If you grew up watching Disney movies, thinking about chimney sweeps may conjure up images of Dick Van Dyke and crew singing “Chim Chim Cher-ee” in Mary Poppins. Unlike their fictional singing and dancing counterparts, modern chimney sweeps are known for their professionalism and high levels of expertise and training.
A brief history of chimney sweeps
While homeowners had been keeping their own chimneys clean for centuries, the chimney sweep profession did not develop until the Industrial Revolution. As the number or homes and businesses in cities steadily grew, master chimney sweeps would hire young boys as apprentices to climb inside the chimneys, scraping the inside of the flue with small, handheld brushes.
This practice fell out of favor around the turn of the century due to several pieces of legislation passed in order to protect the working conditions of chimney sweeps. In addition, new technology and building standards allowed sweeps to more efficiently clean chimneys and flues, eliminating the need to have young boys climb inside the chimney structure.
Since then, the profession has continued to evolve. Modern chimney sweeps are subjected to the oversight of several regulatory groups and must maintain their qualifications in order to be certified. In addition, chimney sweeps are qualified to do much more than just clean chimneys; most are also able to assess the condition of a chimney structure and make some repairs as needed.
How does someone become a chimney sweep?
Many chimney sweeps get their start by finding an older, certified sweep to serve as their mentor. In addition, new chimney sweeps have the ability to attend various industry seminars, classes, and training events to improve their skill sets and knowledge levels.
Professional chimney sweeps traditionally are certified by several different organizations. In the United States, certifications for chimney sweeps are issued by the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the Certified Chimney Professionals. In addition, the National Chimney Sweep Guild works to improve the professionalism and perception of the trade by ensuring that high standards of expertise are maintained. In order to become professionally certified by these organizations, chimney sweeps must show a certain level of proficiency in their ability to identify and fix potentially hazardous problems, as well as their knowledge about issues affecting modern masonry chimneys.
What does a modern chimney sweep do?
Modern chimney sweeps are certified technicians who are well equipped to deal with most chimney or fireplace concerns. For most chimney sweeps, the majority of their work involves preventative maintenance and cleaning of chimneys, flues, and fireplaces. While tools such as the traditional chimney brush are still used, chimney sweeps now employ a vast array of more modern tools such as vacuums, cameras, and other electronic equipment.
Certified chimney sweeps have also been trained on how to repair most of the common fireplace hazards, including the removal of creosote, animals or nests, and the repair of dampers or smoke chambers. In addition, some chimney sweeps may be able to complete more extensive or complex repairs including repairing flues, chimney crowns, chimney caps, or masonry structures.