NFPA211 inspections and Certified chimney sweeps.
What is a chimney sweep, and what do they actually do? Let me make it clear now, they are not just a janitor breaking their back to sweep your flue. A Certified chimney sweep is a fire inspector. If a chimney is in disrepair and not safe for use the system is simply not cleaned. Because the chimney sweeps in a position of liability. If a system is not safe for continued use because of internal flue/firebox cracks it should not be used. In my early years I have had homeowners burn anyways after I cleaned the chimney even though I told them it was unsafe. And then the cracks get worse and worse. Then the heat of the next fire causes thermal expansion and the cracks get bigger and bigger, the bigger the crack, the more heat and combustion gasses escape the chimney into the home. This has caused homeowners, fire damage, and personal injury from carbon monoxide poisoning. This is why our service is defined by the NFPA211 as an inspection. A component of an inspection is sweeping the chimney. If all looks good after the rooftop and firebox inspection then we sweep the flue to remove creosote off the interior flue walls to INSPECT AGAIN. We looked at the flue walls for cracks, gaps, perforations and defects of any kind that could cause a reduction of flow, but also weak points that will allow heat to escape the system.
We take homeowner safety seriously, which is why we hold our technicians to the highest standards. The standards we created as fire restoration experts. Over the years I have seen many systems fail. Each one of those circumstances taught me that God does not care about our building code. If you don’t pay close attention on maintaining your system and ensuring it’s optimized performance, you may unfortunately experience an operating malfunction or even a fire loss, and personal injury.
I am the President of the Oregon Chimney Sweeps association. The oldest guild in the nation formed in fall of 1978. The OCSA Certified Chimney Sweep credential is earned by those who have passed an intensive 100 question examination based on NFPA211 fire codes, clearances to combustibles requirements, and standards for the IRC Building construction codes and maintenance of chimneys and venting systems. I have learned a lot over the years. Since 14 I have been extremely perspicacious about fire and how it works.
What does that mean for you, the homeowner?
It means when you choose a sweep don’t look for the cheapest deal. Search for a Certified Chimney sweep technician who has an outstanding reputation, then you can be confident you’ve made a good choice. There’ll be no question whether the man or woman on the job is experienced, qualified, knowledgeable, and professional, you’ll know they are based on excellent eye contact and assertive communication skills. They know more than they know. And if they don’t know they can admit they don’t and quickly source the correct information for your niche situation. Why? Because I have coached them through the process. Mentorship is invaluable and I love being a coach and helping others see what I can see. They have to be because I am very direct and brutally honest.
The OCSA has been a key in fire safety for 45 years.
The OREGON CHIMNEY SWEEPS ASSOCIATION, Inc, a non-profit organization, was formed in the fall of 1978 for the following purposes:
To promote the interest of all persons in preserving life, limb and property from loss due to flue fires, other solid fuel related fires, and other hazards associated with residential heating.
To protect, preserve and enjoy the history of our forefather chimney sweeps.
To provide and promote a standard of excellence by which all Chimney Sweeps and its membership sweeps may be judged.
To promote fire safety in the home.
To establish and maintain a liaison with the State Fire Marshal’s office and with the State Building Code Inspector’s Office.
To conduct advertising of an educational nature.
To discourage the fixing of prices or territorial limits.
A Chimney Sweep attired in black clothes and top hat may bring to mind the happy-go-lucky Mary Poppins characters. He is much more than that. He is a civic-minded small businessman. His main concerns are Fire Safety and Energy Conservation within his community.
When a Chimney Sweep cleans a chimney, he uses brushes to remove all the build-up of soot and creosote from the flue system. These deposits of soot and creosote are responsible for chimney fire damage that totaled an estimated $4.7 million in Oregon during 1986.
provided by the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Now it is an average of 1 Billion per year in fire related damage per the NFPA.
Chimney Sweeps are helping reduce that figure by confronting the causes; dirty chimneys, improper wood and gas heater installations AND unsafe chimney conditions. Most Masons that build chimneys are not certified by the NFPA211 code and don’t know vital things that they should. The Chimney Sweep is part of the energy conservation movement.
He is involved directly because he knows that a clean burning system allows combustion to burn hotter and cleaner, using less fuel and saving fuel dollars.
LEARN MORE AT EPA BURN WISE
Chimney Sweeps also encourage the use of wood for heating fuel because it is a “renewable resource.” Wood is an efficient and economical energy source with an increasingly important role to play in the future of the Northwest United States. This is why there is a Federal Biomass Tax credit. If you buy a 75% efficient wood stove you get 30% of the total cost back as a tax credit with a cap at $2000. These new stoves are so clean burning they burn less fuel, burn longer and when you look at your chimney, you cant even see smoke come out of the top. The best value I have found is the New Regency I1500 wood fireplace insert.
It’s installed with an insulated stainless steel chimney liner through your old inefficient masonry fireplace or zero clearance fireplace. It costs $5500-$7,000 depending on the length of chimney liner you need and access required to safely reach the top of your chimney.
But then subtract the $2000 you will get back on your taxes. It’s the best bang for your Buck in my opinion. The best part is if the power goes out from a winter storm. This fireplace will heat your entire house!
Member Sweeps of the OREGON CHIMNEY SWEEPS ASSOCIATION, are professionals. You can look to member sweeps for competent assistance in keeping your chimney flues clean and answering related questions. Whether you are enjoying a log fire in the evening or heating your whole home with a wood heating stove, this can mean peace of mind for you and your family.
Finding a reliable and knowledgeable chimney and venting company can be challenging, especially since there’s no industry-wide standard or regulation. That’s right…anyone can slap a sign on their truck and call themselves a chimney sweep.
But do you really want just anyone in your home?
How do you know if the sweep is making valid recommendations or quoting you a fair price? How can you be sure they’re making things safer and better… and not worse?
Do they even know what they’re talking about or what they’re doing?
We don’t think keeping your home in great condition and your family safe and warm should be so difficult. That’s why we exist.
For 45 years, the OCSA members have made it easier for homeowners to find reliable, experienced, highly trained chimney and venting professionals to tackle maintenance, installation, and repairs.
We’ve created a standard of excellence in the industry by providing expert-led education and training to industry professionals. Because homeowners deserve the highest standard of care – a level of care only the best-trained pros can provide.
Certified chimney sweep professionals are sufficiently educated and trained to perform their jobs in the field, we believe it’s equally important (if not more so) that professionals who hold a state credential act ethically when interacting with customers. That’s why each OCSA Certified sweep must also agree to our CODE OF ETHICS.
So, if you have high standards for the chimney pros coming into your home, look for a company that’s above the rest. We have high standards because you want to be sure your family is safe when you start your fire inside your house.