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Real estate season and chimney inspections

May 1, 2015

 Spring is a time of nesting —  and we aren’t just talking about birds; as the weather improves and the calendar turns to May, people are buying and selling homes.

Realtors have an important job at both ends of the real estate transaction. The fireplace (or wood stove), furnace or boiler, water heater, and chimney system are integral parts of the marketing involved in transfers of property.  

In my post, “What the home inspector missed, a chimney sweep caught” I detailed how my spouse and I saw a house we liked (in February) and made an offer on it, which was accepted. Of course we paid for a home inspection, around $350, but I knew enough to seek out the services of a qualified chimney sweep to see if the wood-burning fireplace was in good condition, from inside to out. (I practice what I preach: I used our zip-code finder on CSIA.org and got on the busy schedule of two CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps.) Well, you know from my post that the sweeps’ video scan showed no defects in the metal flue of my prefab Heatilator. But my sweeps found issues with the rooftop chimney height, drywall exposure, and separation of the hearth from the wall. 

At least I knew what was wrong, and though it was disappointing, that knowledge about the fireplace issues did NOT kill the sale. 

At the same time as the offer we made on the new house, we put our existing house on the market. 

Our wonderful Realtor, in his print marketing literature, highlighted the gems in our household as he saw them … from our new kitchen … to the big deck … to the windows. Guess what phrase also made his print brochure? This line: “Enjoy the glow of the fireplace by night.”

 

That language is right up my alley. I mean, even though my HVAC system had been updated in 2013, who doesn’t want the cozy ambiance of a fireplace, a few seasoned logs stacked a well-maintained chimney, ready to warm up a chilly evening? 

Now, I’ve had my home used as a Guinea pig by trainees of the AHIT [American Home Inspectors Institute], then last summer had my home used as part of the National Chimney Sweep Training School. But a Level II inspection is required upon the sale or transfer of property. That’s in the National Fire Protection Administation code book. Level II is the examination of all accessible portions of the chimney exterior and interior, including attics, crawl spaces, and basement. It includes a visual inspection by video scanning.

Being the seller, even if there are fixes to be made, it is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, you might have an animal or critter living in your chimney. Ashbusters of Charleston states, “Now you can actually tout the fact that the chimney has recently been restored and is 100 percent operational and ready for use.”

MORE: From csia.org: What to look for during a Level I, Level II or Level III inspection.

As the buyer, regardless if the owner is supplying you with a copy of the inspection report or not, you should hire your own company to inspect (as I did.) 

If issues are found, the homeowner should be responsible for the cost of the repair, put the money in escrow, or deduct the costs from the selling price, suggests Ashley Eldridge, CSIA Director of Education. (In my situation, I am going to eventually fix and reface our new home’s fireplace anyway. My old home also passed muster.)

Obviously, you should look to find a chimney sweep trained on Level II inspections, which CSIA certified sweeps are (CSIA.org/search). That way, when you get to the point where you are enjoying the glow of the fireplace at night in the new house, you can take comfort in knowing you’ve lessened your risk! 

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CSIA’s C-DET dryer credential and NADCA, working together

April 27, 2015

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CSIA is an exhibitor at the NADCA 26th annual meeting & exposition, held in Marco Island, Florida.

MARCO ISLAND, Florida — The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) is an association dedicated to serving the needs of HVAC industry professionals—including air systems cleaning specialists, mold remediators and HVAC inspectors. In summer 2014, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) announced a partnership with NADCA.

CSIA’s goals with NADCA including offering its members a discount on CSIA’s Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician (C-DET) review and examination for NADCA members interested in obtaining the C-DET credential. NADCA does not have a separate certification for dryer exhaust and stated they did not wish to develop one.

MORE: Newest figures show 5,100 clothes dryer fires in 2012

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding, CSIA is an exhibitor at NADCA’s 26th Annual Meeting & Exposition in Marco Island, Florida, and one of the C-DET instructors, John Bently, is leading a discussion on clothes dryer exhaust during NADCA’s educational sessions. CSIA staff’s mission is to promote our C-DET education and credential [you can learn about this on our website].

