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Justin Reports From The Chimney Sweeps Guild Conference

Justin Bailey was at the National Chimney Sweeps Guild Conference in Portland, Oregon. April, 2018. Bailey has served as the journalistic reporter for Sweeping Magazine at the conference for the last four years in a row. Bailey had the opportunity at this conference to share his story about his journey to becoming a masonry heater builder in a presentation for about 150 Chimney sweeps.

The National Chimney Sweeps Guild supports it’s members by providing representation, proven standards, camaraderie and networking. This is done through education, industry specific publications and a yearly convention that brings the industry together on a national platform.

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What you need to know before starting that first fire of the season.

As the winter season heads our way we are ready to get the fires burning again. Here are some great steps to take and things to remember:
Starting That First Fire Of The Season? Is Smoke In Your Face?

Baileys Chimney, LLC. is a certified Chimney Sweep company. Call us today Santa Fe 505-988-2771 / Taos 575-770-7769

SAFETY ALERT: Helmets Save Lives.


By Justin Bailey

At the 2017 NCSG trade show, Brian Barnhill told me a story about why his supply company, Barnhill Chimney Supply, is selling a line of climbing helmets made by Petzl. I called him up recently and asked if he would go on the record. He agreed, and told me the whole story over the phone:

“We’ve been pushing safety, we’ve got the safety manual, we have the safety meetings. We’re following the accepted guidelines for our trade to the best of our ability. And that didn’t keep our guy from getting hurt.

“If you listen to safety guys talk, they always say ‘Its not if, but when.’

They also say that a majority of falls occur at the transition point between the ladder and the roof.

“We had a guy who was working on a ranch [single story house], guy’s 6’4”, name’s Blake Giles, he’s been with me for years. It was a low pitch roof. We don’t know what happened, because he doesn’t remember, but there was a fall.

“He hit his forehead and cracked his skull. Long story short, he ends up at the ER and [it seemed like] we might lose Blake. It was terrifying. It’s every business owner’s worst nightmare. There were a lot of days of touch and go.

“Yesterday was his first day back. He was out for a few months with this injury, and it could have killed him. This kind of fall has killed other folks.

“I really did some deep soul searching, I thought ‘Is this worth it?’ I can go do something else to earn a living. Is it worth it to have a business that can get people killed? I really got into a dark place with that. But I came to the conclusion that, firefighters don’t not do their job because it’s dangerous. Their job is to protect people and save lives…

“One of the big things with safety is culture. I can tell people to wear gloves and place their ladders carefully but if there’s not a culture to support it, it doesn’t happen. I wanted to make safety cool, and have good good gear, and give my guys the best gear to be safe with and go help people and continue in this business that we’re passionate about…

I read about the five second rule… It’s if you want to start something new, like say meditating, you don’t start and say ‘I’m gonna do an hour of meditating every day.’ Because you’re probably not gonna do that. But you can say, ‘I’m gonna meditate for five seconds,’ and five seconds turns into more.

“Instead of throwing everything at the guys at once, we asked, what could be the safest thing we could start with, that doesn’t take a lot of training and that we can just do? That was the helmets.

“We picked up a helmet line that’s the lightest, most functional thing which is made for climbers and is certified for what we do.

“I thought we would have some difficulty getting the guys to wear helmets because they just never had to before. The opposite was true. They love them. I think they were ready for it after what happened. I think our guys, they had their own dark nights [after the accident], thinking ‘is this for me?’ They adopted them wholeheartedly.

“Our motto with it is ‘Every roof, every job, every time.’”

“I picked up those helmets because I want to be a part of positive affective change, I want to help change the culture. [Putting on a helmet] is easy to do.

“If you fall and break a leg or an arm, you’re most likely not gonna die from that, but the same blow to the head can kill.

“When folks stopped at our booth, the stories started coming out. There was a whole lot of ‘Me too,’ or ‘We had a fall last year.’

“I think that we all need to wake up and realize that this job is potentially hazardous and we need to gear up to take care of ourselves so we go home to our wives and children and we can show up to help somebody tomorrow.”

