When a chimney sweep comes to service your chimney or dryer vent, the service will consist of two main components; The Cleaning , and the Inspection. Cleaning the chimney is the first half of the job. With some basic equipment and a few short days of practice, almost any person can learn how to clean a chimney without making a mess. This is where many sweep company's training programs end. They stick a brush in someone's hand, give them a few days of training, and then send them off to render their "services".
The second part of a chimney sweep's service should consist of an inspection to evaluate the soundness of your system. Specifically, the sweep will look for proper construction, clearance to combustibles, water intrusion, signs of damage caused by a previous chimney fire, seismic events, etc., and offer helpful tips and advice on how to get the most out of your burning experience. Unlike cleaning a chimney, rendering a proper inspection requires hundreds of hours of hands on and classroom training, a thorough understanding of chimney dynamics and construction, and a working knowledge of accepted building code requirements.A properly trained and equipped chimney sweep is your best ticket to fire safety, and well worth the small price to have your system cleaned and inspected by a true professional. So what should you look for in choosing a chimney professional? Here are some specific questions to ask as you shop around for a competant chimney sweep:
Would you select a Plumber, Electrician or Doctor who had no training or certification? Of course not! Why should hiring a chimney sweep be any different? As you shop around, make sure that the technician who is coming to your home has been trained, tested, and Certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
The Chimney Safety Institute of America is the only national organization that offers an in-depth training and certification program. Often a requirement of major home owners insurance companies, the CSIA Certified Sweep program is the only nationally recognized standard within the chimney sweeping industry.
Certification isn't always a guarantee of great service, but certification is a tangible measure of the training the chimney professional has received, and something you can verify by calling the Chimne Safety Institute of America. Fly-by-night companies aren't likely to go to the expense and effort of getting their technicians certified. Unfortunately, some dishonest companies will falsely claim to be certified when they are not. Other times a company may stretch the truth by claiming they are certified when in fact, only one person in the company is truly a CSIA Certified Sweep (oftentimes the owner who may not actually do much sweeping).
In truth, there is no such thing as a "CSIA Certified company" . The CSIA certification is awarded on an individual basis and is not a company-wide certification. As such, most sweeping companies' technicians are not certified, and may be lacking needed knowledge to adequately serve their customers. Make sure you make it a point to ask if the technician coming to your home is personally a CSIA Certified sweep . If the answer is yes, don't hesitate to ask for the Sweep's full name, and verify this information at www.csia.org/homeowners/sweeps.htm.
Incidentally, you will notice that we truly believe in providing you with superior service. AtoZ Chimney Sweeping has more CSIA Certified Sweeps than any other company in the greater Sacramento area. When one of our technicians comes to your home, you are guaranteed to have a knowledgeable CSIA Certified Sweep perform the cleaning and inspection.
To put it simply, hiring someone to inspect your chimney only using a flashlight is like using the services of a doctor who has not invested in an X-ray machine. Would you trust the opinion of a doctor who shines a flashlight down your throat to see if you have a cracked rib? Of course not! Shining a flashlight down a chimney to locate dangerous holes or cracks is just as impossible. To do the job right in either case, specialized tools such as an X-ray machine or a Chim Scan Camera are absolutely necessary. At a cost of over four thousand dollars each, it's no wonder why so many chimney sweep companies are reluctant to purchase and use such high-tech gadgetry. But are these cameras just "gadgetry" or absolute necessity?
Chimney sweeps who are not willing to invest money for proper equipment will say Chim Scans are gadgets, but the companies who use them on a daily basis know better; they're an absolute necessity! After sweeping a chimney, an inspection of the flue should be performed to determine whether any potentially hazardous conditions exist such as cracks, holes, missing mortar joints or disconnected pipes. Most chimney sweeps simply shine a very bright flashlight down the flue in an effort to inspect for the presence of such conditions.
Without reservation, we proclaim that simply using a flashlight is not an adequate means of inspecting the flue!! Because of offsets, mortar protrusions, and sheer distance, shadows are cast within the flue which render it impossible to adequately see the chimney's inner surfaces for a proper inspection.
A Chim Scan Camera, however, allows both the chimney sweep and the homeowner to view the inside of the chimney from a perspective that is only inches from the inner surfaces of the flue; most often from the comfort of the customer's home! Not only can the chimney sweep view the true condition of the flue, but the homeowner can too!
As the Chim Scan camera is pushed up into the flue through the fireplace, the homeowner and the sweep can inspect the flue as they watch a small TV screen set up on the hearth. Should there be any conditions that need attention, the camera will record a digital picture of the situation.
These pictures allow the homeowner to get a second opinion, and/or file a claim with an insurance company if necessary. In addition, the camera gives the customer peace of mind knowing that they don't have to blindly accept a stranger's word without proof. If damage or needed repairs are discovered, the customer will know they are not being swindled because they have seen it with their own eyes. Cameras and pictures don't lie. Seeing is believing.
