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Hiring a Sweep: What to Look for

You love the warmth your fireplace adds to your home, both in terms of beating the chill and the ambiance it creates. Clearly, you want to keep this home asset functioning at the top of its game. But when it comes to inviting a chimney professional into your home to maintain your fireplace and chimney system, what should you look for? 

You know you want someone reliable who possesses the knowledge and skills to deliver on the services you require. You’re also looking for high levels of integrity, professionalism, and service mindedness. And you’d like your home to be left as mess-free as possible when the work is completed too.

So, how can you hire someone who checks all the boxes? Finding the right chimney sweep has a lot to do with knowing the right questions to ask.

Are They CSIA Certified?

round CSIA logoThe chimney industry isn’t nationally regulated, and most states don’t require special licensing to operate as a chimney sweep. That means that, technically, anyone with a set of brushes could brand themselves as a professional sweep. While this may be surprising, it doesn’t mean there’s no way to tell whether someone is qualified.

In the world of chimney sweeps, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) sets the industry standard when it comes to certification.

Run by a volunteer board of industry experts, the CSIA is dedicated to promoting excellence in the trade and encourage education about chimney safety. If a sweep bears the CSIA seal, it means they have:

  • successfully passed a comprehensive exam demonstrating broad and thorough industry knowledge
  • maintained their knowledge base and awareness of current safety standards by re-certifying every three years
  • committed to adhering to the CSIA code of ethics, acting with professional integrity, and promoting the safest known practices

While there’s no national regulation, that doesn’t mean there’s no standard by which to screen potential chimney sweeps – and a CSIA certification is an excellent place to start.

We want to be accountable to a high standard, which is why we maintain our CSIA certification. As a matter of fact, our founder, Bob Harris, has even served on the Ethics Committee for the CSIA. When you trust in us, rest assured our standards are high.

Do They Have Any Industry Memberships?

Industry memberships are professional affiliations that demonstrate a chimney sweep’s desire to stay “in the know” with continuing education, technological awareness, and professional growth. Reputable associations provide numerous opportunities for development and service in the industry.

We feel that investing in our trade, educating the public about fireplace safety, and keeping our own knowledge sharp and growing are all worthwhile endeavors. That’s why we’re so involved with industry associations.

In addition to the CSIA, we’re members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) and the New Jersey Chimney Sweep Guild (NJCSG). As in the CSIA, our founder has served the NJCSG by leading. His roles have included serving as director and secretary, treasurer, and vice president, and he is currently the president of the NJCSG.

How Experienced Are They?

Judging by our record of industry certification and service, it will probably come as no surprise to you that we have a fair bit of experience under our belt. We’ve been serving Northeast New Jersey for over 25 years. As far as the customer is concerned, knowledge, skill, and experience are a winning combination – and one we’re proud to offer.

What Do Their Customers Have to Say?

a sad, happy, and neutral face with checkboxes next to themWe’re good at what we do. With our track record in customer service, you can take our word for it, but in the technology age you don’t have to. When you’re searching for a chimney sweep, checking out online reviews is a good way to round out your perspective and get the total picture.

Are clients content with the sweep’s punctuality? Cleanliness? Friendliness? Explanations of service and charges? Whatever your priorities, you’re likely to find someone who’ll tell you their experience with the company in question. 

Making an Informed Choice…

It’s often said that there are no guarantees in life, but with just a few key questions you can make an informed decision about the person who takes care of your chimney and fireplace.

Routine care, such as annual inspections and regular chimney sweepings, are an important part of keeping your chimney system operating optimally.

✓ Your chimney sweep should be trained to spot any potential maintenance issues, such as deterioration or cracking.

✓ They should offer proactive solutions that minimize repair costs that grow if issues are unseen and unchecked.

✓ They should be committed to thorough work that dramatically reduces the risks of chimney fires or uncontained fires.

✓ They should be able to walk you through services and the costs involved in a friendly, transparent process and answer your questions.

Call Today to Work With Our Sweeps

You care about your home. Thankfully, we do too. And we have the skills, knowledge, experience, and dedication to provide you top-notch service that meets your needs.

Call 973-450-1947 to schedule or simply reach out online now to get started. We can’t wait to work with you soon.