In hearing this story, I remembered how when I used to ski as a kid in high school, nobody wore a helmets. We would be going fifty or sixty miles an hour sometimes. People died. Now the vast majority of skiers wear helmets. Same with seatbelts – when I was a kid nobody wore them. Now everybody wears them. The car seat we grew up with our mom sticking her arm out to keep us from slamming into the dashboard. Now people have car seats for kids. I mentioned these things to Barnhill.

“I think in two years, anybody who is anybody in this industry will be requiring their guys to wear helmets,” he said.

Let’s hope so. In the meantime, if you are interested in purchasing helmets for your crew, call Barnhill Chimney Supply at 859-389-8607 or go to www.barnhillchimney.com.

Angies List Super Service Award

Bailey’s Chimney is the proud recipient of the Angie’s List Super Service Award for 2016! Thank you to our wonderful customers for all of the positive reviews!
Angies List super service award chimney cleaning & Repair

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SantaFe.com Interviews Justin Bailey

Green Building and Sustainable Development: January 30, 2017
“Kim interviews Justin Bailey, owner of Bailey’s Chimney Cleaning and Repair, northern New Mexico’s premier chimney service company and a proud member of SFAHBA. Look for Justin’s booth at the Santa Fe Home Show March 11/12 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.”

Listen to the podcast HERE

new folks attended the 2016 NCSG convention

New Attendees:
By Justin Bailey

208 new folks attended the 2016 NCSG convention, according to NCSG Program Director Claire Rutledge. I decided to speak with a few of them. Two of them were Javen Martinez and Nicholas Graham, certified sweeps with my Bailey’s Chimney Cleaning & Repair in New Mexico. We got a photo of all three of us with NCSG President Jeremy Biswell, taken by the NCSG First Lady Biswell. Martinez and Graham really enjoyed Chris Prior’s seminar on masonry heaters, and CSIA Mark Stoner’s closing keynote inspired both of them. “I like meeting the other sweeps,” said Martinez. “Seeing all these people who are totally into it.”

During the trade show, I went looking for other first time attendees, and I found a couple of them. The first one I sat down with Chris Bevan, of Chimney Doctors in Bailey, CO. Chimney Doctors paid for his trip to the convention, along with four other members of the company. I was glad to meet someone from Colorado, because there are so few of us from west of the Mississippi who attend NCSG conferences. Bevan, 27, has long hair and some tattoos. He said he thought the conference was “pretty awesome.” “Everybody is trying to help out the other guy,” he said. “It is a brotherhood here.” He says he likes his chimney sweeping job “because I feel like I’m making a difference, helping people heat their home. My office is amazing, my view is hundreds of miles, I can’t complain about sweeping chimneys at all.”

After that, I spoke with David Steward, of Claremore, OK. Steward wears a Cowboy Hat. He works for a company called Chimney Man. He paid his own expenses to come to the convention. “The trade show has been amazing,” said Steward. “Its great to be able to come in and see all the products as opposed to just seeing the catalogs. The best part is meeting all the other sweeps. Network, learn, form relationships. And coming to Florida in February is never a bad idea.”

Industry Technology Panel

General Panel Discussion: Industry Technology Panel
by Justin Bailey

The Industry Technological Panel discussion at the 2016 National Chimney Sweeps Guild Convention in Orlando, FL featured several of the leading figures in the industry. As I sat down in my usual place in the front row and set up my computer to take notes, somebody asked me if the seat next to me was taken. I looked up and saw that it was CSIA President Mark Stoner. Sitting next to President Stoner turned out to be almost as entertaining as the panel discussion itself.

