The Accidental Chimney Sweep

Are you looking for a Lafayette chimney cleaner? Meet Sally McKnight—Sal to her friends, the woman behind The Irish Sweep. This is the story of how she got an unexpected start in the industry.

Sally Answers an Ad

In 1982, Sally responded to an advertisement that was placed by Jim Halloran, a hot-headed New Yorker from Brooklyn who started the original company in the 70s with guts and determination, but no real plan. He hired her to work part time in the office, answering phones and scheduling appointments.

lafayette chimney cleaner

She was a fast typist at a time when things were still done by hand, but she didn’t yet know anything about fireplaces or chimneys so she wasn’t (in her own words) an “effective communicator with customers.” Truth be told, Jim Halloran didn’t know much more than his new office assistant did, but he struck out to learn from experience.

This is a photo of him with his first sweeping vehicle and his trusty dog, Sweeper.

lafayette chimney cleaner

One day, Halloran asked Sally if she would be willing to ride along with him in the van and sweep some chimneys. He needed an extra set of hands. She agreed and that was the beginning of their future partnership. Of that initial experience, Sally said, “Well, I went out there and just loved being outdoors all day long, meeting new people along the way, working in some amazing homes and gaining new skills.” She quit her other retail position and joined the business full time.


But it wasn’t easy. Not only were they learning on the job, but when she first began, some customers called her a “powder puff” and questioned how a woman could do the work, while others wouldn’t let her touch their fireplace unless she sang and danced “Chim-Chimney”—from the beloved children’s movie Mary Poppins.

Buying The Irish Sweep

Later, a partnership was formed and Sally became half owner of The Irish Sweep. But eventually she became frustrated with Jim and offered him a buyout.  She scraped together enough cash to purchase Halloran’s half of the business. The year was 1988. A lot has changed since then, but Sally is still the dynamic force behind The Irish Sweep.

Since those early years, she has become an educator in her community, having sat on the Board of Directors for the National Chimney Sweep Guild and for the Chimney Safety Institute of America. She has also been President of the Golden State Chimney Sweep Guild, and now serves as treasurer. Not bad for a “powder puff.”

Talk to a Lafayette Chimney Cleaner

To schedule an appointment with a Lafayette chimney cleaner at The Irish Sweep, call us at (510)521-4088 or use this simple contact form by clicking here. You can also read testimonials on our site. Your safety is our number one priority. We look forward to hearing from you.

Your Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Ah, summer is here. The temperatures are soaring, the sun is blazing, and the days are long. It’s important that you take the time to maintain your home this summer and to prepare it for the extreme heat that you could be facing. If you’ve been scouring the internet for Alameda dryer vents cleaning, chimney services, or fireplace installation, look no further. Check out our ultimate checklist of summer home maintenance tips to help you give your home some TLC, and learn how our experts at The Irish Sweep can help!

Indoor Summer Home Maintenance

  1. Do a test of your smoke detectors. Replace the batteries if needed.
  2. Get your cooling system ready. Replace the filter in your air conditioner.
  3. Get your chimney cleaned. Yes, you might not use your fireplace again until fall or winter, but that’s exactly why this is the perfect time to call a chimney cleaning service. They won’t be as busy!
  4. Reverse the direction of the ceiling fan if necessary. During summer, use your ceiling fan in a counterclockwise direction – this directs airflow down to create a cooling effect. Take the time to dust the fan blades, too!
  5. Clean the garbage disposal. When’s the last time you tackled your garbage disposal? Exactly.
  6. Take on some decluttering. Why not take the chance to go on a Marie Kondo-style decluttering spree?
  7. Clean your dryer vents. Professional dryer vent cleaning services help your dryer work more efficiently, use less energy to do its job, and extend its lifespan. Clogged dryer vents are also a fire hazard.
  8. Be aware of material shortages due to the pandemic. Reduced fabrication of certain appliances due to restricted access to materials is an unfortunate side effect of the coronavirus pandemic. If you have considered installing a gas or wood burning insert to your fireplace, begin the process now! Retailers and installers recommend starting renovation now to avoid a long wait for materials.

