Santa's Friend Chimney Service

Santa's Friend Chimney Service Blog

It’s My Job: Chimney Sweep

My name is Jim Robinson, and I’m the owner of Santa’s Friend Chimney Service in Jackson.

Jim Robinson Newspaper PIc - Santa's Friend

Courtesy Greg Jenson/ The Clarion Ledger

I grew up in the Shiloh community between Brandon and Pelahatchie and still live here. In fact, I live on the house site of my great-grandfather, James Thomas Knight, whom I was named after.

I graduated from Brandon Academy and attended Mississippi State for two-and-a-half years. I grew up on a dairy farm, so I majored in dairy science at MSU. We had a fairly large family operation, but I knew I was ready for a career change. I had no idea in my wildest dreams it would turn out like it has!

To make a little extra money, I started selling firewood in the mid-‘80s.  One of my customers told me about cleaning the chimneys of the firewood customers. So one very hot Saturday afternoon in June 1988, I “cleaned“ four chimneys. I can look back now and see how unprofessional I was, starting out.

This rocked on a few years until 1994, when I first got certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Up until that time, I had no idea what a code book was. When you are CSIA certified, you become aware of proper clearances, codes, standards and practices as they relate to chimneys. I attended a National Chimney Sweep Guild convention shortly thereafter and saw the potential in this industry and, in 1996, I went full time.

Today, I have one full-time employee, Justin Perkins, a chimney sweep who has been CSIA certified since 2010. My wife, Terri, is also very involved in the office, and she is the one who came up with the name for our business!

We offer a wide range of services related to the chimney— of course, sweepings, but also masonry repair, firebox repair and rebuild if needed. Solving water leaks in chimneys is a big part of our business. We reline a lot of chimneys with stainless steel or, if the situation is conducive to it, we resurface the interior flue.

We also clean dryer vents. This is needed when the dryer is not located on an outside wall and the long vent to the outside collects lint. Over time the vent will restrict the airflow and overheat the dryer. As you can imagine, lint is very flammable.

One of the main services we specialize in is solving chimney problems, whether it is a performance problem with a smoking chimney or a smelly, stinking chimney. Both of these problems are very common and are directly related to indoor air quality.

It’s important to have a chimney cleaned regularly, because as the smoke cools going up the chimney, it condenses on the interior chimney walls as soot or creosote, which is flammable. Contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t matter what type of firewood you use, as long as it is not treated wood and is dry.

There are a lot of variables, but generally it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to clean a chimney.  As a general rule, we sweep the chimneys from the bottom using a rotary drill, adding rods until it reaches the top. The attachments on the head can be either “Weed Eater” string for light deposits, steel cable for medium deposits or twist link chains for heavy, glazed creosote. The vast majority need the steel cable. If I have a question or concern about the flue, I have a video camera that will inspect every inch of the interior flue. It has the capability to capture the image, and we can email a report to the customer.

When we’re working, we always wear black, of course — it is a dirty job. We take precautions because soot and creosote are carcinogenic. We have a couple of methods for dust control and, of course, put tarps in front of the fireplace. We get comments regularly on how clean and neat we are.

The best part of this job, without a doubt, is the people I have met — customers and chimney sweeps — and the places we’ve been able to go. My customers are some of the finest people anywhere — as a general rule, anyway. By going to the NCSG convention almost every year, I’ve made very good friends with fellow chimney sweeps all across America. We are very unique in that we freely share information with each other, whether it be business practices or the latest code developments.

The most interesting was the trip in 2004 that Terri and I took to the International Chimney Sweep Festival in Santa Maria Maggiore, Italy. This is held every year in September in this small village in the northern Alps. It was started to commemorate the small children who were forced to work inside chimneys in the early to mid-1900s. Of course, they had no respirators, and a lot of them died from cancer before they were 25 years old.  During that week, there is a parade through the village with about 800 chimney sweeps dressed in traditional attire. Several countries are represented, with the lead person in the group carrying their country’s flag. Of the 800, probably 700 are German. You better believe it is a party with that many Germans!

We attended again in 2006 and in 2008 toured Europe with some chimney sweep friends.

The biggest challenge in my job is definitely having too much work from the middle of September until Christmas.— but, the rest of the year, the work load is just about right!

By Jim Robinson on March 9th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Proper Chimney Waterproofing

Is your chimney ready to stand up to winter weather? One of the most common types of chimney damage, spalling occurs when the temperature drops below freezing. Water that has leaked into the bricks and mortar of your chimney will freeze and expand, and when the temperature warms up, the water thaws and causes the masonry materials to crack and break apart. Have you ever noticed how potholes always appear on the roads after an ice storm? That type of damage is also spalling damage, and if you have seen how large some potholes can be, you have an idea of how badly it can deteriorate the exterior of your chimney. At Santa’s Friend Chimney Service, we offer several ways to protect your chimney from water penetration damage. One way we can help to keep your chimney in one piece is waterproofing. We would like to tell you more about how water can damage your chimney as well as how waterproofing can prevent water from leaking into the bricks and mortar of your chimney.

