During lockdown I was bored. Very bored. So bored infact I swept my own chimneys.
And as any sweep will tell you, that is perhaps one of the most unsatisfying things in the world!
Not only do you not get paid, but you also know how you’ve been burning so the results are entirely predictable.
Across the country, millions were also stuck at home, bereft of anything particularly interesting to do. There is only so much Joe Wicks one person can take!
So something very British started to happen. People started knocking holes in walls. They started stripping off wallpaper. They started painting.
Being forced to stare at the aforementioned walls for pretty much 24 hours a day, many decided to embark on a flurry of home improvements. Internet sales soared. DIY stores saw an upsurge in sales.
If an Englishman’s home is his castle, then lockdown turned it into a fortress, albeit a newly decorated one!
Once I returned to work in mid May, I almost instantly saw the natural follow-on to this; bookings for multi fuel stove and woodburner installations. People knew what they wanted and had done their research. They’d had the time to look at all the options and were now ready to take the plunge.
Three months on and enquiries are well up year-on-year. Indeed, in the months before lockdown, the solid fuel industry was predicting a continued drop in the number of stove installations.
It’s been felt that the ‘heyday’ of stove installations was, for now at least, coming to an end.
Endless, inaccurate media coverage about solid fuel and the natural cycle of things had been manifesting itself in fewer appliances being fitted.
But COVID provided some light relief to that. How?
Well, for a start, lockdown pretty much blocked off many people’s avenues for traditional leisure spending. No eating out, no going for a beer, no night out at the movies – all that came to a shuddering halt.
Also, holidays were put on hold or cancelled. Some were offered refunds, while others found themselves with their spending money now suddenly surplus to requirements.
Yet against this backdrop, many people were still receiving their wages in some form or other. Furlough money certainly helped, as did mortgage holidays. With incomes for some remaining stable but opportunities for spending reduced, people found themselves in a position to invest in their homes.
So many people I’ve installed for over the past few months freely admit that they’d always wanted a woodburner, but they’d never had enough until the pandemic left them in such a position financially.
A silver lining I guess among some very dark, bleak clouds for many.
As to whether this ‘lockdown dividend’ will last is hard to tell. Certainly there will be more people working from home for the foreseeable future, so they will want to make their living space as comfortable as possible.
It’s true that a real fireplace turns a house into a home, and when it comes to property prices, it can add a good few thousand onto the asking price.
Very few ever regret having a real fireplace installed. For some, it’s the whole experience of gathering the fuel, building the fire and the feeling of self-sufficiency.
In an age where mindfulness is very much at the forefront, watching the flicker of real flames takes some beating.
So if you’re not going to be getting any heat abroad this year, why not choose the next best thing?
All-year-round warmth without having to leave the comfort of your own living room…
Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a HETAS Approved Sweep, and member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, offering a professional and friendly chimney sweep and stove service. Book Mr Soot online or call 0800 0541154.