CSIA joins forces with NOAA ‘Weather Ready Nation’ initiative as an ambassador #BeAForce

June 22, 2015

The Chimney Safety Institute of America is excited to announce that today we have been named an official NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador.

The Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador initiative is an effort to formally recognize National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration partners who are improving the nation’s readiness against extreme weather, water, and climate events. As a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, our organization is committing to work with NOAA and other ambassadors to strengthen national resilience against extreme weather.

Our appointment as an ambassador comes almost a year to the date when our 10,000-square-foot chimney and venting technology center in Plainfield, Indiana came close to a calamity. An F1 tornado formed less than a football field away. At the time we had 20 students in for the National Chimney Sweep Training School! [Read our Storify on the media coverage of our experience with the tornado.]

That was a heck of an up-close experience for the staff and our visitors. But inspecting and correcting damaged chimneys and venting is our speciality. Chimney sweeps certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America are well-versed in dispensing advice on post-disaster response — we teach it! It’s in our Successful Chimney Sweeping  manual.

Here’s one of the pages in the CSIA-produced Successful Chimney Sweeping manual.

“The chimney, while it appears to be a relatively static structure, has an extremely important function,” said Ashley Eldridge, director of education for CSIA. “It is designed to vent the smoke and heat from any combustion generating home heating appliance such as a solid fuel fire, or the gases and emissions from an oil or gas furnace or boiler from the source to the outside of your home.”

If the home has been subjected to the extreme, damaging winds of a hurricane or tornado or the impact of an earthquake, there is a strong possibility that the integrity of the chimney or chimneys has been affected.

The result can be the escape of heat or flames into areas containing combustible materials or the venting of the hazardous, life-threatening gases or fumes into the living spaces of your home.

Weather Ready Nation_Ambassador_logo

At the earliest possible opportunity following a natural disaster, the chimney and venting system should be thoroughly inspected by a knowledgeable, competent chimney service professional.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America strongly advocates that homeowners contact and use a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep.

Those with this credential have made a special effort to study and be tested on their knowledge of the codes, clearances, standards and practices involved in installing and servicing chimneys, fireplaces, vents, and solid fuel appliances — woodstoves and fireplace inserts.

Homeowners can perform limited assessments of the condition of their chimney, but need to understand when to call in a professional if they aren’t comfortable. Removing pipes or connectors can result in the release or scattering of soot and creosote in your living spaces. Further, the proper reinstallation of stoves, fireplace inserts, stove pipes and connectors is critical to the safety and integrity of your wood-burning system.

CSIA applauds the proactive role that NOAA is taking to protect public safety. That’s what’s CSIA’s vision, mission, and core values are also about.


Story of a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, a video camera, and a smoking chimney in Hot Springs

June 19, 2015

Here’s a message we received (via Facebook) today from Ralph Scantlin Jr., a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep since 2013 with Clean Sweep Chimney Service of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Ralph wanted to share some pictures with us of a chimney he is working on today.

Ralph Scantlin1 Ralph Scantlin2

The back story: Ralph’s father video-scanned a customer’s chimney 20 years ago because of a chimney fire, and provided a bid to fix the chimney.

The homeowner got someone else to do the work, however, and it looks like that vendor put too small of a reline in.

So today, Clean Sweep took the old reline out and replaced it with one that supports a buck stove model 74 and a new reline to the stove.

“The house has changed hands a few times,” Ralph told us. “The current owner used it one time and said it smoked on him and then he called us to come look at it for him.”

Here’s what he found.

It’s why a video camera can come in handy — and why you should never just trust your eyes when you have a problem that a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep is qualified to handle.

Find one today in your community, use our free zip-code locator on csia.org.

Here’s some “after” shots of the same property. 



Chimney, clothes dryers make @goodhousemag ‘Burn Your House Down’ list

June 17, 2015

  Good Housekeeping, with the help of Lorraine Carli of the National Fire Protection Association, this week published a necessary story entitled, “8 Bad Habits That Could Burn Your House Down.”

On the list are the usual suspects: over-use of extension cords, walking away from food on the stove, crowding appliances together, leaving appliances on while you run an errand, and these two that caught the attention of the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

6. Ignoring the lint that needs to be cleaned out from the dryer

Good Housekeeping’s comment: “According to the USFA, 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause $35 million in property loss. Thirty-four percent of those blazes were caused because the homeowner didn’t clean the dryer. “Lint that collects on the filter, around the drum, and in the vents, can catch fire from the heat of the dryer,” says Carli. “Without cleaning, the lint builds up and then the heat can’t escape.” Clean your lint filter regularly, but also check your dryer hose for list clogs at least once a year.”


A C-DET certified dryer exhaust technician can make sure your system is up to par.


