Responsible homeowners understand that their chimney, like other parts of their home, needs regular care and maintenance if it’s going to stay in its best condition possible. And sometimes, you might be tempted to go with the professional who is the least expensive or who has the schedule that is the most convenient for you. But you don’t want to hire just anyone. Otherwise, you could end up with some guy toting around a broom in his car to sweep chimneys on a part-time basis. If he does a shoddy job, your chimney could end up sustaining long-term, expensive damage.
Instead, it’s important to check a chimney sweep’s qualifications — specifically, whether this chimney sweep is CSIA certified.
Certification from the CSIA, short for the Chimney Safety Institute of America, is a way of knowing that the person you are hiring is the real deal. The CSIA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to chimney and fireplace education and safety, so the professional training and certification it offers is considered the gold standard among those who work in the industry. As the organization states on its website, “For more than 30 years, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) has made it easier for homeowners to find reliable, experienced, highly trained chimney and venting professionals.” What exactly does certification guarantee? For starters, you know this certified professional is adhering to the latest and most up-to-date safety practices within the chimney and fireplace industry, as certification must be renewed every three years. You also know that this professional understands building and fire codes, is knowledgeable about installing and maintaining a wide range of heating appliances (including fireplaces, fireplace inserts, and stoves), and adheres to the latest standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
You also know that you’re working with somebody who has integrity and is ethical, something that’s very important when you’re letting a contractor into your home. CSIA-certified chimney sweeps hold themselves to a high professional code of ethics, and if that code is violated, then their certification can be revoked.
The Process of Certification
So, what does the certification process look like? (Asking for those who are curious, of course.) You’ll know your chimney is in good hands because a chimney sweep will start by studying up on three publications: Chimney and Venting Essentials, The NFPA 211, and International Residential Code. Some might opt to enroll in the CSIA National Training Academy if they believe they will learn better. This is a hands-on in-person training program that is held for six days several times a year, during which time enrollees will have access to manuals, exams, and instruction from experts.
Whether a chimney sweep chooses to just read the material or do the in-person training, they will have to complete a review. Some can be done in person when one is available in the chimney sweep’s local area (or if they want to travel to the CSIA Technology Center in Indiana). For the sake of convenience, the review is also available online, offering lessons and quizzes that can be completed on a person’s own time over the course of a month. These quizzes and lessons are designed to help the chimney sweep prepare for the certifying exam.
Like the review, the exam can be done in person or online. It’s a lengthy test (think a couple of hours and 100+ questions) based on the required reading material. The portion on the International Residential Code is open book, but the portions based on the NFPA 211 and Chimney and Venting Essentials must be done closed book. After the exam, the chimney professional is required to sign the CSIA code of ethics.
Code of Ethics
The CSIA code of ethics spells out seven rules that all certified chimney sweeps are required to adhere to. The formal wording for those seven rules is available on the CSIA Code of Ethics landing page, but the short, straightforward version of those rules is as follows:
- Learn and implement the safety practices and techniques observed by CSIA members. ● Be honest and fair in the way they are providing service, and not to do anything that’s deceptive (especially when it involves the CSIA logo).
- Comply with building codes and manufacturer’s instructions on all buildings they work on or products they install.
- Educate their customers in fireplace and chimney safety.
- Stay up to date and informed on the latest in the chimney industry.
- Be decent, respectful, and professional in the way they represent the CSIA. ● Use all trademarked material from the CSIA in an ethical way.
If you have chimney work that must be completed, our certified team is ready to assist you. Count on ChimneyTEK for high-quality, informed, ethical service. Reach out today by calling 410-796-8450.