About Chimney Sweeping.
Chimney sweeping is a trade that dates back to around the 1600’s where practices were much different from today. Back then Climbing boys and girls were used to sweep the deposits off from inside the chimney. Much has changed and since 1875, when this barbaric practice was finally abolished, the chimney sweep as we know them today appeared.
There are now three different methods to clean a chimney available to a chimney sweep;
- Top down. This is still practiced largely in Europe, New Zealand, Japan and some parts of Scotland, where the sweep will use a rope with a weight attached to the base of the rope, and a brush above this weight. The sweep will enter the weight and brush into the chimney, and by using gravity, feed the brush to the bottom of the flue, before bringing the brush back up the flue, by pulling on the rope. This will be done a number of time (passes) so that the flue is clean.
- Traditional sweeping. This method is primarily done from the base of the flue up. This method has been used since 1803, and is probably the second most used method of sweeping in the UK and Ireland. Much like “top down” sweeping, the sweep will choose from a vast array of brushes available (differing sizes and differing stiffness), and using different thicknesses of rod (dependent on the size of flue) send the brush to exit the terminus (chimney top or chimney pot). The most common rods have to be turned in a clockwise direction, to ensure that the connections are kept tight, failure to do this can easily result in the rods becoming disconnected and the brush and rods being stuck within the chimney itself. Like the “top down” method of sweeping the brush must pass up and down the flue at least 3 times, for the flue to be considered as swept.
- Rotary power sweeping. Since the 1990’s a third method of sweeping has become available, and by the use of mechanically rotating the rods (by cordless drill), you rotate the chimney brush at the end of the rods. Like traditional sweeping, the sweep will choose the appropriate thickness of rod, and appropriate head to sweep the flue, they will also ensure that the brush exits the terminus (top). The differences are that the number of brushes needed to be selected from reduces from 15 to 34 down to 3 to 9 different heads. Further due to the mechanically rotating rods, the sweep is only required to pass the head once up and once down, whilst being spun, and the direction of rotation can be both clockwise and anticlockwise.
How to become a Chimney Sweep
Before you think about becoming a chimney sweep, you must ensure that this is the correct career path for you. One way to do this is to call a chimney sweep that you feel that you would not compete with in business (usually around 25-30 miles away), and ask if there is a possibility you can go out to work for a few days with them to see what the business involves.
You may know a chimney sweep personally, and they may be willing to show you aspects of the industry. This is always a good idea, as you will gain enough knowledge to make your mind up that this is the career you wish for.
Chimney Sweeping Training Courses
If you have no way of shadowing an experienced sweep, there are a number of training providers, that offer varying levels of service, all but one of the training providers are linked to a trade association. Training programs all have differing levels of quality, and you have to be vary careful in which course you think is right for you. No training in the UK or Ireland, can teach you everything, as the courses would have to be around two years of training but they should give you enough understanding and enough confidence to begin your new career.
Chimney Sweeping Equipment
The equipment you choose to use in your career as a Chimney Sweep depends on 2 main factors, which method of sweeping you decide to use and your budget. For example traditional chimney sweeping equipment costs a less than modern power sweeping equipment, however the more modern methods produce far superior results in a fraction of the time it takes to traditionally sweep a chimney meaning you are able to maximise you income whilst putting less strain on your back / shoulders etc.
Chimney Sweeping Associations
Since Chimney Sweeping is an unregulated industry there is no requirement for you to join any association, however some contracts with housing associations etc may require you to be a member. There are a number of Chimney Sweeping Associations for you to choose from. The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS) and The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps (GOMCS) are currently the largest associations within the industry but you should select the association you feel is best suited to you.