hall (Vice President); Mark A. Stoner (President); Hope Stevenson (Secretary); Chuck Roydhouse (Treasurer). The vote and announcement were made this afternoon. — at Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square.

Many people aren’t aware that not only is there a 32-year-old nonprofit devoted to providing industry education to chimney sweep technicians and venting professionals, but that it has a board of directors. The Chimney Safety Institute of America is the oldest certifying organization in North America, credentialing more than 1,500 with the industry’s top recognition, CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep. CSIA also has over 300 people who carry C-DET — Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician.

At the board of directors’ meeting, we introduced the Chimney Safety Institute of America board of directors’ leadership lineup for 2015-16: Chuck Hall (Vice President); Mark A. Stoner (President); Hope Stevenson (Secretary); Chuck Roydhouse (Treasurer). The vote and announcement were made at Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square as part of the National Chimney Sweep Guild 2015 convention.

These are new positions for Roydhouse and Stevenson, who joined the board of directors in March 2014 at the National Chimney Sweep Guild convention in Columbus, Ohio.

“We’re raising the bar at CSIA, because at the end of the day, all our hard work at helping our chimney pros get the best possible education and certification translate into the homeowner/consumer also having the best possible experience,” said Stoner, president of Ashbusters Chimney Services in Tennessee.

Stoner thanked outgoing treasurer Jim Bostaph as well as secretary John Meredith. Both remain on the 11-person board of directors.

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Cold weather and your chimney

February 13, 2015

Bitterly cold conditions will continue across the Midwest eastward to the Atlantic coast this week as arctic high pressure builds in behind a cold front, according to the National Weather Service.

This is a good opportunity to educate homeowners about how cold impacts your chimney, particularly if it is on the outside of the house.

Remember, warm rising air is the basic engine involved here.

If you have a large masonry chimney on the outside of the house, and it’s cold outside, the air inside of the chimney will also be very cold, and it will want to fall down the chimney instead of rising.

This can even happen a day or two after it’s warmed up outside. These chimneys may be hard to start and they may smoke as the fire burns low.

To help get the fire started many people light some rolled up newspaper and hold it up near the damper to get that cold plug moving upwards.

Keeping a moderate sized but bright, actively flaming fire can also help this situation.

Remember that as the fire dies down, it will revert back to the original direction of flow.

For more homeowner resources, go to our website! You can also find approximately 1,500 CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps, one of whom may be in your zip code.

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TV News report: ‘Make sure chimney sweeps you hire are certified through CSIA’

February 11, 2015

All of the chimney industry professionals who are certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America had to wince at a televised news report in North Carolina this week. WRAL-TV Channel 5 interviewed a homeowner who had a serious soot issue that came after maintenance work done by a company.

A Raleigh, NC homeowner is frustrated. She didn't use a chimney specialist for her home inspection/sweeping and has a dust issue as a result. Photo courtesy  WRAL-TV.

A North Carolina homeowner is frustrated after a sweeping that went awry, they have a ‘dust’ issue as a result. Photo courtesy WRAL-TV.

We certainly understand the homeowner’s frustration. Preventing a situation like from occurring is first and foremost on the minds of CSIA-certified professionals, who commit to training and specialize in providing top-notch service.

When a homeowner contacts a chimney sweep/company for an inspection, it’s great advice to ask them what their practices are in regards to keeping the interior of the home as clean as possible. An accidental sooting is not unheard of. The key question is, does the company stand behind their work in case a “sooting” happens?

MORE: How to hire a chimney sweep

We appreciate that the news report had this important nugget of information:

“Homeowners who want to get their chimney cleaned should check companies’ BBB ratings and references and make sure chimney sweeps you hire are certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America. While that doesn’t guarantee a problem-free experience, its members do have to follow a Code of Ethics that includes proper training and professionalism.”

Indeed, “Inside preparation” is one of the six steps that CSIA advocates to chimney sweeps as part of our Successful Chimney Sweeping Manual.

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A section in the “Successful Chimney Sweeping Manual” includes detailed instructions on how to avoid sooting a home.

Some helpful excerpts from the SCSA Manual: 

After the preliminary examination, return to your truck and decide what equipment is needed to accomplish the job. Your goal as a sweep is to sweep the chimney system to the best of your ability without making any mess in the home. Be aware of dust producing situations. For example, if chimney openings are not tightly sealed, leaking dust can migrate throughout the home and cover everything with a dirty black film that is costly to remove. Also, muddy shoes and dirty equipment can ruin carpets and rugs. In both situations, the sweep can be held responsible for the cleaning bill.