NADCA in 2014 created the Dryer Exhaust Duct Performance Standard (DEDP) which lays out NADCA’s research-based approach to testing the performance of residential dryer exhaust ducts in regards to testing of dryer exhaust duct performance and static pressure, performance of dryer exhaust ducts in new residential construction installations, and information to customers of conditions that may be impacting their dryer’s venting performance.

Jodi Araujo, Executive Director, NADCA, of Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, explained the differences and similarities, with the key being that NADCA has cited CSIA and the Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician® (CDET) Program Reference Manual in its DEDP Standard.

“While (CSIA’s) certification is robust, with a focus on inspecting and cleaning dryer exhaust systems, the DEDP Standard provides best practices in testing the dryer exhaust duct performance and static pressure. A key concept that must be understood when using this standard is a guiding principle that a professional dryer exhaust duct service provider has thoroughly agitated and extracted the dislodged lint from the dryer exhaust duct prior to performance testing,” Araujo said.

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CSIA’s booth in the conference room at the NADCA 26th annual convention, held April 26-29 in Marco Island, Florida.

CSIA has gotten tremendous feedback   from attendees about their respect for the C-DET credential. To find a certified dryer exhaust technician go to dryersafety.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE: NADCA’s partnership with CSIA

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CSIA attributes drop in clothes dryer fires to increased public awareness

April 26, 2015

 The newest U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report on house fires shows that 5,100 occurred in clothes dryers in 2012, a 22% drop from the year before.

The decline is welcome, as public safety is the mission of the Chimney Safety Institute of America, a 32-year-old nonprofit based in Plainfield, Indiana. CSIA notes that the true number is under-reported, as many occur inside the machine and self-extinguish, unbenownst to the user.

“The public, by and large, does not understand how important it is to have regular inspections, annually, so that this everyday appliance functions with less risk. The drop from 2011 to 2012 is good news, but we’re not finished,” said Mark A. Stoner, president of CSIA’s national board of directors. Stoner is based in Nashville, Tenn.

CSIA has the only clothes-dryer training program in the industry, with over 300 professionals carrying the C-DET credential — Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician. The C-DET course launched in 2000.

MORE: View CPSC’s PDF of the 2010-12 report posted on its website.

CPSC’s report showed that with clothes dryers, the 5,100 fires in 2012 resulted in 10 deaths, 180 injuries, and an estimated $80.1 million in residential structure fire property loss.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based CPSC culled its report on data obtained from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association. CPSC staff has been producing estimates of residential fires and related deaths, injuries, and property losses since the early 1980s.

NFPA and CSIA each recommend that all dryer vents should be inspected at least once a year – and it’s the mission of CSIA to foster public awareness of such issues relating to venting performance and safety.

Lint and other debris that build up in clothes dryer vents can also create potentially hazardous conditions including carbon monoxide intrusion and the possibility for exhaust fires, CSIA cautions.

Having established the most-widely recognized national certification programs for the chimney and venting service industry, CSIA strives to eliminate residential chimney fires, carbon monoxide intrusion and other chimney- and venting-related hazards that result in the loss of lives and property.

CSIA’s 300 dryer exhaust technicians  can be found using CSIA’s free zip-code locator at csia.org/search or on a new website devoted to consumer awareness, dryersafety.org.

— Tom Spalding

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Latest Consumer Product Safety Commission report on chimney fires reinforces need for annual inspection

April 23, 2015
The front page of the report.

The front page of the report.

The latest U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report on residential structure fires shows that 21,200 unwanted blazes were attributed to fireplaces, chimneys or chimney systems in 2012, a 4.5 percent drop from the year before.

The decline in fires illustrates that years of dedicated public-awareness efforts by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, individual chimney sweep companies, and industries such as insurers and firefighters, is making a dent in the fire totals.

The outreach needs to continue.

“CPSC’s statistics reinforce the need for the public to have an annual inspection by a qualified professional, such as a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep,” said Mark A. Stoner, president of CSIA’s national board of directors. “Often, homeowners don’t learn about the importance of maintenance until it’s too late — when they were enjoying a cozy fire that got out of hand, for example. So the drop in chimney-related fires from 2011 to 2012 is good news, but as an industry we still have a long way to go.”

CPSC’s report, issued April 22, showed that fires involving fireplaces/chimneys/chimney connections resulted in 20 deaths in 2012, with 60 injuries, and an estimated $93.6 million in residential property loss.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based CPSC culled its report on data obtained from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association. CPSC staff has been producing estimates of residential fires and related deaths, injuries, and property losses since the early 1980s. The last update prior to the CPSC report was in August 2013.