The first panelist to speak was Jim Pritchett, who began his presentation by saying, “My wife bought me a new toy.” Pritchett proceeded to to do a show and tell presentation, with his iphone wirelessly connected to the overhead projector. He was showing us the latest in 3D photographic technology, available online for under $400. “What I did last month was work on a lighting system,” said Pritchett, messing with his phone to change the images taken by his 3D camera on the giant screen behind him. He showed us a photo of something that looked like a cross between a UFO and an IED, with some LED light bulbs sticking out in different directions. “I have a picture of myself going through TSA with this,” he said. President Stoner, sitting next to me, immediately pulled up a couple of 360 degree cameras on amazon.com on his ipad. They cost from $260 to $360. During a pause in the presentation, Stoner asked Pritchet, “What brand is it?” “Oh that’s top secret,” said Pritchett. “Show them what a flash cam is,” said CSIA Director of Education Ashley Elridge, standing next to Pritchet. “How many people know what a flash cam is?” Pritchett asked the crowd. I was too busy trying to keep up with what was going on with President Stoner’s ipad to to turn around and see how many people raised their hands. At one point there was a question about how to protect the camera when it was inside the chimney. Pritchard said that he had ordered something from Japan.

After a brief interlude, during which panelist Sally McKnight spoke about the possibility of using mushrooms to safely compost leftover creosote, Pritchett came back and showed footage of something that could prove to be a highly valuable tool for chimney sweeps: a thermal imaging camera that works with an iphone. “Its available at the Apple Store for $250,” said Elridge, as Pritchett showed images taken from his thermal imaging camera on the big screen. The pictures were highly psychedelic, colorful photos of various objects, including people. A murmur went through the crowd as several hundred chimney sweeps contemplated aloud the potential applications in our trade for this device.

Legendary Chimscan Chimney Interior Inspection System Inventor Tom Urban was the next panelist to speak. “I’m kind of a student of innovation, and for you younger guys, I’m innovations’s bitch,” he said. Urban spoke for a few minutes about the challenges of keeping up with the ever increasing rate of innovation, as an inventor and as a business owner who develops and manufactures highly technological chimney inspection systems. “We spent close to 100 thousand dollars having outside consultants helping us structure the business.” The next panelist was Kevin Binder, who talked about the possibilities of interfacing various apps, including google maps, to help a service business operate. He mentioned the usefulness of consumer safety apps, including one called RecallManager, which enables a user to find out if the product they are trying to service has been recalled. The next panelist was Rob Lindemann, who introduced himself as “owner of the largest chimney sweeping company on the planet.” He wore a cast on his hand, which was from a weightlifting injury, he said. Lindeman spoke about the exponentially increasing pace of technological innovation, known as Moore’s Law, and he went through several criteria he uses to decide which technology to adapt in his business. “The most important thing is to use technology that other people are using,” said Lindeman. “If you buy a piece of software and the people aren’t willing to implement it, it won’t work.” Lindemann said he prefers equipment that can be easily repaired and replaced. “I like stuff that’s readily available. You can go to Best Buy or Amazon and get something replaced. Easy to fix, easy to replace. Get something that’s tested and supported.” As far as apps go, Lindemann said, “I don’t think we’ve ever spent more than nine bucks for an app.”

The final presenter on the panel was chimney sweeping legend Jim Brewer. Brewer has been experimenting with the use of flying drones to help with chimney inspections. In his usual deadpan style, Brewer got the crowd laughing right away with his lists of things drones can do and can’t do, with regard to chimney work. Drones can’t carry materials, repair chimneys, or clean chimneys, he said. But drones can do some things, he said. They can crash, they can injure people or kill people, they can damage property, and they can interfere with aircraft, he continued. Drones can also give you
good, up close look at chimneys, crowns, and flashings, which can be practical for estimates and pre inspection that otherwise might require a bucket lift. But if you can put a ladder up to see what you need to see, Brewer said that’s probably the best way to go. Brewer said he spent over forty hours learning to fly his own drone before he felt comfortable putting one anywhere near a chimney. He also mentioned that when you program a drone to return home if the signal is lost, be careful where you are. Brewer said President Stoner was in his living room (President Stoner’s living room) when he programmed a drone, and so when the drone tried to come home it crashed into his roof trying to get inside. President Stoner laughed and nodded his head and laughed some more, agreeing with Brewer’s recommendation. The president did not deny the allegation of his drone SNAFU.

