Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware)

by MARTHA NEITZ

Did you know that chimney sweep companies are unregulated? Anyone can go out, buy a brush, get a business license, and call themselves a chimney sweep. Since wood burning appliances can be dangerous, an unqualified chimney sweep is pretty scary.

A way to find an accredited chimney sweep company is to check with the Chimney Safety Institute of America at www.csia.org or Certified Chimney Professionals at www.certifiedchimneysweep.com. Being certified by one of these agencies demonstrates a commitment to professionalism in the hearth industry. Another criterion is to check with the Better Business Bureau for accreditation and rating along with Pikes Peak Regional Building Department for licensing.

Chimney professionals are concerned with two major factors—safety and performance. Safety should be obvious because we are talking about fire in the home. Condition checks and inspections cover items such as clearances, flue caps, chimney crown wash, mortar joints, stove pipe, dampers, structural integrity, and general conditions. All of these factors affect both safety and performance. If a sweep is not trained, they would not necessarily know to check all of these areas for potential problems.

Performance issues could include smoke coming back into the home or a leak. A chimney professional will know what questions to ask to diagnose the possible causes and then be able to perform the inspection accordingly. The consummate chimney professional will be able to explain, clearly and in understandable terms, the condition of your wood burning system. Don’t hesitate to quiz them—it’s their job to know.

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