Safely Scooping Fireplace Ash

You’ve heard it said that where there’s smoke there’s fire. We would point out that if your fire is burning well, smoke may not even be visible leaving your chimney. And we’d add that where there’s a wood fire, there most definitely will be wood ash!

These two things – a clear fire and wood ash – are related. Maintaining an appropriate level of ash in your wood-burning stove, fireplace, or insert, coupled with using properly seasoned logs for your fire, will ensure an efficient, clean-burning blaze.

If a hot, clean fire is your goal – and trust us, it ought to be – then you’ll need to know when and how to clear out ash from your firebox.

Shovel, Remove, Repeat

wood burning with an ash pileClearing out ash is simple enough.

  • Wait at least 24-72 hours after your most recent fire to allow ashes to cool.
  • Use a sturdy metal fireplace shovel to scoop ash to a level of about one inch in your fireplace.
  • Place scooped ash into a container. Your container should only be fireproof with a securely fitting lid, such as a lidded metal bin.
  • Remove your container to a place outside your home that’s not close to any structure that could combust.

Keep in mind that embers buried in ash may retain heat for a long time. Even after they appear cool, hot embers are able to ignite a fire for days under the right conditions. Treat ashes like they’re hot even if you don’t think they are. Wear heat-resistant gloves while using your shovel to remove ash, and don’t place anything flammable near your ash container until you’re certain the contents are completely cool.

After ashes are cool, dispose of them – or better yet, save them for one of their many potential uses around your property.

Why Leave Some Ash Behind?

If you’re going to the trouble of clearing out ash, why not just scoop it all?

Well, the goal is producing the best possible fire crackling away in your fireplace, and this goal is achieved more readily with the help of that layer of ash.

You want to minimize any smoldering (which is a fire with smoke, but little flame) when using your fireplace. Smoldering can be detrimental to air quality, heat output, and system cleanliness. Rather, we want bright flames, generous heat output, and complete combustion of logs. When a fire is burning well, there shouldn’t be smoke visible, and flue gases should be hot so they vent properly.

A thin layer of ash aids in combustion, as new fires will be easier to light on a bed of ash. Because of its insulating properties, energy from your fire won’t be wasted warming bricks to the level necessary for your blaze to thrive.

When Is It Too Much?

Now, some ash is good, but don’t let it go too far. After a while, enough ash will accumulate that it becomes a hindrance rather than a help. It’ll reduce air supply to your logs, making it more difficult to start a fire and resulting in more smoke. At this point, you know some ash needs to be cleared out to maintain that one inch level.

Also, after your last fire of the season, you’ll want to do a total clean-out, as leaving ash in the firebox year-round can create havoc in your system. When combined with moisture, ash left sitting can corrode the floor of your firebox and cause damage to your system.

Taking Advantage of Ash

close up view of bucket with ashEnjoying your fire leaves you with ash. But it’s not just waste – it has beneficial properties that can be put to work in your home and garden. After all, since you’re producing wood ash as you heat your home, you may as well use it! 

Savvy gardeners know that fine, moisture-drawing wood ash is useful in deterring ants, snails and slugs in the garden. Encircling plants that tend to attract slugs with ash will discourage them from eating them since snails and slugs don’t like to cross substances that pull moisture. Ash can also be used as a soil amendment if your soil’s pH needs to be elevated, and it can be sprinkled on your compost pile to add a generous helping of potassium and neutralize acidity.

It’s also useful underfoot in increasing traction on icy surfaces, and its moisture- and odor-absorbing properties make it great help for minimizing odors. Keep a small, open dish in the fridge to avoid stink. You can also rub it on a pet who’s had a close encounter with a skunk.

Keeping Your Fireplace Working for You

There are many ways to get the most from your fireplace. In addition to maintaining an appropriate level of ash and practicing fireplace safety, staying on top of maintenance and servicing is critical. The freeze/thaw cycle, wear, and bad weather can cause chimney system deterioration, and soot and creosote can build up in your flue over time.

We know you do what you can to keep your home safer and more comfortable, so partner with us when it’s time for your annual inspection or chimney sweeping. We’ll put our expertise to work for you. We have over two decades of experience and certifications that keep us on top of all industry standards, so we know what we’re looking for and how to achieve it.

Let us help you keep your system in tip-top shape. Call 973-450-1947 or reach out online now.

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