The report did not indicate the underlying issue that caused the unwanted fires. In so many situations, the basic problem is a buildup of creosote inside the flue. The report did not cite a specific reason for the drop. In general, all residential structure fires, in addition to fires related to heating equipment, were at the lowest reported level in years.

MORE: View the Consumer Product Safety Commission 2010-12 report on CSIA’s website

Looking at the issue from a 3-year perspective, there was an average of 22,700 chimney fires from 2010-2012, down from an average of 24,300 from 2009-2011.

The NFPA and CSIA each recommend that all chimneys, fireplaces and dryer vents should be inspected at least once a year – and it’s the mission of CSIA to foster public awareness of such issues relating to chimney and venting performance and safety.

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“Many homeowners think their chimney only needs to be inspected and swept if they burn wood in their fireplaces or wood stoves,” says Ashley Eldridge, CSIA Director of Education. “But almost all heating appliances, whether they burn gas, oil, wood or coal, rely on the chimney to safely carry toxic gases produced by the heating system of the house. When you have an inspection, you are lessening your risk. It’s preventative maintenance that helps minimize potential hazards.”

Having established the most-widely recognized national certification programs for the chimney and venting service industry, CSIA strives to eliminate residential chimney fires, carbon monoxide intrusion and other chimney- and venting-related hazards that result in the loss of lives and property.

CSIA’s 1,550 chimney sweeps can be found using CSIA’s free zip-code locator at csia.org/search. CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps can also detect evidence of freeze-thaw damage from the winter or damage caused by Spring rains, and ensure that the exterior of the chimney is functioning properly for optimal efficiency.

If you don’t employ a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, there’s no guarantee that they know the three levels of inspection or have knowledge of proper chimney construction or installation details. You don’t want a handyman unfamiliar with this information doing this type of work.

– Tom Spalding

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CSIA’s growth plans include a discount on online reviews to get more chimney and dryer exhaust pros

April 14, 2015

 For the second consecutive year, the Chimney Safety Institute of America is making it more affordable to become a CCS [Certified Chimney Sweep] or C-DET [Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician.]

CSIA has teamed with nine companies on a far-reaching promotional campaign that will put more than 34,000 postcards into the hands of a wide range of chimney-venting companies and affiliated partners; these postcards offer $49 off the price of a CSIA online review. Some participants in the program have even increased the value of the promotion by offering incentives on merchandise that is tied to a sweep getting certified.

The postcard is being distributed through the U.S. mail and digitally now through Sept. 31. It discounts the online reviews by $49, making the price $150. (There’s separate charges for books and the test. Find out more information on certification.)

CSIA’s certification reviews, often a requirement prior to testing, are usually conducted in-person with a CSIA Certified Instructor, who uses our Successful Chimney Sweeping Manual, the NFPA 211, and the 2006 International Residential Code book.

CSIA’s in-person reviews are held at its Technology Center in Plainfield, Indiana, but also across the country. We also have sweeps that are busy, can’t take the time to travel, or just like the convenience of online instead of face to face. They can register for a review electronically. The same standards apply online as they do in person.

CSIA has been making great strides to increase the number of qualified technicians. We’re over 1,550 with the CCS credential and over 300 with the C-DET credential.

But to boost our totals, we need to aim at newcomers and also those whose certifications have lapsed more than six months. CSIA believes our program has great value, but making it more affordable may convince those that were formally certified to come back and join us.

“We’d love to see more (CSIA) Certified Sweeps out there. It raises the level of professionalism,” said Russ Dimmitt, manager/technical sales for Copperfield. “It allows people to do a better job and service the homes of America better. It really helps the whole image of the country to be better and take us to that next level.”

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Russ Dimmitt [shown here leading a seminar at the National Chimney Sweep Guild 2014 convention in Columbus, Ohio] is with Copperfield, one of our vendor coupon participants.

“Absolutely, the chimney sweeps are basically the first people that talk to the public to educate them if they have a problem with their chimney or if they have a ‘safe’ chimney,” said Darin Bibeau, president/owner of National Chimney Supply. “That’s what we want, ultimately, safer chimneys.”

