Just like vehicles, chimneys require regular maintenance for safety and proper function. Unfortunately, too often these days, the professional recommendations of chimney sweeps are viewed with suspicion. This is often the result of consumer alert stories that highlight a few bad apples taking advantage of unsuspecting homeowners.
This situation concerns Sooty Bob, a.k.a. Bob Daniels, chimney safety authority and president of HomeSaver, Inc., a manufacturer of chimney liners, dampers and caps.
Chimney sweeps are trained experts who perform a valuable service to help protect residents and property, notes Sooty Bob. Their advice should be taken seriously. But it should also be challenged so that the end result is a positive experience.
In order to feel confident about choosing a reliable sweep as well as moving ahead with any prescribed chimney repairs, Sooty Bob advises people to:
Ask for References. Find a chimney sweep through recommendations from friends and neighbors. Chimney sweeping is a technical industry. Sweeps can go to school at the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) Technology Center in Indianapolis and learn professional inspection techniques according to the standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Bob s company, HomeSaver, also works to educate chimney sweeps and consumers about safety issues and repairs associated with chimneys.
Check Credentials. Verify the credibility of the sweep through the CSIA (www.csia.org) or the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) (www.ncsg.org). Both offer resources on sweeps in areas throughout North America. Check for business credibility through the local Chamber of Commerce or the Better Business Bureau.
Verify Recommendations. If a sweep recommends service, ask him or her for a way to verify the service s necessity. Many sweeps offer a video scan of a chimney for a charge, which can be money well spent. Or, have them describe the problem in a report.
Determine Level of Urgency. Ask the sweep to indicate the level of urgency associated with the repair. Look for technical feedback about any safety risks, long-term repercussions or health hazards.
Be Smart. Investigate possible repairs via the Internet. The CSIA and the NFPA (www.nfpa.org), as well as the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (www.hpba.org), offer great tips to help educate fireplace owners. The CSIA also offers educational brochures that explain various chimney services.
Double Check. Before discounting a diagnosis, consider a second opinion. Chimney service should not be looked upon as trivial, adds Sooty Bob. This is about saving lives and making sure that people enjoy a fire without interruption or catastrophe.