Why might you want to choose one chimney sweep over another? We here at Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps | Bless Your Hearth think it largely depends on what you are looking for.
It’s interesting that in the state of South Carolina, there are no restrictions on who can sweep chimneys or the level of education required to inspect, sweep, or repair chimneys. It is totally left up to the consumer to determine the capability and/or integrity of the chimney sweep or sweeping company that is engaged.
The editor of The Chimney Sweep News (an independent chimney sweeping trade journal) recently posted the following relevant comment on one of the industry chat lists. He was speaking to a group of chimney sweeping professionals when he said, “Unfortunately, many (most?) potential customers confuse services with commodities. As WE all know, there is a wide range of service levels. Uneducated consumers tend to think any differences are akin to choosing Coke over Pepsi, where the products are essentially similar except for a slight difference in taste. Your challenge, as a more-than-competent chimney professional, is to help your prospects understand the difference in quality you are offering in the brief time you are interacting with them.”
We offer the following information to provide you with our perspective on what makes a better than average chimney sweep (company). We believe it has to do with the right mix of some important factors. If you are looking for high quality services and advice, try to find out:
- How long has the sweep/sweep company been in business?
- What is the experience level of the people actually looking at your chimney?
- If their experience is on the shy side, regular, relevant INDUSTRY training can go a long way to making up the difference (for less experience). So we think it’s important to know how often the technicians (again, the ones who are actually looking at your chimney) participate in continuing education put on by recognized experts in the chimney service industry? This kind of training is offered somewhere within realistic proximity to this neck-of-the-woods 3 or 4 times a year. Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps technicians get such training – at a minimum – once EVERY year. They often participate in training by professional instructors 2-3 times a year.
- What is the range of services that the sweep/sweep company provides? Some just sweep chimneys. Some inspect and sweep chimneys. Other companies inspect, sweep, AND offer a full range of solutions for any issues they identify.
- Are the products they offer backed by reputably manufacturers who will resolve any issues with their products?
- What are the parameters of the “inspection” procedure performed? What is the standard by which the chimney is inspected?
- Are the technicians (once again, the ones who are actually looking at your chimney) CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps? If not, where does the company get their certification?
NOTE: CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) is the only nationally recognized chimney sweep certification organization. This CSIA Certification renews every three years and renewal is dependent on retesting and/or the accumulation of continuing education credits. It can be assumed that technicians who maintain this certification (without lapse) have been taught the right way to do things. Realistically, it will be left with you, the homeowner, to determine whether the ethics of the company that employs them holds them accountable to perform according to the standards by which they have been tested.
- Does the sweep/sweep company have business license(s)? Does it have General Liability Insurance?
- Does the sweep/sweep company belong to any national (National Chimney Sweep Guild) or regional chimney sweeping industry organizations (SC Chimney Sweep Guild; North Carolina Chimney Sweep Association) where there is opportunity to benefit from the experience of peers within the chimney sweeping industry?
NOTE: Usually association with these organizations indicates an interest on the part of the chimney sweep/sweep company in what is expected from a service technician on a national level – what the standard of care is in the chimney sweeping industry.
As we’ve mentioned before in this blog space, sweeping a chimney is not necessarily “rocket science.” However, identifying issues related to usability, construction defects, or appliance installation (based on familiarity with the chimney sweeping industry standard as outlined in National Fire Protection Association Standards, Chimney Safety Institute of America Guidelines, or National Fireplace Institute Guidelines) does require some level of learning. Suggestions for resolution of any issues identified may, in fact, require some knowledge of chimney science.