After cleaning, AtoZ Chimney Sweeping scans every open-faced fireplace flue at no additional charge! It's included in the cleaning absolutely FREE! Because of this, it takes us longer to sweep and inspect your chimney than other companies, but we feel the extra effort is the only way we can give you the peace of mind you and your family deserve. If keeping your family safe is truly important, make sure your chimney is swept and scanned by a CSIA Certified Sweep from AtoZ!
While becoming a CSIA Certified sweep is important, it is not everything! How would you feel if you discovered that your physician had not invested any effort into keeping up with the latest medical advancements since graduating from medical school twenty years ago? Sure, he may be a doctor, but what has he done for you lately? Does he keep abreast of his field by staying involved with professional organizations and associations? Is he an industry leader who actively teaches classes and publishes articles in his specialty? Wouldn't you feel much better about putting a doctor who is a leader in his field in charge of you family's well being? The same is true with your chimney sweep.
While at first glance chimney sweeping may not seem like rocket science, there is a lot more to it than one would ever suspect. While it's true that simply cleaning a chimney may not be too difficult, learning to judge if a chimney is safe for use or how to diagnose why a chimney may not be working properly are skills which require many hours of classroom training and field experience. CSIA certification is not always a guarantee that the sweep has kept abreast of their skills and knowledge. A responsible company who cares for their customers will not only require that ALL of their technicians are certified, but also require them to attend continuing education courses as often as occasion permits.
Aaron Zambrana, Owner of AtoZ Chimney Sweep is not only a CSIA Certified Sweep himself, but he's also a very active member of both the National Chimney Sweep Guild, and the Golden State Chimney Sweep Guild. He and his wife have been featured on the cover of the Chimney Sweeping industry's three biggest trade publications; Sweeping Magazine (Aug 2003), Chim News (winter 2003), and SNEWS Magazine (September 2005). In addition, he has authored several technical articles which have also been published in Sweeping, SNEWS, and Chim News magazines. Aaron actively speaks, teaches, and consults within the industry, and others not in the sweeping industry such as home inspectors, firefighters, realtors, etc.
Aaron's obsession for providing his customers top-notch service through continuing education is not wasted on himself, however. Ask anyone on his staff and they'll be the first to tell you he can be a little overzealous at times. AtoZ's office staff, CSIA Certified sweeps and their helpers are further instructed 2-3 hours per week during their Monday morning training meetings. In addition, AtoZ's sweeps often attend annual National and State chimney conventions as often as occasion permits.all for the purpose of giving you the best service possible.
So as you call around to find a chimney sweep, ask what continuing education courses their sweeps have attended or taught in the last year. We're confident you'll find that there's no comparison between the level of service AtoZ Chimney Sweeping offers, and our competition. You just might say that our sweeps know their S _ _ T! .SOOT, that is.
The following list of continuing education Courses, certifications, licensing, and publications which have featured AtoZ have been provided for your viewing pleasure. Please note that our weekly training meetings are not included in this list. Our track record clearly indicates that we are the experts setting the pace in the greater Sacramento area. If you want to find the chimney sweeping company who will provide you with the highest level of professional service, find the one that is most actively investing in it's employee's education. You'll quickly agree; -- that company is AtoZ.
No one can deny that chimney sweeping is a dirty job.but does it have to make a mess out of your home? In the early days, heavy tarps were secured over the front of the fireplace while the technician cleaned the flue from above. Working slowly was a necessary precaution in order to prevent soot and dust from entering into the living space. Like any other profession, sweeping chimneys has evolved as new tools and techniques have been developed which both speed up the cleaning process, and reduce the chances of a sooty mess in the customer's home.
One such invention is the powerful air filtration devices (powerful vacuums with specialized filters inside) that professional chimney sweeps use during the cleaning process. With the nozzle placed inside the fireplace or stove, the soot cloud that forms while cleaning a chimney is sucked into the vacuum, filtered, and returned to the living space as clean air. At a cost of about $2500 each, these high-tech air filtration systems are the only thing that stands between the technician, and a free carpet cleaning for the customer! As such, having specialized vacuums engineered specifically for the chimney sweeping trade is of utmost importance!
Because of the large price tag, some chimney sweeping companies try to use an everyday shop-vac to control the sooty mess. While a shop-vac may be cheaper, it unfortunately cannot prevent sooty dust from shooting out into your home while cleaning a chimney. Why should you allow having your chimney cleaned force you to clean your carpets and furnishings as well? Don't let a potentially dirty chimney sweep make a disaster out of the rest of your home! Sometimes a fly-by-night company may tape several hoses together and put the shop-vac outside onto your porch! While this may keep the soot from entering your home, it won't keep the soot from getting all over your porch..right outside your door.where unsuspecting people will likely walk .and track soot into your home! Not a good idea. When it comes to keeping your home clean, AtoZ Chimney Sweeping spares no expense!
