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Category Archives: Help Certified Specialist

Fireplace Maintenance Checklist

As days get shorter and weather gets colder, we retreat indoors to the warmth of our homes and hearths. If you have a fireplace, fall is a great time to make sure the chimney and flue are in good working order. If your assessment uncovers any issues that gives you pause, call in a chimney professional to diagnose the problem before it gets big, expensive, and potentially dangerous.

 

Exterior
Visually assess the chimney from the outside. Is it leaning? Are there any chipped bricks or masonry joints? Do you see any cracks or holes? If your chimney is factory-built metal, look for any corrosion, stains, or loose sections. If your chimney is exposed to your attic, make sure to check there, as well. Look for any signs indicating that repairs are necessary.

Fireplace Maintenance Tips - Chimney Cap

Photo: Bat Guys

Chimney Cap
A good cap can reduce damage caused to a chimney by water and wildlife. Rain and snow can enter an uncapped chimney and subsequently freeze and thaw, causing expansion damage. Small wildlife can nest in chimneys, clogging them and potentially introducing fleas, ticks, worms and other disease-causing pests into the home. A chimney cap with screen mesh will keep animals out, while shielding your roof from embers and sparks.

Leaks and Stains
Inside the house, check the area around your chimney for any stains or dampness. These could be caused by faulty flashing around the chimney at the roof line, or by a damaged flue liner. If you see signs of water around your chimney, call a chimney professional right away.

Flue
Open the clean-out door from the base of the flue, located either in your basement or outside the house. Using a small mirror and flashlight to see up the flue, look for buildup of soot and also any cracks, holes, or separations. If in doubt, give your chimney professional a call for a good checkup and cleaning.

Fireplace Maintenance Tips - Wood burning fireplace

Photo: Fireplace Stop

Fireplace
Check the brickwork in your fireplace for wear. Check the damper, as well—it should open and close easily. Look into the smoke chamber above the damper to see if it has a buildup of soot. Again, call your chimney professional for service if you see any of those telltale signs.

Chimney safety should be a high priority for every homeowner. With regular maintenance, your fireplace and chimney can give you years of wonderful service. A chimney professional can spot things that even a diligent homeowner could miss. Call on a pro to do regular cleanings and safety checks as a part of your home maintenance routine. Then throw another log on the fire, sit back, and enjoy.

 

Article Credit: http://www.bobvila.com/blogs/fireplace-maintenance-checklist/

For more on fireplaces, consider:

Gas Fireplaces 101
12 “Different” Ways to Store Firewood
Quick Tip: Make Your Fireplace More Efficient

What is a HELP Certified Specialist?

What is a HELP Certified Specialist?

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There was a time when a professionals word and expertise could be counted on and their commitment to placing your needs above their own was a given.  Not only was it expected and accepted as the norm, for a professional to do otherwise caused them to be ostracized to such a degree that they had to literally leave the business.

Today, sadly, far too often the public encounters “professionals” who may have been able to pass the initial test in order to be affiliated with their chosen profession, but they fail to adhere to the sprit in which their professional standards originally called out for.

When Sociologists study what led to the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression, they point out two main culprits: ignorance and greed.  Ignorance on the consumers part and greed on the professionals side.  USA HELP’s goal is to successfully address both of these issues now and into the future.

USA HELP, Inc. is a non-profit corporation dedicated to being a resource for consumers and professionals alike with respect to housing and lending.  We have set up training courses to assist homeowners and home buyers understand the process a little better and ensure that the consumer will be less likely to be taken advantage of.  We believe in consumer protection through education.

So what is a HELP Certified Specialist?  They are the new Gold Standard.  A HCS is one who has agreed to be listed on our site, only after attending, at their own expense, a two day intensive course consisting of the following;

  • Annual (As opposed to every four years) Ethics & Agency training
  • Review of Fiduciary Responsibility and updates on the Business & Professions Code
  • Critical cross training of Realtors & lenders to benefit the public
  • Understanding FHA’s mission and major benefits to the public
  • Understanding VA’s mission and major benefits to the public
  • Short sale training and understanding the REO market to benefit the public
  • Understanding loan modifications & what is legal & what is not & who qualifies
  • Understanding ALL of the first time buyer programs and unique lending opportunities that exist today and where to find them.


The professionals must pass a written test with a passing grade of 80% or higher.  In addition, they will have signed HELP’s Code of Conduct, which will afford HELP the ability to remove from our list, immediately, those who fail to uphold the standards we have set forth in order to best serve the publics interest.

It is an honor to be a HELP Certified Specialist and the potential referrals from the public is a reward that places you in control for the first time.  No longer will you the public have to file numerous complaints against those who refuse to honor their commitments and act in a professional manner.  A team of their peers will review consumer complaints and act in the best interest of the public.  Penalties may range from being removed from our list of Certified Professionals to HELP actually filing a complaint on the consumer’s behalf.

HELP’s goal is to be a resource for the public and reward/highlight those are willing to set themselves apart.  HELP will educate you the public, for profit professionals, public agencies for non-profit professionals so that those who would deceive or otherwise act in a manner which does not place the clients interest above their own, will have a far more difficult time.  Knowing ones rights and the proper qualifying questions to ask will ensure those who act responsibly and honestly will no longer be at a competitive disadvantage.  Consumer protection through education, a goal we can and must achieve.

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