Your chimney is an essential part of your roof and the structure of your home. Different components of the chimney work together to keep smoke out of your home and prevent rain and wild animals from getting in. At Chimney Champions, we understand how important regular maintenance and repairs are for your chimney. While choosing a chimney professional to inspect your home may seem rather straightforward, several key factors need to be taken into consideration.
1. Are you hiring a Certified Chimney Inspector?
This is one of the single most import factors in the decision-making process. Becoming a Certified Chimney Inspector by either the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) or the National Fireplace Institute (NFI) is the minimum standard for professionals in the industry. The certification process develops the foundation for safely inspecting a chimney using the most recent industry guidelines and tools for success. Also, as a certified inspector develops his or her career, they maintain certification status by attending multiple classes taught by the best instructors in the industry. Let me give a good example of valuable information that is taught during training events.
Did you know that in the late 1940s, the UL testing facility burned to the ground while testing a fireplace? After the fire, testing did not resume until 1957 when they tested and revoked a UL listing (the minimum safety standard for factory-built chimneys) on a factory-built system that had been on the market since 1952! The Thulman (pre-fab) fireplaces built between 1952-1957 were given a UL listing (without testing) that allowed them to be installed with zero-clearances to wood framing. After the UL listing was revoked in 1957, drastic changes were made to reduce the chance of a structure fire occurring and the zero-clearance was taken away. Key takeaway: these systems still exist in the market despite being unsafely installed, and most inspectors without industry-best training would have no clue as to the extreme hidden danger concealed behind the walls of these systems.
2. Is the company properly insured?
Businesses practicing in our industry should not only carry general liability insurance, but also professional liability insurance that includes pollution insurance to cover your home in the event of a total vacuum failure. General liability insurance only covers you at the time of service and does not include things such as a sweep, using improper equipment, and spreading soot throughout a home.
Once the company has left the job site, general liability has done its job, and this is where professional liability insurance is absolutely essential. Professional liability insurance coverage is used to protect the client from reporting errors and omissions, improper repairs, and in the scariest situations, chimney fires due to the negligence of the company.
3. Does the company follow NFPA 211 safety guidelines?
The National Fire Protection Association guidelines were developed as a minimum standard for all chimney professionals to follow, to ensure that inspections performed cover key components of the chimney and fireplace. Basic level I inspections consist of 33 questions, with level II inspections totaling 65 questions. Your inspection should include a detailed report documenting the findings based off these questions. Additionally, if your inspector is following industry guidelines, you will see him or her accessing the attic, crawlspace, or even portions of the chimney chase to help ensure your safety.
4. Are the right tools and technology being used during an inspection?
When inspecting a chimney, certain tools are essential to properly assess the condition of the chimney. Level II inspections require the use of video/camera inspection systems, such as the Chim-Scan System, in order to observe all visible areas inside of a chimney venting system. If someone is inspecting the inside of a chimney “by taking a look at it”, they are limited to a small portion of the chimney and jeopardizing the safety of your home in order to save a few thousand dollars on the proper tools.
Water leaks are another major concern when inspecting your system and another area where the proper tools and training are required. Professional moisture meters and the use of infrared imaging drastically improve the ability of an inspector to pinpoint the source of a leak.
Another key tool is a high-quality vacuum with True HEPA filtration. True HEPA filters must remove 99.97 percent or more of all of particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter (a human hair is 80-100 microns). To put in in perspective, for every 10,000 particles that enter the system, only three pass through a HEPA filtration system. The unit should also contain a four- or five-stage filtration system and remain encapsulated inside the unit for further safety. If you see a Shop-Vac style of vacuum, chances are your home is not being protected from harmful byproducts that were in the chimney and now are in your home!
Lastly, drone use has become a popular option for inspecting difficult access chimney systems. Is your inspector FAA certified and insured for drone use? Without the proper certification and insurance, the homeowner may be stuck with the bill if a drone accident were to occur.
Why choose Chimney Champions?
Chimney Champions takes pride in not only exceeding the industry standards, but in pioneering new technology to help keep our customers and inspectors safe during the inspection process. We don’t consider ourselves chimney sweeps/inspectors, but rather life safety and loss prevention specialists with our main goal being our customers’ safety.
In 2020, we are rolling out several new programs, such as additional air scrubbers during service for those with respiratory concerns, the completion of a four-year certification to become licensed as mold assessment and remediation specialists, and completing intensive training that focuses on the cause and source of chimney fires in order to even further improve our inspection process.
We realize chimney inspectors are not the last line, but the only line of defense when it comes to protecting a client from an unsafe chimney. Even if you ultimately decide to go with another company for your chimney needs, make sure it is one that will protect your family and your investment from the potential hazards that exist in our industry. We proudly serve residents in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Orange Park, FL. Contact us today at (904) 268-7200, or schedule your appointment online.
Credit: Michael Wood