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Bibeau – whose company was No. 1 in 2013-14 when we did the first coupon project, serves on CSIA’s vendor marketing committee, along with Michael Boudart, president of Lindemann Chimney Co., which is also participating with great enthusiasm.

“We believe in the (CSIA) program,” Boudart said. “We fly their flag. All of our guys are CSIA certified. It’s good for our industry. We believe in it so we are going to make it easier for new guys and existing guys to get re-certified through a great program.”

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VIDEO: Hear from some of the participants of this vendor coupon project.

Thanks to coupon participants: National Chimney Supply; Copperfield Chimney Supply; Lindemann Chimney Co.; Olympia Chimney Supply, Inc., Regional Chimney Supply; Royal Chimney Supply; ChimneySavers; Dave Pomeroy Signature Training; and CVC Coaching.

“CSIA’s board of directors believe that homeowners deserve the very best in their home, and hiring someone with our credential is a great step in that direction,” said Chuck Hall, vice president of the CSIA Board of Directors. “Our friends in the supply industry are helping us advertise what we do. Their help is indispensable, and CSIA appreciates them.”

Homeowners can find a sweep by zip code or a certified dryer exhaust technician on our two websites.

Info: certification@csia.org

Note: You must turn the coupon (or a copy) to us, one copy per student. If you don’t have one, contact one of the vendors listed in the promotion!

An example of the type of postcard that chimney industry companies will receive in the mail.

An example of the type of postcard that chimney industry companies will receive in the mail.

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A 3-year labor of love: CSIA’s outdoor bake oven at Sweeps Week

April 12, 2015

It takes patience – and time – for the Bake Oven at the CSIA Technology Center, being built brick by brick

PLAINFIELD, Indiana — Summer 2015 may finally be the time when the Chimney Safety Institute of America can take the wraps off its combination outdoor fireplace/stone-arched bake oven, a mix of granite trucked in from upstate New York that is enveloped in a brick with Flemish Bond pattern plus English corners.

This 8-foot-high labor of love is usually covered in blue tarp and protective plastic, since it is partially operational, but not fully weather protected. Work on the project began during “Sweeps Week” 2012 and has continued each June, a week at a time. The fourth and possibly final touches will occur this summer.

VIDEO: A 3-year labor of love: CSIA’s outdoor bake oven at Sweeps Week

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Tim Smith, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep from Indiana, works on the bake oven in 2014.

“It will be a showpiece for generations to come, I think, of what true masonry art can be,” said David Kline, a Greer, South Carolina-based chimney sweep who has had a hand in the structure each of its three years.

David Kline laying out a voussoir — in Plainfield, Indiana.

David Kline laying out a voussoir — in Plainfield, Indiana.

“The idea behind this was to have an example of the perfect fireplace and the ideal bake oven, you know, kind of top-quality masonry, and we want to make sure it turns out really well and is a good example of what can be done with a fireplace, what can be done with a bake oven.”

For chimney industry professionals who visit the CSIA Technology Center to receive training in all things chimney, it’s a visual way to impress upon them the concept of going beyond inspections and sweeping.

Bricklaying, mortar mixing, welding, and arch design are all covered during this Sweeps Week project.

Veteran mason Chris Prior has led the effort since its inception, leading a group of all volunteers whose roles and availability vary each day. “Before you start, you have to have a vision of what it’s going to look like, and work backwards,” says Prior. “You have to think fourth-dimensionally.  You have to see the bridge and then you start in reverse. We dug a hole and started out that way.”

Chris Prior, who has led the 3-year outdoor bake oven project.

Chris Prior, who has led the 3-year outdoor bake oven project. “Before you start, you have to have a vision of what it’s going to look like, and work backwards.”

Ashley H. Eldridge, Director of Education for CSIA, said the oven/fireplace timetable was footing and foundation in year one, concrete block-laying in year two (along with a bonus of being able to use the oven to eat homemade pizza led by Renee Brigman’s kitchen crew), and in Year 3, building arch forms, finishing the bake oven with the stone facing, cladding the veneer, and beginning to build the chimney.

“It was designed to be built incrementally, as it gives participants an opportunity to learn different techniques involved in masonry and masonry repair.”