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Veteran Attendee Profile; Andy Raycroft

Veteran Attendee Profile

Andy Raycroft, Alexandria, VA

Rooftop chimney sweep

Since 1978

When Andy Raycroft went to his first NCSG convention in Chicago in 1979, he didn’t know what a chimney cap was.

“The trade show was the size of this room,” he said, gesturing around the dining room of the restaurant where we met. “Bob Daniels [the famous ‘Sooty Bob,’ founder of Copperfield Chimney supply] was there. He was selling his chimney deodorant. He had one cap. That was it. I placed my first order for chimney caps. They were called O.D. Funk. I ordered a dozen. When the caps showed up, by freight line, I had no place to put them but in my living room. I looked at them and I thought, I don’t know if I can sell these.”

Raycroft has been to a lot of NCSG conventions since 1979. He became a certified chimney sweep in 1980, and has maintained his certification ever since. He is CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep #140. “That was the first year they had the certification. Your number was determined by where you were standing in line.”

Andy’s brother, Tom, got certified too.

“By the spring of ‘80, Tom was full-time in the business.”

Raycroft has two sons, Tristan, 31 and Dylan, 29. Both boys also work for Rooftop Chimney, after putting themselves through college by working as sweeps during the summers and during breaks.

Raycroft’s business has had ups and downs. “We grew to 5 trucks in the 80’s,” he said, “but I didn’t know what I was doing, business-wise.” The business shrunk back down to two trucks. Tristan decided he wanted to pursue a career in the family chimney business in 2007, and they started growing the business.

Things have changed a lot in the chimney industry since 1979. They’ve changed for Andy Raycroft too. His company, Rooftop Chimney Sweep, now has 17 employees. It grew 35 percent in 2014.

In January of 2015 he gave his first annual State of the Chimney Address to his entire staff.

“I showed them everything,” he said, “The profit and loss statement, all the numbers. they know what my salary is, and they know what the profit is.”

Raycroft attends several conferences every year, and participates in a MIX group, which allows business owners to share best practices with each other in a professionally facilitated environment. NCSG conventions provide the networking opportunities that are necessary to get involved in the industry in that kind of way. Raycroft credits attending the convention with not just his success, but his survival as the owner of a chimney business.

“It was a smart thing to do. I would guess that if I hadn’t joined the guild I would have quit sweeping years ago. I was the only one in my area, in the whole DC area.” He said. “Imagine you just started doing a job, not related to what you’ve been doing. I was doing historical research [for a living] and now I’m sweeping chimneys.”

Raycroft shared the secret to his success as a family business owner:

“With the respect and the love that we have for each other, there’s a real trust factor there. We all look out for each other, as we do for the people that work for us. The most important part of your business is people, whether its your customers, your employees. You want to treat them the way you want to be treated. You treat people like people.

Raycroft recommends the NCSG convention to any chimney sweep working in the industry.

“You learn more outside of the classes than you do in the classes.” He said. “From my very first convention, I’ve made friendships that have lasted 35 years.”

Pete Luter Innovation Award

by Justin Bailey

MajTool

MajToolllc@gmail.com

570-341-8960

Rooffaster.com

James Vieira

by Justin Bailey

There were four contenders for The Pete Luter Innovation Award for the best new product in the chimney industry, sponsored by Sweep’s News, at the NCSG Convention in 2015.

The winner was The MAJTool — an adjustable roof scaffold system that allows chimney professionals and roofers to set up workstations, on planks, on steep roofs. Using Majtool, workers can move freely about the roof, with plenty of space for materials and tools, gaining the mobility to work effectively. The MajTool is a free floating, quickly assembled scaffold system that works on shingle, tile, and metal roofs with pitches between 8/12 and 14/12.

The other three entrees to the Pete Luter award were:

1) DrySafety: is an alarm that can be installed between the dryer and the transition duct. Pwered by a 9 volt battery, it senses restricted airflow and excessive heat, and it signals an alarm of 3 beeps. Similar products have been marketed before.

