Chimney sweeping is moving firmly into the 21st Century.
For decades, the trade didn’t really venture that far from its roots in the industrial revolution.
Rods and brushes – basic cleaning of chimneys – were the mainstay for generations.
There’s quite a gap in what people expect of a sweep in the UK compared to continental Europe.
In countries such as Germany and Sweden, sweeping is a very serious business. They are held in much higher regard by the general public and have powers to enforce. Over here, we can only advise and guide.
Chimney sweeping has historically been seen as a fairly low grade job in the UK.
Films depicting sweeps don’t really help to say the least.
And at its most basic, it is seen by some to be on a par with other cleaning jobs.
But thankfully, that outdated sterotype is changing. And more-forward thinking sweeps are now embracing all manner of ways in order to keep people’s fireplaces and chimneys working well.
Here’s just a few of them…
More and more sweeps are now becoming qualified. The NVQ Level 2 pathway really has opened up a world of possibilities to sweeps.
Not only does it give formal trade status and parity with other industries, it also provides customers with peace of mind in knowing that they’ve hired a qualified sweep who is clued up in all the best and latest practices for the job at hand.
Now, there’s some serious misunderstandings about what ‘qualification’ means. So let me explain…
If you are qualified, you have that qualification for life. A bit like a GCSE/O Level/A-level and so on.
So for me, I have an NVQ Level 2 in chimney sweeping. I am also a Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps registered sweep, a HETAS Appoved Sweep and an OFTEC Registered Solid Fuel Installer.
But unlike my NVQ qualification, the others are merely registrations. They only last as long as I remain a member of those schemes.
That’s not to say they are a lesser status – but they are different. And it’s important to know that.
Helping create Cleaner Air
We’ve all seen the shock-horror headlines about emissions from stoves. But there’s one key element that always seems to be missing – user error.
Very few people are shown how to use their solid fuel appliances properly. In fact, many spend years wasting their money, fuel and creating unecessary emissions all because they haven’t engaged the services of a professional sweep.
Sweeps know how customers burn – we see it every day. And we’re the ones who are in the home and best place to deliver key messages.
The success of the Burnright campaign, which I co-founded, shows how much this information is needed.
More In-depth Inspections
Years ago, a sweep would simply clean a chimney, give some limited advice and then leave. These days, professional sweeps use all manner of equipment to give a well-rounded picture to customers.
For instance, many now have CCTV inspection cameras. These are absolutely vital, especially given the age of some chimneys.
Some use high tech equipment to test chimneys for leaks. Again, given the age of chimneys in the UK, it’s essential chimneys are not brought back into use ‘as is’ without a leakage test.
And as of 2021, more sweeps are starting to acquire drones. These are really handy given that many chimneys are so tall they require scaffold or cherry picker access, which can be very expensive.
Given the right conditions, a drone inspection can give quick and easy information on the external state of a chimney stack, and give an indication of any repair works that are needed.
Sweeping has come a long way in the past few years. Thankfully, people are generally becoming more aware for the need to engage a professional chimney sweep.
Whether the UK industry will truly shake off its outdated stereotypes remains to be seen. But we’re certainly heading in the right direction…
Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a fully qualified sweep and a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, based in the Manchester and South Lancs area