Outdoor Summer Home Maintenance

  1. Clean your grill to prep for summer barbequing. Use hot water, dish soap, and a scrub brush to clean a charcoal grill. For a gas grill, close the lid, turn the heat to high, and let the grill cook for about half an hour. Let it cool, then use a grill brush to sweep the grill and clean the drip trays.
  2. Consider your watering schedule. If you’ve got plants, think about your strategy for watering them over the summer.
  3. Add a layer of mulch. Also, some extra mulch will help fight off weeds and help your soil retain moisture during those scorching summer months.
  4. Protect your home against unwanted guests. Caulking your windows and doors can help stop bugs and ants from infiltrating your home.
  5. Don’t forget the pool. If you have a swimming pool, take the time to give it a good clean so it’s all ready for the summer.
  6. Consider an outdoor clothesline. Take advantage of the warm weather and put up an outdoor clothesline so you’re not using your dryer as much.
  7. Put a sturdy mat at the door. Help your guests avoid tracking in dirt by having a good mat at your front door.

Need Alameda Dryer Vents Cleaning?

So, there you have it – our summer home maintenance tips. The above list will help you clean up and take care of your home this summer. Preventive home maintenance can even help you save money on home insurance, and it’s never too late to start!

Our services at The Irish Sweep can help you get your home summer-ready in no time. To schedule an appointment with an expert, call us at (510)521-4088, or use a simple contact form by clicking here.

Do Chimney Cleaning Logs Work?

Many homeowners in the Bay Area depend on heat from their fireplaces and wood stoves to stay warm during the rainy months. But regardless of how cozy and efficient your fireplace is, there comes a time when you have to make sure it’s properly cleaned. Bay Area chimney cleaning is an important maintenance service that helps to keep your home and family safe. But you may be questioning why you need to call a professional if you’ve seen chimney cleaning logs in the store.

So, what are chimney cleaning logs and do they work? Here’s what you need to know.

What are Chimney Cleaning Logs?

Unfortunately, homeowners often buy chimney cleaning logs believing that they will help loosen up that thick layer of dirty creosote. Creosote is the byproduct that occurs from burning wood in your fireplace. It lines the inside of your chimney. While this may seem like a quick, cheap fix that’s more convenient than a Bay Area chimney sweep, that’s just not the case. The reality is that these logs aren’t an effective option, or a safe replacement.

How They’re Supposed to Work

What may have made chimney sweeping logs more popular over the years is the supposed ease of their use. You just unwrap the log from its package and light it in the fireplace.

When these logs are lit, the smoke is supposed to rise into the chimney, loosening the creosote and causing it to fall down into the fireplace. In theory, you can then remove the buildup. The general idea is that it should be a simple, tidy process, so you won’t need to spend the whole day scraping the inside of your chimney.

Related Content: How Long Does a Chimney Sweep Take?

The Reality

The bad news? Chimney sweeping logs can create an even bigger mess than you started out with. Often, chimneys aren’t designed with perfectly straight flues. What this means is that you can actually end up with trapped creosote in the bends of your fireplace’s flue.

The Risk of Fire

It’s important to note that creosote is highly flammable, so you can imagine the dilemma these homeowners find themselves in. Not only do they run the risk of a chimney fires, but blockages are also a problem. Further, a chimney that can’t properly vent gas and smoke is a hazard to your health as well.  If it sounds too good to be true, it often is.

Safety, of course, is a top priority for homeowners. Not only is your house a huge financial investment, but we all want to feel safe in our homes. In fact, that’s the number one reason why it’s so important to schedule Bay Area chimney cleaning services. Burning these logs can also create fumes that you can’t avoid breathing.

The Mess

When you hire a Bay Area chimney cleaner, you don’t need to worry about a mess. This is because they take special precautions to protect your carpets and furniture. On the other hand, if you attempt to DIY your chimney sweep, you will most likely end up with soot, ash, and creosote all over your house, and yourself.

Related Content: Is it a Risky Idea to DIY Chimney Sweep?

Hiring a Chimney Cleaner is the Best Solution

It’s clear to see that professional chimney cleaners provide essential services. Here’s a little more information on what they have to offer homeowners…

1) Chimney Inspection

If you’re a new homeowner, you may not realize it’s important to have your chimney inspected from time to time. This is even true if you rarely use your fireplace. Scheduling regular chimney and fireplace maintenance can help you save money on repair costs because it’s best to correct minor issues before they become a problem. A pro can inspect your chimney for things like water damage and nesting animals.