In our manual, we talk about the responsibility of the chimney sweep.

Before entering the home, make sure that your equipment and the soles of your shoes are clean. Particularly in inclement weather or muddy conditions, you can use an extra pair of shoes for inside work. Wearing your outside work shoes, make several trips to remove the equipment from your truck. After each trip, set the equipment in the garage or just inside the doorway. When you have removed all of the equipment, change into your inside shoes, and if necessary, roll out paper, drop cloths, or carpet runners from the entrance of the home (or the garage) to the work area before taking the equipment there. If necessary, change your shoes each time you go in and out of the home. This routine minimizes the danger of tracking in dirt and debris. Once your equipment is in the home, cover the floor of your work area with an appropriately sized layer of drop cloths. Move upholstered furniture out of your way, or cover it with clean drop cloths. For your own protection, ask the homeowner to remove fragile home accessories or family heirlooms from the work area. They will appreciate your concern for their treasures and gladly help out.

When the work area is cleared of furnishings, place all equipment, including the vacuum, on the drop cloths. Develop good work habits – like arranging equipment in the same logical fashion for each job. Sweeping goes faster when you know where to find each tool. At this time, plug in the vacuum and turn it on. Now that the equipment is in place and the vacuum operational, you are ready to seal all chimney openings to prevent dust from entering the home during sweeping. The openings discussed in this section include; old, unused thimbles, cleanout doors, holes caused by missing mortar between brick joints, and adjacent flue openings in a multi-flue chimney. Other chapters in this manual give more information about sealing chimney openings for specific installations.

MORE: Hear from a consultant who studies chimney sweep companies, and the difference between those who have CSIA Certified Sweeps, and the ones that do not

This instruction is not only part of our certification, but it is taught at our National Chimney Sweep Training School, a six-day hands-on course taught four times per year at our CSIA Technology Center in Plainfield, Indiana. We send students out to homes to show how to do inspections, and all of our instructors preach the need for dropcloths and equipment to do the job right.

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A good rule of thumb for homeowners who want to hire a chimney sweep is to ask them what precautions they take, and what equipment they use, on site.

Find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep here, by your zip code.

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CSIAccess for February 2015

February 10, 2015

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ROLLING INTO LANCASTER: CSIA’s new work vehicle (shared with our counterparts at NCSG) made its debut this week. “Work trucks” are a great way to promote your Chimney Safety Institute of America certification. It’s advertising on wheels, and we practice what we preach with our newly arrived vehicle: http://bit.ly/1Ab06bp
CONVENTION REMINDERS:The 2015 NCSG Convention [click here for the Feb. 18-21 seminar schedule] will offer as many as 17 CEUs to participants. NOTE: CEU certificates will be e-mailed to attendees after the convention is over. Also, convention preparation means a reduction in online learning and online testing for the remainder of the month.Read more here.
NATIONAL CHIMNEY SWEEP TRAINING SCHOOL SPACE IS FILLING UP FAST! Only 7 spots remain for our first National Chimney Sweep Training School of 2015, scheduled for March 23-28.Registration info is here. [Not in a hurry? Our second NCSTS will beJune 22-27.]

LOG IN RIGHT NOW AT CSIA.ORG

Don’t miss out on the referral power ofcsia.org. Make sure you or your employees know their annual fee date and when their 3-year certification is up.Review our guidelines!

  • Sign up for CSIA events! Our 1-day CCS Review/Exam and our 1-day C-DET Review/Exam will be held (in separate rooms) Feb. 17 in Lancaster, PA. On site registration is available. And a 1-day C-DET will be held March 20 in Independence, MO, courtesy of Midwest Chimney Safety Council. Info here.
  • The FULL LIST of CSIA’s face-to-face and online classes is available here.

Lost/forgot your csia.org portal login in password? No problem. Tell Tom. Or call317-837-5262 to get reconnected.

Note: If multiple employees share an office e-mail account, please forward this e-mail to coworkers!

Copyright ©2015 Chimney Safety Institute of America. All rights reserved. Go to CSIA.org for more info. 

AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW AT CSIA SOCIAL MEDIA

  • On YouTube:  CSIA Board of Directors take their roles as educators seriously. See our video on their work at home inspector conventions.
  • On Storify: Amazing pictures from a 2/2/15 chimney fire in Laurel, MD that we wrote about and got hundreds of views on. Volunteer firefighters rescue a victim->http://sfy.co/q02s4 
  • Check out this digital version of CSIA’s 4-page section in the February 2015 edition of Sweeping.
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