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

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.”

I’m a chimney wizard.

These are some of the things I sell.  

Double-wall and single-wall sections of stovepipe in various telescoping lengths, and elbows, 45 and 90 degree. Class A insulated chimney sections from 18′ to 48′ in galvalume or stainless, caps, flashings, roof supports, connector-adaptors, flue extensions, storm collars, support boxes, round ceiling supports, dryer vent parts, periscopes and transition ducts and rigid 4″ galvanized and aluminum venting, close clearance elbows, heat resistant caulking, fatwood kindling, ACS creosote destroyer in spray and powder, furnace mortar, stove gasket.   

Why not sell something big–like cars or RV’s or airplanes?  Why not sell something small and expensive, like jewelry, diamonds, contraband?  Or something etherial that doesn’t have to be picked up and carried around, like words, information.   

I don’t know: I sell chimney stuff, mainly because I’m really good at installing it, I’m like the fastest gun in the west with chimney stuff, a cordless drill in each hand when I’m putting that stuff together, my tool belt on.  I know exactly which pieces match up with which other pieces, and which brands, manufacturers’ parts have which characteristics, and what makes it work.  

Or if in your case and it isn’t working, I know exactly why, all I have to do is come look at it, and I know which parts from which companies you can match up with with which parts from other companies if something from the other company is too expensive or unavailable for some reason.  

Sometimes customers just stand there watching me work. 

And it doesn’t matter how high your chimney is or how high your roof is, I’ll get right up there.  I’ll hang ladders from the peak of a pitched roof.  I walk across the ridge of an A-Frame house like a tightrope walker, chimney rods for a balance pole.  

Plus I’m organized.  I know exactly where all of my tools are so I don’t waste time looking for stuff.

My workers are covered by worker’s comp insurance.  

I have $2 million worth of general liability insurance.  

I can pretty much glance at your chimney when I drive up to your house and know exactly who manufactured it, in what country, what its missing, what size diameter it is, whether it vents a wood stove or a fireplace, or a woodstove inside a fireplace, and whether the fireplace is factory built or masonry, and after a closer look I can maybe even tell you who installed it if its a wood stove or built it if its a fireplace, if its located in Taos, NM.  

If everything is just right, and was installed in the 80’s, and its Canadian made Security brand Stainless Class A Chimney installed with a roof support and ceiling trim collar, and the double-wall louvered black stovepipe has faded from a sparkly black color over the years to a dusty dark-gray, it would have been installed by my grandfather. 

If you have a chimney that needs to be installed, swept, inspected, cleaned, or repaired, the name of my company is Bailey’s Chimney Cleaning & Repair.  I have offices in Taos and Santa Fe and we service all of North-Central New Mexico.  

We are the only company in New Mexico certified in BOTH chimney and dryer vent technology by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.  

Taos office: 575-770-7769

Santa Fe office: 505-988-2771

2013, Day One

Early in the morning on this cold January 1st day of 2013, with the light starting to creep in around the curtain on my bedroom windows, I had the laptop open and I noticed on face book in an old friend’s post that she had blogged every single day in 2012.

I haven’t seen this friend for many years but we used to share our poems with each other a long time ago, and for some reason we found each other to be mutually inspiring, literarily and perhaps in some other ways, when I lived in Salt Lake City as a college student at the U of Utah.

I’ve long since stopped attempting to write poetry.  And honestly, I haven’t written much of anything for about five years.  Back then I had a newspaper column, which when I joined the a national presidential campaign staff in 2008 I–very reluctantly, in fact I was practically kicking and screaming–gave up my column because they (the campaign) said that was the deal and I had to sign a piece of paper saying that I wouldn’t publish anything at all as long as I was working for them, and then after the campaign I was too tired to get it going again, and one thing led to another and I haven’t had any sort of regular writing gig since then.

The experience of working as a political operative changed my life, and I went on to work for several other campaigns after 2008.  Since then, my writing has mostly consisted of memos, Ra-Ra-Let’s-All-Get-Real-Excited-About-This-Campaign-emails, talking points for volunteers, press releases, and even the occasional public statement for a candidate.

That kind of writing, while quick and sort of gratifying in a way that is the exact opposite of thoughtful or insightful, isn’t really the way I ultimately aim to express myself.  And for several reasons I have declined a full-time career as a political operative, and I restarted my chimney business in 2011.

Yes.  That’s Right.  I am a chimney sweep.  I install wood stoves, clean chimneys, inspect, repair, troubleshoot, etc.

And I suppose this would be as good a time as any to mention that when I got into the chimney business I thought I was in the dirtiest business in the world.  And then I got into politics.

Anyway, it is New Years day, 7:30 a.m.  and I am still in bed, as it turns out, it is my first day blogging.

The cat is next to me on the bed.  There is snow on the ground outside.  I already got a fire going in the wood stove from last night’s embers.  My tiny house is nice and warm.  

I open the curtain.  The glass sweats against the cold outside, and condensation droplets and moisture fog  it looks like it’ll be a clear day, and there is snow, snow, snow on the ground, because it just kept coming down yesterday, and I was outside shoveling show when the phone started ringing and sure enough on the day of New Years Eve there were some folks whose chimneys had clogged up, and so off I went in four-wheel-drive with the snow coming down steady and slow, and it was fun to climb around on the truck in the snow, wearing snow boots, getting the ladder down off the rack and carrying it over to the house and carrying another ladder up the first ladder and walking across the snowy roof (people ask me how I walk on pitched metal roofs with snow on them–I say “very carefully”) and set that ladder, and adjustable stepladder, on the roof so I can climb up it in the snow and take the clogged chimney cap off to unclog it and then one step at a time, and a while later the customer is all sorted out with a clean chimney, a clean stove, on New Years Eve.

And but today my ski pass is valid again after the xmas-new year blackout period, and so–even though I have work to do in the office, mail to sort through, and filing, and a couple of work proposals to figure up and write–I am going to take today, New Years Day, as a holiday and get my ski gear together, pack some lunch, and hit the slopes.  But I will have my phone with me, and I will be checking voicemails and text messages on the chairlift, so if you have a chimney emergency I can probably take care of you this afternoon.