Because we have a "No Mess Guarantee," we only use August West Soot Sweeper II air filtration systems. Able to filter down to .05 microns, these are specialized vacuums on steroids engineered to ensure your home stays clean throughout the sweeping process. In addition, we are one of the few chimney sweeping companies that actually lay tarps everywhere we walk!
Most companies only lay a single tarp directly in front of your fireplace, but AtoZ's Technicians go one step further! In addition to the hearth tarp where we are cleaning, we also lay out canvass hall runners from the point of entry, all the way to where we are working.
This extra step is added assurance that our technicians won't accidentally track soot from the work area onto your carpet as he walks in and out of your home. So as you call around, make sure the company you hire is using August West Soot Sweeper Vacuums to control the dust, and that they will lay fresh clean tarps not only in front of your fireplace, but from the point of entry all the way to the hearth.
What is the most precious commodity in the world? No matter whether a person is rich or poor, to each person is given an equal amount of this priceless commodity every day, and yet, it can neither be bought, sold, or preserved. What is it? The answer is TIME!! Your time is as precious to us as it is to you! Because we respect the fact that you're busy, and you want quick, professional service, we have a full time office staff answering phones Monday thru Friday 8am-5pm. Yep, you read right, a real live person, sitting on the other end of the phone just waiting to talk YOU! Not an answering machine or an automated greeting system, but a real-live, warm blooded person who's only concern is to assist you in getting what you need as fast as possible!
Sound too good to be true? Just wait, it gets better! Not only will you get a real live person, but you'll get a real live person who knows a thing or two about chimneys and fireplaces ! We spend a lot of time training our office staff because we feel the only thing more irritating than getting an answering machine is getting a live person who's clueless. To avoid this, our office staff is trained to be able to answer your most common questions, and find the answers to some of your not-so-common questions. Sorry, no religious, political, or tax-related questions allowed. Chimney questions, only.
As you call around to hire a chimney sweep, we're sure you'll notice the difference in the way your call is handled when you talk the friendly, knowledgeable office staff at AtoZ. They will take the time to ask a few questions about your fireplace in order to get a very accurate idea of what your needs are, and what your prices will be. After calling around, we feel you'll agree; you can't beat AtoZ.
That this is important goes without saying! For your own protection when hiring any contractor, whether it is a chimney professional or anyone else, you should ask about insurance. Liability coverage is a must for any company. If the Sweeping company has employees, Workers Compensation insurance is also required! Remember, the safety of your home is at stake. And what if the contractor is injured on your property? Is this covered? Will you be sued? Unfortunately, as insurance costs continue to rise, more and more contractors are not keeping current with their workers comp and liability insurance.
As such, you must take steps to protect yourself!! Request that a copy of the company's insurance policies be shown to you before work in your home commences. Should your property be damaged, or an uninsured sweep be injured while at your home, you risk not being compensated for your losses, or even worse, stand to get sued to pay for the injured sweep's medical expenses!! As you call around, ask if the sweep who is coming to your home will have the insurance policies available for your inspection before work commences.
If the sweep company is not willing to provide you with proof of insurance, it is best that you hire someone else to do the work. When a CSIA certified sweep from AtoZ Chimney Sweep & Dryer Vent Cleaning arrives, you can be sure they will have copies of our insurance policies available for your request.
Before hiring a chimney sweeping company, it is wise to check it's "reliability report" with consumer advocacy groups such as the Better Business Bureau , as well as the Contractors State License Board . While most companies are truly seeking to provide honest service, there are those who are not properly licensed or who do not have your best interests in mind. Protect yourself by checking the company's reliability report and license status with both of these agencies. We are proud to say that your research will show our reliability report to be impeccable with both agencies.
Having a perfect record after having been in business for a decade or more is a very strong endorsement, indeed! With almost ten thousand customers and counting, we look forward to absolutely delighting you with good old fashioned service with a smile. After using our services, you too will agree, it doesn't get better than AtoZ. For your convenience, we have provided the contact information for both the BBB and the CSLB below.
Sacramento Valley BBB
400 S. Street
Sacramento, CA 95814 -6997
Contractors State License Board
9821 Business Park Drive
Sacramento, CA 95827
Aaron Zambrana , Owner / Sweep Technician
Mick Voss - Sweep Technician CSIA Certified Sweep # 7063
Ryan Kay - Sweep Technician CSIA Certified Sweep #7390
Tony Reyes - Sweep Technician CSIA Certified Sweep # Pending