2) Poultice Creosote Remover (PCR): created by Saverysystems, is a dry powder. When mixed with water to a mayonnaise-like consistency, it is applied to thick layers of glazed, stage 3 creosote. Upon contact with the creosote deposits, the PCR begins to melt the creosote. As it dries, PCR forms a poultice that weakens the bond between the glazed creosote and the clay flue tiles. The creosote begins to flake off, and is then easier to remove, using mechanical sweeping equipment.

3) ServicePal: is a customer relations management software program that can be used with an ipad and quickbooks online, and has been adapted to the chimney industry with help from Jake Cromwell of Top Hat Chimney & Roofing in Arkansas. At the time of the show, ServicePal wasn’t quite ready for full compatibility with quickbooks, but Cromwell said it will be ready soon. ServicePal combines scheduling, point of sale, invoicing, and checkpointed chimney inspection functions in one customizable online application.

I spoke by telephone with the winner, James Vieira, inventor and patent holder of the MAJTool. A general contractor by trade, Vieira said he does a lot of roofing work, which gave him the idea for the product.

“We were looking for a safer way to be able to work off the roof,” said Viera. “Still being able to work under the surface of the scaffold, without causing damage to the roof. It allows you to lift up the rails if you need to.”

Vieira said the evolution of the MAJTool has been a long process.

“We’ve been testing it in the field for 12 years. We got a patent last year; it took us 9 years. This is the only free floating system there is. We have a 20 year patent on it; they granted us an additional 3 years because of how long it took to get it.”

Funded completely out of pocket “from doing construction work and little by little building the company up,” MAJTool’s manufacturing facility is in “a shop of my own,” Vieira said. “We do all the manufacturing in house. We buy all the materials local, U.S. made.”

The MAJTool retails for $470.00. It comes with two sets of twenty feet of railing, two ridge mount brackets, and four plank mount brackets, giving sweeps the capability to mount two, movable work platforms on a pitched roof.

“I’m getting the best response from the chimney people,” said Vieira. “Our biggest sales day, by far, was the NCSG trade show. It seems like the chimney people are more concerned with safety. MajTool gives you a good solid work platform to hold your tools and materials.”

MAJTool is available directly from the manufacturer. To learn more, go to rooffaster.com, send an email to majtoolllc@gmail.com, or call Vieira at 570-341-8960.

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Masonry Heater Association, Annual Meeting

Masonry Heater Association, Annual Meeting

Masonry Heater Camp at Wildacres!

By Justin Bailey

The Masonry Heater Association of North America (MHA) had its annual meeting at a retreat center called Wildacres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina from April 11-17th. The word ‘meeting’ doesn’t adequately describe the week-long festival. I’ve started to think of the experience as “Masonry Heater Camp.”

Accommodations are simple, but comfortable. Everyone shares a simple room with a roommate, and there are enough beds for about 120 attendees.

I first heard about MHA and Masonry Heater Camp when I took a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep Review course from Rich Rua 2014, in Columbus, OH. Rua mentioned that he’d been to the MHA annual meeting as a part of his overall education in the chimney trade. I asked him about it later, and I put it on my bucket list.

But I never had the opportunity to get seriously involved with masonry heaters until last year, when I got a call to look at a gigantic masonry heater, an Austrian “Tile Oven,” built from scratch in the 1990’s. The heater sits in a ski lodge called the Bavarian, at Taos Ski Valley, 10,200 ft altitude. In 2013, a billionaire bought the ski resort, and the masonry heater came with it.

I looked at the heater, asked lots of questions, scanned the flue, and it became clear that I needed more information and knowledge. 8 or 9 years ago, I learned, they burnt some green firewood in the heater, and it hadn’t worked ever since. Nobody could figure out how to fix it. They’d hired a local mason, who just made it worse.

I knew where the firebox was, and where the chimney was, but what lay between them was a mystery. There were no readily accessible soot doors, like Tulikivi heaters have. The heater was massive. I needed a plan. I needed information.

Thanks to the NCSG and the course I’d taken with Mr. Rua, I knew there was somebody out there I could call for help. A google search led me to the MHA, and I got executive director Dick Smith on the phone. He suggested I join the organization. The cost of a full voting membership was $300.00 per year. That’s how much I charged the billionaire for the initial service call/inspection, and I became a full voting member of the MHA. It turned out to be a pretty good investment.

