Estoban Practices Positive Sustainability
The Estoban Corporation, the manufacturer of the Chim-Scan® Internal Inspection Systems, has practiced sustainability for over 38 years during the life of its business. “We manufacture products right here in Iowa and have always repaired what we sell” states Shelley Urban, a 2nd generation owner. “We repair or update a piece of equipment until we can’t anymore. We update equipment for customers and make repairs instead of asking them to purchase a new product or a large part for the product. We track down the problem and repair the part that is broken. It’s important for us to keep our products in the field up and running so companies can keep working”. When a camera system has exhausted its usefulness and is no longer worth upgrading, Estoban recycles the old pieces.
In addition to the strong commitment to recycling and repairs in manufacturing, Estoban takes other measures to save on energy. All our lights are energy-saving bulbs. This provides a brighter quality of light and makes our employees working environment pleasant.
Another energy saver is 90% of all the rooms have 2 or more windows. This gives us the option to turn the lights on only when we need them. Plus, windows in work areas have shades to help keep the hot Iowa summer outdoors.
In keeping with Tom Urban’s industry origins, the shop and office are heated with an outdoor wood furnace. During the winter months, it’s not uncommon to hear a chainsaw as Tom steps out to cut up more wood.
When it comes to equipment, LED Lights were implemented into the camera design around the turn of the century. Recently, Drill Battery Pack Adaptors were added as additional power sources for the Controller/Monitor. We can install this adaptor for Milwaukee, DeWalt and Rigid. Have something different? Just ask us.
Twice a month, you will find Esther and Ray gathering boxes, scrap materials, and other products to recycle. We even recycle printer cartridges which are doomed to contribute to landfills and take 1000 years to decompose. “It’s important for us to minimize our footprint and leave our legacy in other positive ways.
The most recent eco-friendly project has been the investment in 3-D printers. With these printers we create and manufacture several of our parts, the waste is minimal, and it saves on shipping and fuel.
An important part of Estoban’s positive sustainability plan is the employment of several local people. Because parts are made in-house, repairs and upgrades are easier and are a part of life. Estoban employs several local people with part-time and full-time jobs. “In the end, it’s all about people and sustainability regarding the quality of life on our planet. It gives us pleasure to do our part not only from an eco-friendly point of view but also giving back to our community” says Shelley Urban. “When the sun goes down, we feel good knowing we did the best we could”.
January 17th, 2018
Thoughts from the Scanman
It's Fall in America again - children are back in school, Friday night football games, hot chocolate, and the smell of fall is in the air. Fall is the busiest time of the year for the chimney sweeping trade. It includes long days, cramped schedule books, and ordering supplies.
For us in Iowa, it's harvest time; our neighbors are operating 24/7 running combines, and tractor-trailers filled with the grain are on their way to the Mississippi to load the barges heading out for export. Living in the Midwest grain belt seems like a funny place in relation to the chimney industry, but we have been in Iowa over 30 years from our Pennsylvania roots.
Since 1978, I have been in all aspects of this industry, from a fledgling sweep in northeast Pennsylvania to the owner and operator of an interior chimney inspection camera and accessory manufacturer that sells equipment worldwide. I still remember the Mass. Guild meetings at the Lennox Inn! To this day, I still hold and retest the CSIA certification test. I have taken the test(s) 14 times. My certification number is 210, but I'm still in the field at heart! We have provided vision to thousands of chimney, masonry, and HVAC companies.
Keeping up with technology
Since 2014 Estoban went through an extensive change in operations and product design. What we used to make with the shears, snips, drill presses, and manual lathes, we now manufacture with CNC machining centers and lathes. This computer-operated machinery allows us to create older parts in half the time, plus replacement parts are guaranteed to fit. We liked how well the new CNC machine worked that we bought two more. One was identical to the first machine center, so we had a backup if one didn't work. Sure, enough, one part of the machine did go wrong, but we didn't miss a step.
We have offered inspection equipment to fulfill many of your needs through all the ups and downs. Our mission statement has always been to provide quality imagery and support for our customers and continues 33 years later. With continual improvements and YouTube videos helping owners with company training, meetings on using the cameras are growing. We are just finishing a new 4000 sq. ft. shop addition to help with our expanding needs.
Beginning with an End in Mind
One area of business that all of us need to address is creating an exit strategy. My wife Esther and I started working together shortly after we were married. In 2004, one of our customers stopped by our shop in Iowa. He and his brother relied on the Chim-Scan to generate new work, and the cameras were a major part of their company. He wanted to know our plan after Tom and Esther were no longer working? Gee, we had been so busy designing better products for everyone we hadn't taken the time to think about "retiring" or a catastrophic health event.
