Certifications, Licenses and Titles - what do they really mean?
Many states require chimney sweeps /contractors to be licensed in that state as Home Improvement Contractors or as Chimney Technicians. New Hampshire and Maine are exceptions as there is no licensing possible for general chimney services, with the exception of gas service. Because there is no NH or ME standard there are many different titles and certifications claimed by various businesses. Some of these are legitimate and important, others less so, still others are completely meaningless. Also be wary of general statements such as "We are XXXX certified". Although membership in various organizations is usually for the entire business, certifications are test based and awarded to individuals. Therefore a business is not certified, employees are. Hopefully the following definitions will help you:
CSIA Certified: Focused on chimney sweeping it is based largely on knowledge of current National Fire Codes (NFPA 211) and inspection levels, this is the educational division of the National Chimney Sweep Guild. This certification is required by most states that have licensing, as it was the first nationally recognized certification. Many states are recognizing alternative certifications as well. A business can not be CSIA Certified, only individuals.
CSIA Master Chimney Sweep: someone who has been CSIA certified for at least 10 years and is alos a cewrtified Dryer Vent Technician.
NFI Certified: The National Fireplace Institute is the educational division of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. This is an association of hearth product manufacturers. There are 3 different technical certifications that can be earned by passing an exam: wood appliance, pellet appliance or gas appliance. These exams focus more intensely on service and proper installation of these appliances, although knowledge of the NFPA 211fire codes and inspections is also tested. These exams are also being accepted by many states as an alternative to the CSIA. A business can not be NFI Certified, only individuals.
NFI Master Hearth Professional: Title awarded by NFI to someone who maintains all 3 certifications. Both Mark Jones and David Turner are Master Hearth Professionals.
Mechanical Business Entity License: Required by the State of NH for businesses who work on gas appliances of any type, and plumbers. Unlike the above certifications or licenses listed below that are issued to individuals this license is for the business. Our license # MBE1500864, for Hearth Systems.
NH Gas Licenses: State Law that went into effect In January 2007, also known as "Amelia's Law". Anyone who installs, services or hooks up a gas appliance of any type must have the appropriate license under NH Law, there are several categories each with its own limitations. Both Mark Jones and David Turner hold the appropriate licenses under Hearth System Technician category. There are strict fines and potential jail time for non-compliance. Again this is not a license awarded to a business but an individual. It is not the same as certification, in NH NFI/CSIA and other certifications are optional, but a License is not. For more information or to see if someone has a license: NH Gas Fitters Law.
Maine Fuel Board: Propane & Natural Gas Technician: Appliance Connection & Service Technician: Maine also requires a license to work on gas appliances, there are several different categories and they are not interchangeable. This license allows us to install, service and hook up gas appliances in a home. Mark Jones and David Turner both hold the appropriate licenses under the "Appliance Connection and Service Technician" category. Not awarded to businesses only individuals. For more information Maine Fuel Board
F.I.R.E. certified: A private independent business in California that offers classes on NFPA 211 inspections of existing installations. Very rare on the East Coast and not required by any East Coast State, but extremely popular on the west coast.
Member of....: There are many professional organizations that one can become a member of, usually by paying annual dues. These may include National Chimney Sweep Guild, Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association, National Fire Protection Agency and local groups such as The Northeast Association of Chimney and Hearth Professionals, Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, Angie's List (which is not a paid membership). Most of these organizations require members to sign a code of ethics, many of them provide educational opportunities, trade shows etc to keep members up to date on the latest products and technology. If a homeowner believes that they have been scammed by a chimney professional that belongs to one of these organizations, the organization may be able to help resolve it.
Master Sweep: This is a "self awarded" title, there is no national, state or local standard to be met in order to advertise yourself as a Master Sweep. (Other than the CSIA Master Sweep) Howver many businesses advertise themselves as "Master Sweeps" with no defining reason other than it "sounds good"
Chimnologist: This is a title awarded by a poured liner manufacturer to the companies who purchase their product and have taken their in-house class. It has no specific meaning beyond that manufacturer.
Golden Top Hat Award: Given by Copperfield Chimney Supply to their top customers.
When in doubt, check it out.
The professional sweep should be able to explain to you what each certification or title means.
All of the certified/member sweeps are listed on each organization's web site.
All licensed technicians are searchable on each state's web site (links above)