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Getting to know ... a pair of chimney sweeps PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, December 15, 2013 9:00 PM


Staff Writer

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DELPHOS — Along with scheduling the yearly inspection and maintenance of air conditioners, boilers and furnaces, it is also very important to have residential chimneys inspected and cleaned to protect houses from potential fires and life-threatening gases.

Old World Chimney Sweep owner Bradley Neuenschwander — who is an CSIA-certified chimney sweep — has been in business since 1988. He said he got started in the business when he had the opportunity to purchase the business from a coworker.

Dan Szczepanski said he had been working for a masonry company and decided to get into the chimney-cleaning business. He took a one-week course with The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) in Indiana and was then tested. Throughout the course work, Szczepanski said he received an education on why people should clean their chimney, clearances, combustibles and many more topics.

“There are three sources for the testing,” Neuenschwander detailed. “The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 211 codes, the CSIA and the International Residential Code (IRC).

“The biggest thing I’ve learned ‘on the job’ is that all chimneys are different,” Szczepanski explained. “We try to offer a solution to a customer’s problem.”

According to statistics from the Chimney Safety Institute of America website, from January 2009 through December 2011, there were an average of 24,300 fireplace, chimney and chimney connector residential structure fires. In that same time frame each year, there was an average of 10 fire deaths and $30.8 million in fire property loss.

Chimney Sweep Dan Szczepanski guides the camera up into the chimney interior offering a 360-degree closed-circuit video view of the smoke shelf, flue tile, mortar joints and mortar cap. Depending on the condition of the fireplace, cleaning may be needed prior to using the close circuit-camera to inspect for internal cracks. Chimney cleaning removes dangerous buildups of highly-flammable creosote — a gummy, foul-smelling corrosive, which is extremely combustible — and ensures smoke, vapor and gases face no obstruction as they are vented efficiently from the house. Creosote will coat the inside of everything it passes through and is formed when volatile gases given off in the burning process combine and condense on their way out of the chimney.

“The flue liner is like the exhaust of your car and should be sealed,” Neuenschwander explained. “When there are cracked mortar joints or mortar joints missing between the tile of a chimney, there’s a potential for gases to escape.

“The camera sees the internal cracks,” Szczepanski said. “Sometimes customers want to see what the inside of their chimney looks like and they watch the video.”

As the camera is guided up the chimney and rotated 360 degrees, Neuenschwander points out the areas; smoke shelf, damper, flue tile and mortar joints — as seen via video — and explains any issues.

“I recommend checking the chimney yearly and cleaning as necessary,” Neuenschwander stated. “Cleaning removes creosote — which can lead to flammable deposits or a blockage, at worst.”

The chimney can be cleaned from the bottom up with the Ro-Klean system, which has differing brushes and fits onto a drill which allows for the brushes to rotate fully. The brush is gradually guided up the interior of the chimney where it spins and cleans the flammable deposits of creosote from the flue tile.

“The brush is made of the same material as weed-eater line,” Szczepanski said.

Neuenschwander said he inspects from the top of the chimney whenever possible and checks the flashing and condition of the chimney above the roof line, which includes the mortar and flue caps.

“Sometimes with ice it’s hard to get up there and clean with a brush,” Neuenschwander said. “We can clean it [the chimney] just as well with the rotary tool from inside.”

Neuenschwander and Szczepanski attend continuing education courses and maintain their CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep certification by re-testing every year.

After the inspection and cleaning, Neuenschwander provides a consultation re-addressing any issues and gives his recommendations for repair work and explores alternative solutions to fit the customer’s needs.


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