CSIA’s comment: Actually, the problem is much worse! According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission latest statistics posted on our CSIA’s dryer safety website, in 2012 there were 5,100 fires resulting in 10 deaths, 180 injuries, and an estimated $80.1 million in residential structure fire property loss. Follow USFA’s advice, but also call in a qualified professional, such as a CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician. You can search for a list of over 300 technicians using our directory.

8. Putting off cleaning the chimney

Good Housekeeping’s comment: “Creosote, the oily substance that builds up when you burn things in your fireplace, is a leading cause of chimney fires. Have chimneys inspected on a yearly basis and cleaned as needed.”

CSIA’s comment: Indeed, the CPSC reported in April (read CSIA’s blog post on the topic) 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. 

In regards to creosote, the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be swept at 1/8″ of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. 

This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home. Factory-built fireplaces should be swept when any appreciable buildup occurs. The logic is that the deposit is quite acidic and can shorten the life of the fireplace.

MORE: CSIA’s website has loads of homeowner-friendly information on the most frequently asked questions.

In addition, the National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.” This is the national safety standard and is the correct way to approach the problem. It takes into account the fact that even if you don’t use your chimney much, animals may build nests in the flue or there may be other types of deterioration that could make the chimney unsafe to use.

Use CSIA’s free zip-code locator to find nearly 1,600 CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps from coast to coast. Now’s a good time of year to get an inspection. Don’t wait until the fall, when sweeps are the busiest and often booked out too far in advance.

View our video, “Spring Cleaning: Why an inspection of your chimney now is good timing.”

Takeaway: The clothes dryer and chimney are wonderful assets for your house, but they do require regular maintenance!


The chimney is no place to get stuck; man lucky to be rescued after falling into flue

June 14, 2015
A photo of the chimney that rescuers had to access to free a stuck man.  Photo by @ydrcom

A photo of the chimney that rescuers had to access to free a stuck man. Photo by @ydrcom

We’ve said it before.  It seems to happen every season. Someone assumes that the chimney is easily accessible – a shortcut, if you will, from the exterior to the interior of a home. They learn the hard way. Lacking the mystical powers of Santa, they get stuck.

It happens more than you think.

In this latest situation, members of the York County (Pennsylvania) Sheriff’s Office were attempting to serve warrants on June 12, 2015, when a man took off running along the building’s roof, according to reports from the York Daily Record. The man either jumped in or fell “deep down the chimney.”

Here’s how it was reported:

It took firefighters more than an hour to rescue the unidentified man, who was stuck about 20 to 25 feet from the top. He was finally freed when rescuers went into the home, knocked out a wall, and — accessing a tenant’s closet — dismantled the chimney brick-by-brick.

“It was literally about a 12-inch by 12-inch hole, so it was very tedious in the fact that if we punctured through the mortar and the brick, we risked penetrating trauma to him,” Deputy Fire Chief Chad Deardorff told media.

We’ve written about this issue earlier this year. See ‘Chimney boy’ illustrates unknowns of the flue and note that a similar rescue of a woman stuck in a chimney occurred in California in May.


Keep in mind that the chimney flue’s job is to convey what’s being burned in the fireplace or wood stove. It’s one component of a complex system. The idea is that the customer gets cozy warmth, while the smoke and whatever else goes up and out.

Birds and squirrels (even snakes) are small enough to access the flue if the chimney lacks a cap. [See our story, “Animal in my chimney.”]

A CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep is qualified to talk to you about your chimney, and ways to keep everything out – from creatures to ‘climbers’. You can find a sweep by zip code in your community.


‘Animal in my fireplace’ and other critter-in-the-chimney encounters

June 8, 2015

Chimney Safety Institute of America emphasizes the need for chimney caps, where appropriate.

Why? It’s all about animal intrusion. The flue is an inviting, cozy environment that may be appealing because it offers refuge, and dry lodging, to the critter. Some crawl in, and some fly in.

Homeowners need to know that they aren’t alone when facing this problem!

More: Here is a roundup of words and pictures of animals intruding.

CSIA Director of Education Ashley Eldridge says critters such as raccoons take residence in the chimney because there’s nothing to stop them.

“We need to protect our animal friends, since we as humans have taken over much of their hollow-tree habitat. And we can help them by limiting their access, because the chimney can be an unsafe environment. Occasionally the animals, or their offspring, cannot exit on their own. ” said Eldridge. “This is a great time to call in a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to examine and install the proper cap for your chimney, since adding a screen as an animal guard is not the remedy, and not a simple do-it-yourself project for a homeowner. You need something substantial (like stainless steel, but there are other types on the market).

“And you need a qualified professional.”

More: Find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep by zip code.

Keep in mind chimney sweeps must be licensed in order to remove the animals, and the requirement varies nationally.



Chimneys vent more than fireplaces – and are necessary for healthy environments

June 6, 2015

We hate to see what reportedly occurred this week at a Taco Bell in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania regarding air quality — but the incident is illustrative of an important public safety issue that CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps are qualified to tackle!


Photo screengrab taken from Lancaster Online

Photo screengrab taken from Lancaster Online

The incident? Carbon monoxide from a chimney vent, which sickened employees at the fast-food place, a fire official told Lancaster Online. [view the full story here]

“There was a problem with the chimney for the hot water heater, a malfunction with how it was venting,”  Lancaster Township Fire Chief Ron Comfort told the newspaper.

Wait — a chimney provides support for a fireplace or wood stove or outdoor pizza oven.

But water heaters?

You bet.

Most homeowners are aware of the need for chimney cleaning and inspection if they own a wood-burning stove or regularly use their fireplace. But many don’t realize that a gas heating appliance – whether it is a furnace, boiler or even a water heater – relies on the chimney for proper venting of the exhaust.

Appliances fueled by natural gas or propane may not produce the visible soot that appliances burning other fuels do, but they can deposit corrosive substances in your chimney. In many cases, these acids may wreak havoc on your chimney without producing any external symptoms until the problem has become dangerous or expensive to repair. 

A proper heating appliance/venting system match will help ensure adequate draft in the system. Draft is important for a number of reasons, according to Chimney Safety Institute if America Education Director Ashley Eldridge. 

Inadequate draft can reduce the efficiency and safety of the appliance. Complete combustion requires oxygen – combustion of one cubic foot of natural gas requires more than 10 cubic feet of air to provide sufficient oxygen. Adequate draft ensures that enough air is pulled into the appliance for complete combustion.

MORE: Homeowner resource tips on our website

Incomplete combustion is also responsible for the production of carbon monoxide in the first place. If the appliance brings in the required amount of oxygen for complete combustion, carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced instead. The less complete the combustion, the greater the amount of carbon monoxide produced and the less heat delivered to the home.

“We inspect every chimney flue and vent in the house. We consider the furnace flue the most important flue/vent in the house and take draft readings after our inspection and/or cleaning of the furnace flue,” says Derek Carmichael, of Horizon Chimney Services, Inc., in Franklin, Mass. He has been a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep since 1992. [view his profile on csia.org]

“We do a Level 1 (inspection) on all chimneys and connected appliances. We’ll also check the dryer vent and will comment on other vents if something is obviously wrong and we see it,” adds David Kline, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep since 2003. David is with Chim Cheree, the Chimney Specialists, in Greer, South Carolina.   [view his profile on csia.org]

“When we have an appointment to clean, we always tell the customer we are here to at least inspect all other appliance vents and chimneys,” says Jonathan Myers, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep since 2009. “We don’t ask them if we can, we tell them that we have to.” Myers is with A Ace of Hearths Chimney Service, LLC in Westfield, New York. [View his profile on csia.org]




No June gloom for us at CSIA, which offers a full month of chimney sweep training and education

June 4, 2015

  There’s a unique southern California description for a weather pattern that brings cool temperatures and clouds to a region of the world used to sunshine. It’s known as June gloom. We are experiencing the opposite at the Chimney Safety Institute of America in Plainfield, Indiana. At CSIA, our mission statement is to advance public safety while educating and certifying industry professionals. That’s not a seasonal philosophy — it’s year-round. And the summer is quite busy for education and training of chimney sweeps and other interested professionals — just one reason why homeowners trust us to take care (inspect/sweep) of their fireplaces, wood stoves, and chimney systems.

Take the month of June, which kicked off with our CSIA Technology Center being host to a fine group of home inspector trainees from AHIT. They were there to talk home inspection, but we never miss an opportunity to talk about fireplaces and everything related to them.

Check out this short tweet:

We also have a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep Review and Exam on June 5 at the CSIA Technology Center. [Sign up information is here. Walk-up registration is available!] We have close to 1,600 CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps from coast to coast, and in-person classes like this are one reason why that’s so. But besides offering this class at our 10,000-square-foot Technology Center, we also take this class “on the road.”

Thanks to Regional Chimney Supply, we’re offering a one-day CCS Review/Exam in Gaithersburg, Maryland on June 20. [This event was created due to demand in that mid-Atlantic by sweeps. Sign up information is here.] And we have a CCS review and exam June 26 in Natick, Massachusetts [information here] that was created after demand in that region. They asked, we delivered!

Of course, we welcome scores of guests during Sweeps Week [info is here] an annual free event being held this year from June 8-12. During this time, masonry and chimney sweep technicians help out with a variety of projects that range from labor — building a sidewalk — to construction of fireplaces. Each day gives the participant CEUs that can help to lead to their Certified Chimney Sweep renewal.

And, by the way, CSIA’s second National Chimney Sweep Training School of 2015 will be held June 22-27. [Registration information is here.] Ever wondered what it was all about? Check out this special CSIA-produced video, “Chimneys 101.”


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