2) Effective Cleaning

Since we’ve learned that chimney cleaning logs are no substitute for professional services, it’s a good idea to schedule your appointment once every 75 fires or per every cord of wood burned. Hiring a Bay Area chimney cleaner will guarantee that all the flammable buildup is removed from your chimney. Your house won’t be covered in soot. And, it will be safe to use your fireplace all year long.

3) Reduce Repair Costs

Again, chimney sweeping is also the best way to reduce the need for costly chimney repairs. There could be structural issues with your fireplace or chimney that you’re completely unaware of. It’s important to check for seismic and structural safety, especially in California due to the likelihood of earthquakes. All in all, regular chimney maintenance can provide you with greater peace of mind.

The Takeaway

Even if you are able to remove some buildup from your chimney with commercial creosote logs, it’s just not worth the risk they pose to your home or your family.

When you hire a licensed chimney cleaner, you won’t need to worry if there’s any flammable material left inside your chimney. Peace of mind is money well spent. In fact, it’s priceless.

Schedule an Appointment Today

We hope you found this blog post helpful and learned something new along the way. Part of our mission is to educate Bay Area residents in order to reduce the fire risk in our communities. We also adhere to national standards, such as the National Fire Protection Association. Chimney cleaning is actually considered an essential service, and you can rest assured that your safety is our top priority. Special precautions are being taken during the pandemic to protect the health of our customers as well as our team.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Questions are always welcome. You can call our office at (510) 521-4088, or feel free to fill out a contact form by clicking this link.

Is it a Risky Idea to DIY Chimney Sweep?

Have you been Googling how to sweep a chimney? We all like to save money now and then by “DIYing” something, but there are a few things that you definitely shouldn’t try to handle on your own. Among these are dealing with a termite infestation, removing pipes from your walls, and, yes, cleaning your chimney. So, why shouldn’t you DIY chimney cleaning? There are a few reasons.

It’s Not an Easy Job

To begin with, chimneys are oddly shaped. Professionals use special tools and equipment to properly clean the inside of your chimney. This includes brushes and vacuums that were designed for the job. They also use certain chemicals that do an excellent job of clearing away soot and creosote. People who attempt to do their own chimney sweeping also tend to push soot into their homes, which just causes more problems, not to mention the mess.

If you’ve been wondering how to sweep a chimney, know that there’s a reason this profession has been around for so long. It requires training and knowledge to be done properly. Professionals have the experience needed to get the job done right.

It’s Messy

Pros know the most effective methods to clean your fireplace and chimney, with the least amount of mess. If you try to DIY chimney sweep, you’re very likely to end up with soot and creosote all over your carpet and furniture.

You might be wondering if a chimney sweep needs to go on the roof. In most cases, the answer is no. Special equipment allows them to do almost every cleaning and inspection from in front of the fireplace. With training and experience, professional chimney sweeps are skilled experts who know how to keep your home tidy. They also observe proper safety protocols, such as wearing respirator masks and eye protection.

Fire Risks

Did you know that a buildup of soot and creosote can cause chimney fires? Cleaning a chimney is a thorough job that requires expert attention. Additionally, the pros know how to look for structural issues. Cracked flues or damaged dampers can lead to a whole slew of problems. It’s better to catch these issues before they lead to expensive repairs. Fortunately, professional chimney sweeps know everything about the anatomy of a chimney, as well as the telltale signs to look for when it comes to potentially dangerous structural issues.

The good news is that you really only need to schedule a fireplace and chimney inspection once a year. Make sure to plan your fireplace and chimney cleaning in advance, so you can cross it off your list before the holidays. It’s an important maintenance task that is likely to save you money in the long run.

Alameda Chimney Sweep

DIY home projects can be fun and they’re often a good idea, but chimney sweeping isn’t one of them. If you need reliable service in the Alameda area, contact us at The Irish Sweep. We have the experience you need. Call our office at (510) 521-4088, or read more about us by clicking here.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chimney Cleaning

Fireplace chimney cleaning is an important maintenance task in order to ensure your chimney is clean, safe, and functioning at its best. Scheduling your appointment early in the season prepares your home for the cold months ahead and gets it out of the way, so you can focus on the holidays with your loved ones. But if you’re wondering what fireplace chimney cleaning entails, here are some of the most frequently asked questions.

Why does a chimney need cleaning?

