September 2011 Edition 

Certified Chimney Sweep

Last year our chimney did not draw very well and smoke kept leaking into our house. Who can we call to inspect our fireplace and recommend repairs? 

Storks nesting in chimneys were once believed to bring good luck, according to European folklore. But, in fact, nests in chimneys - or blockages of any kind - are nothing short of bad news. They can cause smoking problems, chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Annual Inspections Can Prevent Fires and CO Poisonings

In 2005, there were 24,500 residential fires in the United States originating in chimneys, fireplaces and solid fuel appliances, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. These fires resulted in 20 deaths and $126.1 million in property damage. Virtually all of these fires were preventable according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), a non-profit institution dedicated to public and chimney professional education. Both CSIA and the National Fire Protection Association recommend yearly chimney inspections to help prevent these hazards.

Chimney 

Many American homeowners think their chimneys only need to be cleaned and inspected if they burn wood in their fireplaces or wood stoves. 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.

A carbon monoxide detector can warn homeowners of potential poisoning after the deadly gas has already entered the living area, but an annual chimney check can help prevent carbon monoxide from entering the home in the first place. 

Each fall, homeowners shift into home-improvement mode. They clean gutters, garages and basements -- preparing homes for winter. But they usually don't inspect, repair or clean their chimneys, despite the potential for damage to their property or even to their lives.  

An annual chimney inspection by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® is a modest investment that can reduce the danger of chimney fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps have earned the industry's most respected credential by passing an intensive examination based on fire codes, clearances and standards for the construction and maintenance of chimneys and venting systems. In fact, when chimney fires occur, many insurance investigators rely on CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps to determine whether a fire originated in - or damaged - the chimney system. 

How often should I have my chimney cleaned? 

This a tougher question than it sounds. The simple answer is: 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.

CSIA recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be cleaned at 1/8" of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. Factory-built fireplaces should be cleaned when any appreciable buildup occurs. This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home.

I heat with gas. Should this chimney be checked too?   

Without a doubt! Although gas is generally a clean burning fuel, the chimney can become non-functional from bird nests or other debris blocking the flue. Modern furnaces can also cause many problems with the average flues intended to vent the older generation of furnaces. We suggest you check the areas on gas and carbon monoxide for more information.

How do I know if he really cleaned my chimney?   

In the past, sweeps we’ve hired have always gone on the roof, checked the flashing, the mortar and all the workings of the chimney and then cleaned the chimney from the top of the house. Today, this sweep came in, looked into my fireplace from the bottom and said we don’t need it cleaned because he can still see the bricks. I asked to have it cleaned anyway. He then grabbed a wire brush and simply rubbed away any buildup from the main opening to the fireplace without even going up into the chimney to clean anything. Am I way off base, or did the sweep charge me without cleaning my chimney?  

Your past experiences with chimney sweeps sound as though the sweep did the job he was hired to do. However, your most recent experience sounds a bit odd. If the sweep agreed to do a complete sweeping and only cleaned the brick in the fireplace firebox, you did not get the service that you paid for. A complete chimney sweeping includes the chimney flue and smoke chamber. 

In the future you could ask for a Level 1 chimney inspection and a chimney sweeping. If the sweep doesn’t know what a Level 1 inspection is, find one that does. A Level 1 inspection is detailed in the National Fire Protection Association 211: Standard on Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances.

How to Hire a Chimney Sweep  

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that people take a few steps when considering which chimney sweep will perform an annual inspection or related service on their chimney or vent. 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?

There are more than 1,900 CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps located within North America. To ensure that homeowners receive a certified sweep at every job, all chimney sweeping companies promoting the credential are required to have a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep on every job site.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) 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.

Certifying Chimney Sweeps and More

As a measurement of technical expertise, the CSIA certifies chimney and venting professionals. The CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® and the CSIA Dryer Exhaust Duct Technician® credentials are the hallmark of excellence among chimney and venting service professionals. The CSIA has the only national certification program for the chimney and venting service industry. Professionals who have earned the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep credentials have demonstrated their commitment to fire and chimney safety.

To find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep close to you, go to: http://www.csia.org/ and type in your zip code. 


If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at rodharrison@christianbuildinginspectors.com. We reserve the right to edit questions for length.


Quote Of The Month 

"Integrity has no need of rules.”

Albert Camus 


A Tip Of The Hat To:

Barbara & Ausker Morris

AT Morris Realty Group, Inc.

3162 Johnson Ferry Road

Marietta, Georgia 30062

770-552-5922

**** Thank You****