So, we started looking at what options would be available. Sell the company; hire middle management, etc. We hired business advisors who helped us formulate a plan. Yes, this is expensive, but they brought many ideas to the table that we had not thought of. As we set forth a plan, we hired them back three times over the next ten years. Each time they gave us new goals and projects to work on.
First, we had to decide what retirement looked like? We enjoy what we do and who we work with. So, we made a conscious decision to simply work fewer hours and hire good people who could run the day-to-day operations. We took a week off to try it, and when we came back, we fixed what didn't work. Then we tried for two weeks. Again, we fixed what broke. That meant writing the dreaded S.O.P. etc. We found that power points work great for SOP writing. Set the copy, add a photo, then the next step. The great part is they can be printed and placed in notebooks or put on Microsoft 365 to share and update them when needed.
I highly recommend a LEAN process called Streaming. Take post-it notes or 3 x 5 cards and go through each step of an operation. Lay them out on a table with all persons within the company watching. Then see if all agree on the steps or the need for more post-it notes or cards. Then align them in a sequence to reduce time and waste. Only the persons involved should do this for their department for larger companies. Then departments share their results with other departments to see if things align with the company mission.
We have found through trial and error that big expensive relational database programs require rigid rules to keep them going properly. (YOU NEED I-T PEOPLE) After a while, you wonder if the dog is wagging the tail, or is the tail wagging the dog. We now operate on two programs, QuickBooks and Microsoft Office. Period! The flexibility to do some operations are easier in these programs than in a total package system. We even learned how to use QuickBooks as a database for all the language used in our inspection program. We can write an estimate that looks like an inspection form, either level 1 or 2, with over 350 paragraphs stored in QuickBooks!
Regarding MS Office, SOPs, PowerPoint, Excel for production purposes, and Publisher for documents. I still believe in Leonardo DaVinci's saying, "Youth should be taught perspective then Proportion." It's a big world out there; at some point, you need to figure out who you are and what makes you happy. From there, work on the proportions needed to make your dream come true. When you reach this point, begin the measuring process needed to fulfill that dream. Until you set up the systems to measure it, your dream can stay just that, a dream. LEAN training and streaming really help in this area.
Our daughter decided that there were opportunities to join the company in 2010. Shelley is now our office manager; after working her way up thru wiring, repairs, purchasing, and customer service as far as our other employees have been here, 29, 15, 8, 5, 2 years and one that just started six months ago. Also, the other protection needed was to purchase Keyman insurance on principles within the company. Again, another failsafe to be sure of continued support for our customers.
Once we had our plans in place, we realized that many of our customers would need to think the same way. Some companies would simply stop working because they never set up their exit strategy. Others had family members who would like to continue the business. Our equipment was now such an important part of many companies' daily work. The question is no longer why I need to buy a Chim-Scan, but how can we make sweeping and scanning easier, quicker, and less stress on the sweeps body.
As with every trade, the tides of change are on the rise. As some companies grow, others are starting to retire. Some will leave with a legacy; others just close the doors. As we attend various trade shows, it's comforting to have our older customers come to our booth to introduce a son, daughter, or partner who will take over the business.
It's interesting to see new and old companies begin to grow way past the expectations of many, sometimes even themselves. They now have segmented operations, field personnel, staff meetings, human resources, marketing plans, and operations managers.
It's a far cry from the top hat and tails, "sweep your chimney for $40.00 with the big red vacuum". And the goal then was to make van payments repay student loans and mortgages. Maybe this is too much organization in your life? Maybe just enough. You be the judge. I know many 1-2 truck operations that lead a life they feel comfortable with. Others aren't comfortable until they reach 25-50 trucks with a goal for the stock exchange.
Making Sweeps Life's Easier
We looked over the data we collected to find what part of the equipment needed the most repairs. We realized that most companies were not using the centering device to protect the camera and that the cables were most vulnerable to damage.
In 2013, we created the lighthouse camera with its 360-degree, continuous variable-rate pan camera to help prevent cable twisting and stop the operator from having to twist their wrists all the time: no more twisted cables, and easier on the operator's wrists. Plus, the add-in cable reeler corrected cable storage problems.