Besides spalling, how else can water penetration damage my chimney?

Proper Chimney Waterproofing - Jackson MS - Santa's FriendThe Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) has famously said that water is the biggest enemy of masonry chimneys because of the amount of damage it can do when it leaks into chimneys. Spalling damage is most likely the most devastating type of water penetration damage because if left unrepaired, your chimney could possibly collapse! However, water leaks can do even more damage. The metal components of your chimney like the damper can deteriorate from rust corrosion and break. Any wood surrounding your chimney can rot. Your ceilings and walls can become stained and distorted from water leaking through the chimney. Preventing water penetration is crucial to protecting your chimney from damage and deterioration.

Are there other benefits to having my chimney waterproofed?

Although keeping your masonry chimney safe from water damage is well worth the cost of waterproofing, you will see other advantages from this service. An environmentally friendly formula that is 100% vapor permeable, the waterproofing agent we use is manufactured by Chimney Saver and comes with a 10-year warranty with our professional application. Waterproofing your chimney will also make it more resistant against mildew and fungus.

What can I expect from a waterproofing treatment from Santa’s Friend Chimney Service?

When our CSIA-certified chimney professionals arrive at your home, they will begin by seeing which type of waterproofing formula will work best for your chimney. After scrubbing and cleaning your bricks and mortar, your chimney will get a coating of the waterproofing formula to create a barrier that will protect your bricks and mortar from becoming deteriorated by spalling and other water penetration damage.

Don’t hesitate to protect your masonry chimney this winter. Contact us at Santa’s Friend Chimney Service to schedule an appointment for a waterproofing service before the temperature drops below freezing.

By Jim Robinson on November 25th, 2015 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , | Leave a Comment

What Is the Best Season for Your Annual Chimney Inspection?

The language used in authoritative recommendations of annual chimney inspections contributes to the debate regarding this. “Before every heating season” and “before use” lead many to conclude that annual inspections should be done in fall. “Before further use of the fireplace” might or might not have caused fewer leaps to the same conclusions.

Annual Chimney Inspections - Jackson MS - Santa's Friend Chimney

The point really is that the chimney was inspected and then time passed. What was true about it before is no longer necessarily true. No one can know that it is still in good condition. Accordingly, somewhere between last-and-first regular uses – which often are responses to seasonal weather changes – the chimney needs to be inspected.  Which season is the best for that obviously varies with chimneys and circumstance.

There can be good reasons for inspections in any season. The important thing is that home owners not introduce fire to systems of uncertain condition. There are two quick points in that connection which together say, “Home-Buyer Beware!” A home inspector only inspects what he can see and lack of use does not stop time.

All of this becomes especially salient when chimneys have no caps and crowns are improperly constructed. It is extremely difficult, therefore, to pronounce one season better than another for your annual chimney inspection. We can tell you that when problems are detected in spring, there is time to correct them before fall.

We can also tell you that CSIA certified chimney sweeps are conscientious year round, so there is no real problem with fall inspections. That, however, assumes that a certified sweep found everything to be in great condition last fall and there was no change in use. These professionals can work around your choice of season. The important thing is for you to schedule annual inspections.

By Jim Robinson on April 26th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Getting Your Chimney Ready for Maintenance

If you have ready any of our posts, you know we recommend that you have your chimney and fireplace professionally cleaned and inspected at least once a year. Doing so ensures that your chimney is safe to operate and that the structure is sound both inside and out. However, before you have a professional chimney sweep come into your home, there are a few things you need to do to make sure your chimney is ready for maintenance.

Getting your chimney ready for maintenance

  1. The chimney and fireplace should not be used at least 24 hours prior to any maintenance. This ensures that the fireplace and chimney have properly cooled before the technician performs their tasks.
  2. The area around your fireplace may need to be cleaned. By this we mean move your photos and such off the mantle to avoid them getting dirty or broken. While chimney sweeps take the greatest care in protecting all homes they work in, there is no need to invite and accident to happen.
  3. Clear out the immediate area around the chimney so the sweep has plenty of space in which to work. If you have chairs or other furniture within about six feet of the fireplace, just move it to the side to allow plenty of space for the technician.
  4. Once the chimney sweep arrives in your home, ask them any questions you may have about the process and what they will be doing. You are also encouraged to sit in the background and watch them work. This often serves as an education for the homeowner in that they can learn basic maintenance tasks from the sweep.
  5. When the cleaning is done, go over any procedures again with the sweep of which you are unsure. For instance, if you want to know the best way to sweep out the chimney, demonstrate it in front of the sweep to ensure you are following the safest procedures.
By Jim Robinson on January 11th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment