All of the chimney industry professionals who are certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America had to wince at a televised news report in North Carolina this week. WRAL-TV Channel 5 interviewed a homeowner who had a serious soot issue that came after maintenance work done by a company.

A Raleigh, NC homeowner is frustrated. She didn't use a chimney specialist for her home inspection/sweeping and has a dust issue as a result. Photo courtesy  WRAL-TV.

A North Carolina homeowner is frustrated after a sweeping that went awry, they have a ‘dust’ issue as a result. Photo courtesy WRAL-TV.

We certainly understand the homeowner’s frustration. Preventing a situation like from occurring is first and foremost on the minds of CSIA-certified professionals, who commit to training and specialize in providing top-notch service.

When a homeowner contacts a chimney sweep/company for an inspection, it’s great advice to ask them what their practices are in regards to keeping the interior of the home as clean as possible. An accidental sooting is not unheard of. The key question is, does the company stand behind their work in case a “sooting” happens?

MORE: How to hire a chimney sweep

We appreciate that the news report had this important nugget of information:

“Homeowners who want to get their chimney cleaned should check companies’ BBB ratings and references and make sure chimney sweeps you hire are certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America. While that doesn’t guarantee a problem-free experience, its members do have to follow a Code of Ethics that includes proper training and professionalism.”

Indeed, “Inside preparation” is one of the six steps that CSIA advocates to chimney sweeps as part of our Successful Chimney Sweeping Manual.


A section in the “Successful Chimney Sweeping Manual” includes detailed instructions on how to avoid sooting a home.

Some helpful excerpts from the SCSA Manual: 

After the preliminary examination, return to your truck and decide what equipment is needed to accomplish the job. Your goal as a sweep is to sweep the chimney system to the best of your ability without making any mess in the home. Be aware of dust producing situations. For example, if chimney openings are not tightly sealed, leaking dust can migrate throughout the home and cover everything with a dirty black film that is costly to remove. Also, muddy shoes and dirty equipment can ruin carpets and rugs. In both situations, the sweep can be held responsible for the cleaning bill.

In our manual, we talk about the responsibility of the chimney sweep.

Before entering the home, make sure that your equipment and the soles of your shoes are clean. Particularly in inclement weather or muddy conditions, you can use an extra pair of shoes for inside work. Wearing your outside work shoes, make several trips to remove the equipment from your truck. After each trip, set the equipment in the garage or just inside the doorway. When you have removed all of the equipment, change into your inside shoes, and if necessary, roll out paper, drop cloths, or carpet runners from the entrance of the home (or the garage) to the work area before taking the equipment there. If necessary, change your shoes each time you go in and out of the home. This routine minimizes the danger of tracking in dirt and debris. Once your equipment is in the home, cover the floor of your work area with an appropriately sized layer of drop cloths. Move upholstered furniture out of your way, or cover it with clean drop cloths. For your own protection, ask the homeowner to remove fragile home accessories or family heirlooms from the work area. They will appreciate your concern for their treasures and gladly help out.

When the work area is cleared of furnishings, place all equipment, including the vacuum, on the drop cloths. Develop good work habits – like arranging equipment in the same logical fashion for each job. Sweeping goes faster when you know where to find each tool. At this time, plug in the vacuum and turn it on. Now that the equipment is in place and the vacuum operational, you are ready to seal all chimney openings to prevent dust from entering the home during sweeping. The openings discussed in this section include; old, unused thimbles, cleanout doors, holes caused by missing mortar between brick joints, and adjacent flue openings in a multi-flue chimney. Other chapters in this manual give more information about sealing chimney openings for specific installations.

MORE: Hear from a consultant who studies chimney sweep companies, and the difference between those who have CSIA Certified Sweeps, and the ones that do not

This instruction is not only part of our certification, but it is taught at our National Chimney Sweep Training School, a six-day hands-on course taught four times per year at our CSIA Technology Center in Plainfield, Indiana. We send students out to homes to show how to do inspections, and all of our instructors preach the need for dropcloths and equipment to do the job right.



A good rule of thumb for homeowners who want to hire a chimney sweep is to ask them what precautions they take, and what equipment they use, on site.

Find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep here, by your zip code.