When we added the Enviro camera to view straight up, this combo camera system included the stabilizers. As we tested this in the field, we created a way that sweeps could look straight up the flue (viewing offsets, misaligned liners, crack liners, and blockages in real-time) as they went up the flue. They could switch to cam 2 and view the side walls (open mortar joints, cracks in liners, missing liner sections) as they pulled the camera back down the flue. We then stored these two cameras and the attached stabilizers in their own caddy. All the sweep has to do is connect the 50' cable, and they are ready to scan. Plus, we make the adapters to any rod system you currently have, no more switching rods! This rugged two-camera system cut the scanning time in half, yet you can see twice as much of the flue's interior.
Even though one liner crack can justify a repair or reline, scanning the entire chimney appears to be a waste of time for some sweeps. By 1985 our Pa. sweep company had placed in 260 liners. I have stories of liners not fitting, a stainless boneyard, and all the headaches involved in NOT scanning all the chimney to see what was down there to hang liners up! With this system, in the time spent looking for one crack or defect, I can have the entire flue scanned and recorded in video format or still Jpegs.
The lighthouse combo camera answered many of the repair issues that we had, which increased reliability and reduced downtime.
The lighthouse camera has an acrylic lens cover, for easy change out in the field. Also, a replaceable flexible shaft between the two cameras allows easier access up thru a thimble chimney and prefabricated fireplace dampers. Also, the newly designed stabilizers can be easily fitted in the field.
Now, in 2017, we wanted to address the safety and fatigue of our customers. So, we accomplished the goal of reducing camera repairs, stopping twisting rods in your hands, offering better vision through better resolution; use specialty adapted LED lights to create a full spectrum light array. Plus, our goal was to build a camera for our newest product, "the Raptor: so that sweeping, and scanning could be accomplished at the same time.
All concepts are designed for the consideration of the chimney sweep's time. Roll in, set up, sweep, scan, use the Flue & Hearth notes as your checklist, so when it is time to be with the customer, you are ready and have collected the information necessary to explain your findings in Level 1 or 2 inspections. The Flue and Hearth Notes™ are segmented so that you can direct the customers' attention to a certain area of the chimney to reduce confusion and promote trust.
By segmenting the inspection, we found out how much faster and more complete inspections could be done and how many new opportunities were created. By going through the checklist, all the defects are noted and operational. The uniformity provides the office or manager with the same info as the sweep sees. (Collect data, train techs, engage managers, create a uniform platform to measure in one step). We have our own system we have used for several years. The checklist gets the data; QuickBooks with 300+ paragraphs have the explanations. The Flue and Hearth Notes™ is available in a paper triplicate form or use the fillable PDF to use on a computer, Android pads, or IPads.
We have not done articles for some time, to the point there are industry rumors that we are no longer in business. It takes time to walk the walk and place these changes into place and make them operational. This family's business plan has positioned itself to be here another 35 years. The other rumor concerning that Chim-Scans cost over $5000.00 is also exaggerated. With the process of high technology machine works we now offer units starting at $1995.00. Check out our website: www.chimscan.net Text photos or questions to cell phone 641-919-4896. We have full-time personnel answering the phone from 9:00 C.S.T. to 5:00 p.m.
Esther, Shelley, and I want to thank all of you who have placed your trust in our products. As Red Green would say," if you can't be handsome, be handy. And remember to keep your stick on the ice!" Have a great holiday season. Take Care.
First, we have a wireless unit that works quite well as far as wireless goes. The signal can go through 3 walls and up to 150 feet away.
But just when I am ready to start a production run, the FCC has placed a wattage limit on all wireless units to fit part 15 of the code.
So, for now, the best I can do is about the same power as blue tooth without requiring an amateur radio license.
The FCC is planning to enforce this rule this fall. How may you ask? I don't know. But the fine, if I sell this type of equipment, is $7,5000.00 per occurrence, without the end-user having the license.
So, if you are happy with the Bluetooth cellphones range, I can match it. But if you would like to "see" farther, it will require a license to run one.
Plus, as an amateur, you cannot use it for commercial gain under this ruling. That's another fine. But this will find its way and interpretation with every attorney you consult. There are attorneys already adding this litigation to their list. No matter where the earth has a hole, somebody has a bucket!!
Because of the quadcopter phenomenon, the FCC and the FAA are planning to enforce this very soon!! The suppliers I've communicated with tell me that this is very real and that I should not risk any sales without proof that you have the license. They are also downsizing the wattage to help comply with the ruling, with regret because the range sucks!!
So, at this time, I'm not sure where to go with this "wireless thing."
Since the Go Pro and all the consumer cell phones are available for $200-$300.00, that may be a choice for those that want to deal with consumer electronics.
There is no backup, no customer support, constant changes, and cheap equipment that people tell me, 'It's the bomb.'
Now I know how you folks feel like when a customer comes to your store.
You spent time educating them about what they need, and then they go to a big box store and say that your prices for your stoves are too high and that the value is the same??
To address the changes in the industry, we have been selling the lighthouse camera.
No rods to turn; the camera goes around on its own, Stop and reverse when you want to.
Even color corrected light source, no hot spots, on a cable that doesn't need a license and can give you a good high-res image 300 feet away if you need to.
Plus, we back our products with answers to your e-mail and questions at night, we support your industry events, and give back to customers in the way of education as much as possible.
We can upgrade older equipment by adding the necessary switches and updating the SD recorders to accept the EYE-FI cards.
Because the rods don't have to be turned, the cable comes out of the slip ring reeler (series 200 and 450) and goes up the chimney. Coming down, it falls to the floor, where you wind it up on the reeler. NO MORE TWISTED CABLES!!
With the CeCure camera/Enviro-flex camera on top, you can look up the chimney, see where you are going, and get a bird's eye view. Then, flick a switch and change the view to the Lighthouse where the camera rotates 360 degrees to see the joints—two incredible views at one time.
We can now offer this for less money than the Auto Focus Tilt cameras and half the size and weight!!
With these changes, the system can now accept a viper system, so those operators that want a seamless rod can do so.
With the advent of the EYE-FI card sending the images right to your I-devise, you can send them to your paperless report. The snap button on the controller is fast enough to capture the image without stopping the rotation, and with the keyboard, you can enter the client's name on the photo and any short message or description you want.
The series 200 and 450 that can use the character generation keyboard, characters stay with the image as it transfers through the EYE-FI CARD, SO SHORT DESCRIPTIONS STAY WITH THE IMAGE………HOO….AH. (Not shouting, just excited :))
We are not the same camera company; our product line is an ever-evolving process, and we are taking it to another level.
So, in a nutshell, this is where we are,
*Full view, 360 degrees, and above imagery,
*Fewer rod connections yet more choices of rods to use,
*Capable of image transfer to digital devices,
*Lighter weight, smaller size (2" round) to fit through prefab fireplace dampers and thimble chimneys,
*Able to be used for prefab chase inspections (CeCure and Enviro-flex models- 1.5" hole)
*Add photo descriptions to your imagery for easier documentation and photo admin
*And the ability to use earlier models and upgrade them.
*Plus, you can pair the Lighthouse with the Enviro-flex and get two views, all with the flip of a switch.
It’s amazing what can change in a few short seconds.
I was sitting at my desk reading the February issue of Sweeping that had arrived. On page 23 was a picture of someone with their arm bandage. The headline read, “Unable to work due to Injury or Illness. The article was written by a supporter of this industry and someone I would call a friend, Brian Noe. We were introduced to him at a Mix meeting. I hate to be the “poster boy” for this article, but I thought I would share what proceeded to happen minutes after I read the article.
Monday, March 3, 2014, we had record temperatures all across the Midwest, and it was minus 13 in Fairfield. We had turned the new condensation furnace in our pole barn that contains our chimney lab and extra tools that we do not use every day to OFF. We did this when propane reached over $5.00 a gallon in January because if we are not working in that building, there is no sense of heating it!! WRONG, a high efficiency, a condensing furnace is full of condensate. It freezes if you turn it off and won’t’ work- DUH. As I waited for the furnace guy to come and help thaw out the furnace, I went back to the office. Esther, (my wife) went to fix lunch and left me at my desk reading emails, getting ready to call a customer, and thinking about our booth at the upcoming convention.
We all get interruptions throughout our days, but I need to prioritize better. An employee mentioned that we needed some special pieces of plastic cut for a unit. I don’t like “the girls” to use the table saw, so I jumped up to cut them quickly while lunch was getting ready. Of course, the table saw is in the “cold” building. So, I couldn’t wait for the furnace to thaw (so I thought). It’s COLD, so I left my gloves on, not thin tight-fitting gloves, but the insulated ones I used to chuck wood into the outside furnace.
It happened so fast. It was the last piece to cut, and the saw blade simply grabbed the edge of the leather and pulled my thumb into the blade. I’m a very fortunate man. 1. It only cut the end of my thumb on my predominate hand. 2. The intense cold did not allow my hand to bleed. (Esther was glad not to have to clean that mess up. As I left the building, I had my wits about me to go back and turn the saw off.
I didn’t go back into our shop; I didn’t want to interrupt the employees. I know at least one would have fainted at the sight of the blood. I got into our home and called to Esther, “Get your coat.” Where are we going? To the hospital. OMG. She was cooking lunch and was not pleased to turn the burners off halfway thru. After delivering me to the emergency room, Esther called Shelley, explained where we were, and made sure everything was turned off!!
The E.R. is less than 7 miles away, mostly 4 lanes. (We live in the country, but the bypass is nearby)
X-rays showed that the bone between the knuckles was shattered, 3 breaks, and the pad was minced back to the first knuckle. Now, if it had been another finger, we may have opted to amputate. Even if it had been the left hand, maybe…. but since I’m right-handed, the doctor had a plan.
Side note, who knew that our small town of 10,000 would have an orthopedic surgeon with his office at our hospital? He is also a leader in the procedure I’m about to describe. We are so grateful that we did not have to travel to the University Hospital 70 miles away.
After evaluating, Dr. Ivan scheduled surgery for 3:30 in the afternoon. After putting 4 pins in the bones to hold the thumb together, he cut a flap in my abdomen and pulled the flap up around the wound, and secured it in place. He placed another “stitch” using a 100-pound test line to secure my wrist to my side so that the arm/hand did not move. They wrapped me up with two six-inch-wide ace bandages to hold my arm to my body. I finally got to a room about 6:45. Pain meds kept me pretty drowsy, and the doctor said that we would know after 24 hours if the “flap” would survive. The next day, by the Grace of God, when they changed the dressing, all were pink and looking like the Doctor wanted. They sent me home with antibiotics and pain meds.
The doctor was impressed that at the age of 59, my blood pressure was good, no diabetes, and I was a nonsmoker (except maybe a cigar when Shelley was born 26 years ago). He said I was in good shape for the shape I was in. And that the little bit of belly fat was a great place for my thumb to heal. So instead of the original ER timeline of 3 weeks, we should be able to unhook the thumb so that I can go to Columbus for the convention.
Now to make a long story short, about ten days later, we plan to “unhook” my thumb and wrist from my side. Then another 4-6 weeks for the pad to grow and heal. Then, another surgery to reshape the thumb and healing starts again.
This procedure is very old; the countries of India and Saudi Arabia pioneered these hundreds of years ago, according to the doctor. They would use big biting ants to secure the flap. They would make the ant mad, make it bite, then tear the body away and let the bug secure it. I’m sure animal rights groups would not be happy about that these days.
The body is amazing and can heal itself with a little help. I appreciated all the calls, comments, prayers, words of encouragement, good vibes, white light, etc. I can feel the good vibrations and thoughts for my family and me. Remember; take care of yourself, good food, and exercise. We all work hard, and it’s easy to pick up fast food and be too tired to work out. But my fast healing tells me it’s worthwhile to eat healthily and take daily walks, bike rides, etc., before or after work. Nobody can do that for you. Be good to yourself!!
So, to get back to Brian’s article, make sure you have the insurance you need to keep you and your family going when an accident happens. If you don’t’ think you can afford it, raise your prices. It’s not IF an accident will happen, but WHEN. Side note; as an S-Corporation, Esther and I could have opted out of paying for workman’s comp on ourselves, but we didn’t. The battle now will be between blue cross and blue shield and workman’s comp as to who will be the hospital bills.
Make sure that you take time for a vacation and get rested so that your mind is clear. It’s no time to ”multi-task” when working around power tools. I think I can convince Esther to buy me that new table saw that shuts off automatically if skin comes in contact. We saw it at the “New Yankee Workshop” a few years ago. The $2500.00 price tag would have been much less than these hospital bills!!
I’m also blessed to have great employees. We have worked for years, thanks to Dave Pomeroy (God rest his soul) for getting us started and other business coaches to have our “S.O.G.’s” standard operating guidelines in place so that our business can continue without my daily input.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help in your company. No one expects you to have all the answers. You may know chimneys, but you don’t know what you don’t know until you are open yourself and your company to review. The Mix meetings have helped many understand that. The convention is coming soon; take that time to talk with other companies and be open to other options. Just because you have done something for years the same way doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. You are not the same person you were when you started your business.
Laughter is the best medicine, so they say! So let the jokes begin.
*I’m thumbing thru the same “Sweeping” again, and I see an article from Jerry Isenhour’s “The Coach’s Corner,” titled “Fire in the Belly.” Who knew?... signs everywhere.
*Did you hear about the butcher, who backed into his saw? He got a little behind in his work!
*Part of the healing process requires changing the dressing on the wound and keeping the “flap” area moist. Sort of like the Thanksgiving turkey; we don’t want to let any of the areas dry out. So, a cousin called and wondered if it was time to go baste Tom!!!
*At Ash Wednesday’s Mass, Esther came home to tell the readings were spot on. As we begin our yearly Lenten practice of prayer and fasting, Jesus especially calls us to give to others without expecting a return and to give to others without letting our right hand know what our left hand is doing. Tom thinks he can easily handle that one. Our priest, Father Nick, visited the sick last night and smiled when he saw how appropriate that reading was.
*Of course, many have suggested that I find a better way to “give up doing dishes” for Lent.
*A card from family arrived today wanting to make sure we had followed our mother’s daily orders of making sure we changed our underwear in case we had an accident!!
*My sister and brother-in-law have been sharing funny thoughts from Arizona to help lighten up the situation.
*At least the chimney sweep did not have a chimney fire!!
*For a while now, friends have encouraged me to write more, i.e., articles, blogs, etc. So, thanks for reading to the end; I will try to follow that good advice. And yes, Tom Thumb will be ready to give his talk on Wednesday after lunch in Columbus. Be there or be square. After reading this, you won’t have to ask why my thumb is all bandaged.
Next time, be careful and keep scanning those chimneys, Tom Urban, Scanman.
Wow, Lots of conversation. Let me explain my intentions about chase inspections. This is my experience doing this work on subrogation cases concerning prefab chases. I started to write a response but it went on too too long. I've done this work since 1994 and the last in California in 2013, so I have some history doing it. If you are interested in learning how I do them and my answer to your questions concerning entry holes, getting around inside the chase, getting dimensions, lighting issues, borescopes, firestops etc.
1) Yes this in my opinion is a level 3 inspection
2) Intended Purpose: If your intentions are replacement of the existing unit, it would be helpful for a chimney contractor to “see the interior” before setting a saw-z-all to it.( electrical wires, gas piping, water pipes etc.)
3) What is real: All of us understand that prefab chases especially track homes are done by the lowest bidder, therefore corners are likely been cut. So if your gut is telling you something doesn't look or feel right, you have the opportunity to offer a selective service to evaluate the interior without destruction. ( Especially if chase covers are sealed well)
4) Experience: I have done 45 such inspections in the state of NJ. several years ago and went through the side shoulder, through vinyl siding, and in some cases through the shingles on the roof near the chase. I can tell you there were many things covered up that caused hidden water issues within these homes along with a worker stuffing their lunch bag and hoagie wrapper right behind the firebox so it was in direct contact with the unit and the back OSB wall!!
5) Experience: I also have experience with Randy Brooks in California (45 units) where many of the photos were taken so the areas for gas lines outside air and critter presence can be seen. Check with Randy on his take about doing them.
6) Dimensions: As far as taking dimensions, the camera is under 1.5” so a 1.5” hole saw will allow the camera to pass. Plus with the use of a gooseneck rod you can bend it so reaching around chimney pipe can be done. Since the camera is 1.5” I use that as my measuring device. If the camera can go through an opening between combustible and pipe with wiggle room then in most cases the chimney is 1.75” to 2” away from any combustibles. The same with fireboxes. Plus in most cases the mfr. has instructions on the side of the unit, especially sidewall clearances.
7) Firestops: Should you find firestops ( past experience tells me not too many) then your inspection can only go that far and another entry point might be a consideration. Again it will go back to how bad do you need to see?? Since this is a level 3 there is some leeway on this. That’s why I made an inspection checklist so you can tell the customer what you saw and what you didn’t see.
8) Operations: I place the unit on the roof or chase top and drill the hole into the chase. Then attach the camera to one or two rods and lower the camera cable and rod into the chase. When I reach the top of the firebox I’m looking directly down. There is enough light from the LEDs to illuminate the area. I check the sides of the firebox and clearances, insulation ( or Lack of) outside air, gas line entry and other supports. When you need to look at 90 degrees, I push the camera into the firebox and bend the gooseneck. Now looking for clearances around chimney pipe can be done along with close up of mantel support or creative use of 2x4 construction.
9) Borescopes: I have one from Dewalt that works through a ¾ to 1” hole. Works great but my light is limited to only a few inches around the head, so positioning the borescope can take a while. It has a place but don’t expect it to illuminate a chase!!
10) Sealing: Usually RTV on the chase around the hole, then a 6x6 alum plate with six screws, then cover the edge with RTV silicon. On wood siding under vinyl, same 6x6 sheet of alum. With six screws. In masonry, stuff hole with some ceramic blanket then mortar over top. ( Not sold on that one but was the best I could come up with at the time.) On roofs I use a wonder bar to pry up a shingle tab and drill the hole. When done RTV around the hole and slide plate under tab, put a dab of RTV on the underside edge of the raised shingle and press down. Also there is a company that makes a 1.5” plug out of chrome steel which looked interesting also. Plug hole and add RTV around plug-done.
Why Salesmanship Matters
The funny part about being a sweep is you have to deal with the public, and if we don't we don't have a job. But we need to remember their wishes and we all understand the responsibilities we have to the levels of inspection. Somewhere in the center is a place that requires some training. For me it was a start to go to Dale Carnegie Sales Advantage class. This is where my eyes were open to the techniques we need to persuade the customer that the inspection with the sweep is in their best interest. And the best way to do that is shut up and do the job.
People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. if you run across someone who just wants it swept then do the normal job you normally do, follow the standard of care by doing the level 1 and hand them the results and smile. What they are telling you they don't want to talk to you about it until you demonstrate how much you care. You need to show them your care. My daily sweeping days are over but the ones I do remember that gave me the hardest time usually became a great customer, just by being quiet and doing my job. Sales training is now an ongoing training for me and my staff and the start at Dale Carnegie was great at the time.
For a chance to get some free advice from a pro, check out Jeff Gitmer's website. He has some bullet presentations that can be done in minutes and gives you a chance to score yourself on how you absorbed the material. the site is open 24/7 so the late night in your jammies meeting can happen. Just go to the site and when it asks for a member number put in 2078. That should open the program and let you see all the short bullet questions on proper selling techniques for free. Remember, be quiet, do your job as set by the standard of care for the industry and do your company sop for sweeping this type of installation, present them the information, smile and move on. That’s one way to service a hard head. Check out Jeff's site for more. I know more sales people that get training on a constant basis, usually are more calm, collected and smile more than those without, just because they understand the customer’s needs and see them without antagonizing them. Take you out of the picture and put them in. Thanks for taking the time to read this post and have a great day!!
also check out this company if you want some inside the industry but outside your company help.
When Chim-Scanning, if I see holes and gaps between chimney liners, does it really matter?
Tips for the Season
DO NOT leave your Chim-Scan® in your truck or any vehicle overnight.
When closing the case, do not hit the LCD screen or leave anything on the reeler
Do NOT leave it near a door or window when in a building.
Keep your Chim-Scan® at room temperature at all times.
Reasons: Like any other piece of electronic equipment, Chim-Scans do not like dramatic temperature changes. Condensation builds up inside the unit, and that only spells trouble. Simply treat your Chim-Scan like you would treat yourself. IF you are cold, it's getting cold, and the same with Heat. If this happens to you, open the case up, set out the unit (when possible), and let it come to room temperature before you try to use it.
Practice setting up your Chim-Scan® before you take on a job. This will lower your frustration level and look more professional to your customers.
Do not hit the LCD screen or leave anything on the reeler when closing the case. This will damage the screen and then it will have to be replaced.
If you have an AFT (autofocus tilt) camera, put it in the "home" position when putting it in or pulling it out of the chimney. If you don’t put it in "home," you will break the tilt gears and or motor, and it will have to be sent back for repair.
Do not unscrew the front camera reflector plate to change light bulbs! Read the manual that comes with your unit on how to change light bulbs. That’s what the small black tube is for. Rotate the tube Counterclockwise to remove the bulb; clockwise to tighten the new bulb.
For any other problems, check out our YouTube Videos.
Just go to www.youtube.com and search for ChimScan1643.
Four Pathways to Chimney Damage
Four Pathways to Chimney Damage.
In the course of your day to day field observations on chimneys, the customer may question on how or where damage originated from. Sometimes it appears to be a chicken and egg situation. Did the crown wear out and let water in, that started the spalling of brick and mortar, or did the mortar weaken first, letting the crown to settle causing the crown to crack letting even more water in. Or does the mortar hold the bricks together or does it hold them apart? This might be a good debate at a convention but when you’re standing in front of a customer, the bottom line is somebody needs repair work done, and you don’t have all day to explain it to them.
The ability to explain to the customer a logical process how it all happened and the consequences of the disrepair can be the difference whether you are doing the repair work or someone else is. The worst case scenario is you don’t make the repair compelling enough for them to take action, without the drama and sales scare tactics many resort to.
Then the situation gets complicated when your customer asked the age-old question whether their chimney is safe to use or not. You the field technician, are strapped with the concept of how all this happened and try to place a timeline on this, and ultimately what the cost to repair is going to be.
The best way I’ve found to uncomplicate all the many minor or major deficiencies that all of us see, I learned to break it down into four principal pathways that destroy chimneys. You might have a chimney with open more joints, a worn crown, and an abused rain cover. It comes down to the age-old question of how to eat an elephant; one bite at a time.
The first pathway is latent defects. Those are the defects that were built into the system at the time of the installation, that are usually not seen readily. Although manufactured systems such as prefabricated fireplaces and chimney pipe are designed and built at a factory with an installation guide, many of us have seen where creative uses of the material or poor workmanship have caused material not to be in its ideal condition. With masonry, the list can be long, hearth extensions, firebox limitations, dampers that are inoperative, unparged smoke chambers, and then the liners, open mortar joints, missing liners etc.
The second pathway is from regular wear and tear. This is the time to chimney has spent exposed to outdoor temperature swings, or interior temperature swings have caused a chimney to wear out over of time.
The third pathway is moisture. Of all the pathways this one can create the most havoc. It can be very subtle, and yet totally destroy chimney over a period of time.
The last pathway is from a sudden occurrence. Usually in the form of a lightning strike, an appliance malfunction, high temperature fluctuations like a chimney fire, and other assorted events that appear sudden.
By breaking down chimney degradation into four pathways provides me a way of putting things into perspective for the customer. Because many times you will see all four pathways into one system at one time. Because of one deficiency can lead to another deficiency and to another, so by breaking it down I can explain to the customer how it all happened and where they need to concentrate their efforts especially when the repair will need to be done in stages, whether monetary or climate considerations.
More on this subject to come.
So you think you currently have enough work, you are doing installations for a local stove shop and you are able to fill in the schedule here and there with some sweeps. BUT, cash flow is really bad, you know how it is with summer vacations and all.
HMM, sound familiar, if there is so much work, then why is cash flow hurting. Did you not learn about forward schedule all those years ago from Sooty Bob? So what has happened? Are you still doing the same old, same old thing? And getting the same old, same old results? No one likes change, but in business, you have to make some hard changes to be able to see results in the future.
I have been talking about our Chimney Data System, CDS, now for a couple of months It seems like years, because of all the time that has been invested. But now it’s your turn to invest in yourself and your company.
Change requires your time and effort. Try it for 21 days,, maybe schedule one or two less jobs per day to give you the time needed to answer ALL the questions. We have a great company that has dropped there schedule load from 6 to three jobs per day, but their ticket price has risen to make up the difference. Besides the less wear and tear on vehicles and themselves.
Maybe, only gather the CDS info on your new customers, all those installs for the stove shop are new customers, correct? Then let’s start there. Simply answer the questions on the appropriate form. If you’re so busy now, then just file it away. Then go back, when you have time, and review the information. HMMM, do you think that there might be some work than may need to be done at that location that wasn’t included in the installation quote, i.e. crown repair, tuck pointing; . Do you think you could forward schedule that work? Maybe next year cash flow won’t be such an issue!
Once you have gathered the information on that customer, you will not have to do it again. OH my gosh, what a treasure of information you have gathered. Now imagine if you had the CDS information on ALL your customers. At some point, they were all new customers to you!!
Do you ever think about a time when you will not be able to go out and physically do this type of work? By implementing the CDS, you will be doing several things. One, you will have downloaded your brain about your customer base. Second, you will have something to sell to a new owner of your company when you are ready to retire. MMM, something to think about as we all prepare in our own way for our futures.
This has been and looks like it will continue to be a rough and tumble weekend for many of you on the east coast. Earthquakes and hurricane Irene, be careful out there, there just might be a silver lining!
Some insurance work may come your way. What a great way to gather the need information. IF you do not have the time to write the report, just send us the info and pictures and the report can be written for. We are here waiting to serve you.
Tom Urban has worked in the Chimney and Hearth industry for 40 years. He's been an inventor and manufacturer for 35+ of those years.