To: CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps
From: Ashley Eldridge, CSIA Director of Education
January 31, 2013
One of the things you do every day can be one of the trickiest in the chimney sweeping business. That thing is performing an inspection. Seemingly simple on the surface, there are many reasons that the inspection can be challenging since every job is different. With the number of stoves, fireplaces and heating equipment out there, it is impossible to write one standard that will include everything on every job. The best approach is to simply understand and apply the concept.
What exactly is it that we are trying to achieve by performing the inspection?
In the case of an NFPA 211 Level 1 inspection, we are trying to confirm that the flue is clear and can operate in the way it was intended. The points that we want to include in our inspection are defined in the NFPA 211, but they still require some understanding in the approach. In the case of a listed appliance such as a stove, factory-built fireplace or chimney, you must have the installation instructions as provided by the manufacturer in order to accurately determine whether it is installed properly.
In an open masonry fireplace, you would look at the condition of the bricks and mortar, both inside and outside the firebox. In a factory-built fireplace, the condition of the refractory panels needs to be documented. For both types of fireplaces, the hearth should be looked at closely since it can be constructed in many incorrect ways. Is there a screen or glass doors?
A stove may have to be disconnected from the chimney so you can look inside and determine if it needs to be swept. As a function of a Level 1 inspection you will have to determine whether or not the chimney does need sweeping. This approach may be different when approaching a fireplace insert as opposed to a freestanding stove using a thimble.
It is important that inspectors look very closely at the unique construction each installation might represent. In addition to the Annex in the NFPA 211, CSIA has Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in the password-protected area of www.CSIA.org that can be used as a step-by-step reference. The SOPs cover masonry and factory-built fireplaces and freestanding appliances in both Level 1 and Level 2 inspections.
You should treat every job as though you will be questioned about it later in court. Not only does this protect you, but it also provides a useful inspection report for your customer. Reflecting your findings in a written report is an opportunity to effectively communicate your findings. Your inspection report is based on the facts resulting from your observations. The details describing what level of inspection is required are clearly defined in the NFPA 211. Understanding the concepts of each level of inspection will increase your professionalism and build a bond between you and your customer.
We encourage you to visit the password-protected section of the CSIA website or our new mobile app (http://m.csia.org) to download the inspection SOPs that are available to you as a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep.
CSIA Director of Education