After making some calls and talking with a couple of masonry heater builders from the association, I felt like I could at least write an estimate to fix the thing. I stated clearly in the proposal that there was no way for me to know how long it would take me to fix the heater, or how much it would end up costing. I found space in the estimate to mention that there was exactly one member of the MHA in New Mexico.

I got the gig, and soon enough, I was on the phone with one of the founding fathers of the MHA, Jerry Frisch. Jerry spent over an hour on the phone with me, that first time we talked. He asked me about the heater, and had me take photos of it and email them to him. He said that it sounded like there was a blockage in the flowpath. He told me how to find the masonry cleanouts, and how make the penetrations through the masonry material to access the passageways. When I offered him money for his consulting help, he refused.

“I just want to pass down the knowledge,” he said. “I’m only going to be doing this for another 20 years. My wife and I talked about it, and we agreed that we’ll do this for 20 more years and then we’ll talk about it again.”

“That’s very generous of you,” I said.

“I recently got remarried,” he said. “My first wife passed away. I just turned 80.”

With phone help from Jerry, I was able to get the heater working, test it out, clean the glaze from the flowpath and chimney, and install cleanout doors. I was fascinated and excited with the project. I felt grateful to have the job and the opportunity, and to have the help of the guys from the MHA. The first time we fired up the heater, with glass taped over all the cleanout openings so we could watch the smoke pass through the passageways in the heater, the manager of the Bavarian was happy to see how it all worked.

When I called Jerry Frisch to thank him for his help, he invited me to the World of Concrete (WOC) Trade Expo in Las Vegas, NV. “We’re going to build a masonry heater in the parking lot,” he said.

“Count me in!” I said.

Las Vegas and WOC were a blast, and got to see a masonry heater built by an expert from the ground up. I also helped build a wood fired pizza oven.

Fast forward a few months, I found myself at Wildacres for a week of Masonry Heater Camp. There were masons from the US, France, Russia, Canada, Germany, Finland, and Japan, all of them building heaters on site, answering any question you could think of. Of the 120 attendees, 7 of the masons own and/or operate their own testing labs. The CEO of Tulikivi International had flown in from Finland. Founders of other European startups were there. I’d signed up for the HMED course (Heater Mason Education & Development Program) which was developed by Jerry and Jim Frisch. Jim, Jerry’s younger brother, taught the course.

The classes and seminars included a bricklaying workshop, Chris Prior’s class on masonry arches, a course on emissions testing, and several history courses. I wasn’t able to attend many of them, because the HMED took up the majority of my time. Most days, the last class or seminar would let out around 10:00 p.m., and the festivities would already have begun.

And yes, they have an auction too, kind of like the CSIA action the NCSG convention.

By the time Friday rolled around, the newly built heaters were all fired up and running, including the large pizza oven. Pizzas started coming out of the oven in time for dinner – the best pizza I’d ever tasted in my life.

By nightfall, a group of musicians had gathered to play old standards and folk songs, seated on the warmed, L-shaped bench of a rocket mass heater with a cookstove top, where somebody was making crepes. I got to hang out with CSIA’s Darcy Marlett and Ashley Elridge, who were attending. People were dancing and the beer was flowing.

The pizza party was still raging as I headed down the mountain in my rental car at 2 a.m. to catch an early morning flight out of Charlotte.

The next morning, before noon, (according to photos I saw posted on facebook,) all the brand new heaters and ovens had been disassembled and the materials put away in storage. Ashley Elridge pointed out that the masons and students could learn as much or more by taking apart the heaters as they did when they built them.

In all my years in the chimney business, I’d never enjoyed myself more than I did during the week I spent at Masonry Heater Camp at Wildacres. I’ll be back next year, for sure. I hope to build my own masonry heater in my house soon, and I would like to become a certified masonry heater builder. With the HMED under my belt, I’ve taken the first step, but I have a lot more to learn.

If you would like to attend the Masonry Heater Camp next Spring, google the Masonry Heater Association of North America or go to mha-net.org.