The stonework, inlaid against the brick, is perhaps its most striking feature. Prior hauled 2-1/4 tons of Garnet (the New York state stone) in his truck from New York to Plainfield, a suburb of Indianapolis. Indiana, home of world-renown limestone, can boast of this import — a beautiful granite with beige and green tones that have clear formation levels, unlike the more homogenized type seen in far northeastern U.S.

“We expect this to be finished in year 4, but there is a lot we still want to do,” said Eldridge. The goals for June 2015 are to: apply stonework on the fireplace face side; stucco inside of the wood storage area; stucco the back side of the; structure; and form and pour a crown on its top, with an overhanging drip edge.

“Be there or be square,” said Prior.

Join us at Sweeps Week June 8-12, 2015, 2155 Commercial Drive, Plainfield, IN. To assist you in making a decision to come, view the “Sweeps Week” Facebook page. Also, watch this video of one of the primary attractions of the week – the Sweeps Week FOOD! 

You can take part in one day or one week the CSIA Technology Center doing volunteer maintenance projects and learning from one another. You get CEUs each day you are here. And a nifty shirt.

Ron and Renee Brigman.

Ron and Renee Brigman.

All invited regardless of affiliation or non-affiliation. Call (864) 682-5422 for more info.

-Tom Spalding

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When a chimney swift moves into your chimney

April 9, 2015

A nest, likely left over from 2014, from a chimney swift that visited CSIA's chimney swift tower.

A nest, likely left over from 2014, from a chimney swift that visited CSIA’s chimney swift tower. [Picture from video taken by Michael Segerstrom]

A bird species that CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps are fond of, the aptly named Chimney Swift, considers chimneys to be the best shelter around. Swifts are now making their annual return north as spring begins to take hold throughout much of America, and they are attracted to your flue — particularly if you haven’t installed a chimney cap.

Unlike most birds, Chimney Swifts are unable to perch or stand upright and must have chimneys or similar structures in which to roost and raise their families. [Source: Texas Partners in Flight].

Chimney Swifts are protected by federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal to remove or disturb Chimney Swifts, their nests, eggs or young during the breeding season.

At the Chimney Safety Institute of America, we have a chimney swift tower set off from our 10,000-square-foot Technology Center in Plainfield, Indiana. We have so many chimneys on the main facility, we are attractive-looking spot — but our chimneys have caps, as we advise all homeowners to do, to avoid invasion of unwanted critters.

“Chimney swifts eat an awful lot of insects,” said Ashley Eldridge, CSIA Director of Education. “As we (homeowners) put rain caps on top of chimneys, they don’t have a natural habitat, so the solution  is to build swift towers so they have a place to nest and procreate.”

As Paul and Georgean Kyle have pointed out on their website, ChimneySwifts.org, swifts are extremely adaptable. This is why, when their native habitat of large hollow trees in the forests of North America were removed, they learned to nest and roost in chimneys and air shafts.

CSIA’s tower has no barrier to entry. We typically have one to two groups that will build nests, lay eggs and fledge. The nests they build jut out from the chimney walls and are held together by the bird’s glue-like saliva. [Source: CT Sweep]

We observed three nests in CSIA’s chimney swift tower in March 2015.

MORE: Video: Look inside CSIA’s chimney swift tower. What did we find?

Michael Segerstrom, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep and CSIA instructor from Bridgewater, New Jersey, was in town to teach at the National Chimney Sweep Training School. There was evidence that wasps or hornets, or a stinging insect had built numerous nests in the chase. That’s what Segerstrom discovered.

“We wanted to remove these nests to keep the environment friendly for the chimney swifts,” Segerstrom said.

CSIA's Chimney Swift Tower, located east of our technology center in Plainfield, Indiana.

CSIA’s Chimney Swift Tower, located east of our technology center in Plainfield, Indiana.


MORE:
Why Chimney Sweeps are sweet on swifts.

Swifts are a species facing a dramatic decline in numbers due to loss of habitat.

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Homeowners who find the animals in their chimneys and aren’t interested in hosting the birds cannot remove the birds themselves. Only properly permitted and qualified professionals can relocate Swifts.

We encourage you to consult with your local CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep if you believe Swifts, or any animal for that matter, have taken up residence in your chimney. Once the proper professionals have relocated the animals, your certified sweep can install a chimney cap to help prevent future critter visits.

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