Structure fires related to fireplace use are entirely preventable. That’s why we at Mike’s Clean Sweeps have made an ethical commitment to technical betterment—because the safety of our clients is at stake. Sometimes in the past it has been challenging to convince a homeowner, even in the face of clear indicators that continued use of the chimney posed potential hazards, to have any inspection performed. Over time, as we have gained people’s trust and increased our knowledge, we decided to stop arguing with clients about what was in there best interest, do what we knew to be right, and embrace a flat rate system in which we no longer provide routine cleanings without also performing a thorough inspection. We run cameras on every chimney we touch so that we know our clients are as safe as possible.
One does not need any license, certification, or insurance to sweep chimneys in California. Despite the fact that the National Fire Protection Association requires that a Level 2 Chimney Inspection be performed with each transfer of property, the vast majority of fireplaces in the Bay Area are still not being inspected, in part due to a lack of credentialed technicians in this area. On the one hand, folks are generally unaware that many fireplaces are not fit for use due to concealed hazards. At the same time, due to the underregulated nature of the trade, there will perhaps always be a cohort of individuals who see a quick buck in seasonal sweeping and would rather not invest in the education and equipment necessary to properly inspect fireplaces.
It is our mission to spread the word that there are credentials in the chimney trade and they are essential to keeping people safe burning fires in their homes. When remodelers cover up the air vents on a prefab, rendering it potentially hazardous to use, these are defects we catch because of continuing education. If a contractor puts the wrong kind of aftermarket termination cap on a prefab that utilizes a thermosiphon effect to circulate air within the walls of the chimney pipe, or puts too small a decorative shroud on top and the chase catches fire, these are avoidable losses because the contractor was not following the manufacturer’s instructions. There are industry-best practices that include a camera-based inspection, HEPA vacuums, and recertification with continuing education credits. The credentials offered by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, the National Fireplace Institute, and the Fireplace Investigation, Research, and Education Service exist as a result of decades of dedicated specialists sifting through data on structure fires and sitting on international code councils. We feel it is self-evident that safety is paramount and that doing one’s due diligence with regard to maintaining certifications is the least we can do to earn your trust.
We at Mike’s Clean Sweeps are happy to tell you all about the varieties of fireplaces and chimneys, how to protect them with preventative maintenance, and how to reline a masonry chimney that has deteriorated internally. We perform drafting calculations as part of our Level 2 Inspections, provide digital reports referencing code, and utilize only the most cutting-edge equipment and materials. We can let you know how state, national, and local code requirements will impact your project and have recourse to the Technical Advisory Council for the National Chimney Sweep Guild for instances that demand further research.
We take fire seriously. So should you.