One of the reasons a chimney needs to be cleaned regularly is that burning wood produces a combustible product called creosote. This buildup of creosote poses a fire risk for your home.

How often should my chimney be cleaned?

According to national standards, a chimney should be cleaned at least once a year, even if you don’t use your fireplace often. For peace of mind, it’s best to have it checked annually.

How long does it take to clean the chimney?

There are certain things that can cause a fireplace chimney cleaning to take longer. For instance, damage to the flue, the presence of nests, or a heavy layer of creosote. The time it takes depends on the inspection. But, in general, expect a technician to be on the job for about an hour.

Will there be a mess in my house?

A professional chimney company will take special precautions when they’re in your home. It’s helpful if you move furniture or personal items away from the fireplace, but a pro will bring their own tools and materials to protect your living space.

What do chimney sweeps do?

An experienced chimney sweep will check the condition of your fireplace and chimney. This includes things like the condition of the flue, and whether or not there are any nests. Your chimney will be inspected for buildup, structural damage, or any interior obstructions, and also cleaned.

Should I worry about carbon monoxide poisoning?

As you probably already know, carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that is especially dangerous because it’s odorless. It’s always a good idea to keep a carbon monoxide detector in your home. This safety hazard can be caused by poor ventilation due to a clogged chimney that isn’t properly expelling toxic fumes.

Is it still necessary to clean the chimney if I use Duraflame Logs?

Even if you only use packaged wood products, the chimney still has to be cleaned. This is because creosote is still being created.

My fireplace contains a set of artificial gas logs. Does my chimney need cleaning?

Due to flame impingement, carbon builds up on the artificial logs, and that carbon is also spread into the smoke chamber, as well as the chimney. This carbon deposit is flammable and should be removed in order to prevent a chimney fire.

When is a good time to clean the chimney?

It’s best to schedule fireplace and chimney cleaning before the winter cold sets in. We recommend cleaning your chimney before the busy holiday season.

Fireplace Chimney Cleaning

To schedule your annual fireplace and chimney cleaning, contact us at The Irish Sweep. Our experienced team is available to answer all of your questions. Give us a call at (510) 521-4088, or fill out this quick contact form.


Certifications to Look for in a Chimney Company

If it’s time for a chimney and fireplace inspection for your home, you may be wondering what kind of chimney cleaning certification a company should have. Since this home maintenance is so critical to your safety, make sure you take some extra time to ask questions. Keep reading to learn more about the right credentials for the job.

National Chimney Sweep Guild

The first thing to check for is a company’s membership to NCSG or the National Chimney Sweep Guild. This is because, on a national level, NCSG is the only existing recognized trade association for chimney professionals. It exists to promote professionalism and accountability among chimney service companies, and chimney cleaning certification.

Membership in the NCSG is also an assurance that employees have individual memberships in CSIA, the Chimney Safety Institute of America. CSIA is the regulating body that provides certification for a chimney sweeper to become a trusted professional. Technicians are elevated from novice to pro as they become a Certified Chimney Professional™

A CCP is a chimney professional who completed the training program to learn methods that adhere to the proper industry codes and standards. This verifies they have a professional understanding of the knowledge needed to handle the job properly.


There are two exams for chimney cleaning certification. They cover safety measures, policy, and other important procedures. The first is an exam based on a coursebook entitled: “Successful Chimney Sweeping ” and “National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 211 fire codes.” The second set of questions is based on the International Residential Codes (IRC).


A CCP certification is valid for a year. While renewal is accepted with a small upfront fee, recertification is required every two years. This is necessary to update the skills and methods applied in the field.

Sub-Branches of the Chimney Professional Certification

• Certified Chimney Reliners

A CCR has completed training on methods that adhere to the updated codes and standards of professional chimney relining. They also have a commitment to a code of conduct for chimney professionals that pledges honor and integrity on the job.

• Certified Master Chimney Technician

A CMCT is a chimney professional that has achieved a total of six years of certification and a minimum of ten years of experience on the job. Having also studied what is current in the chimney sweeping business, they are considered seasoned experts at what they do. They are also committed to the code of conduct.

Reliable Chimney Services

Working with a professional you can trust makes all the difference, especially when you hire someone for an in-home service. For a company you can count on, contatc us at The Irish Sweep. Our office is available at (510) 521-4088.