What is a chimney sweep?
The question posed in my title question seems very obvious at a first glance, the Oxford English Dictionary states that a Chimney Sweep is a person that cleans soot from a chimney. That description might have been accurate in the 1800s but today the job is something very much more indeed.
Let’s begin here with a brief summary of the chimney sweeping process
Before we get to go to work we must set up our company and make it look attractive for the consumer to find, we then have to use our finest telephone sales pitch in order to take a booking > use our organisational skills and plan and allocate a date that works with other jobs > we turn up on time on the arranged day and before we enter the house we make observations on the chimney stack condition > knock on the door and using our customer skills introduce ourselves and make them feel safe and hopefully trust us > bring in the correct equipment for the job while protecting the property > make more observations > lay out sheeting> seal everything up> clean the chimney > remove the spoils and soot> test the chimney > reassemble everything> observe faults and safety issues > document faults, safety issues and observations > pass our findings onto the customer via the certificate/notification and verbally> finally we are paid and raise an invoice.
WOW! I missed dozens of stages and I could go on for ever, we do an awful lot indeed.
So if we were to post in a modern job vacancy site, how would we describe what we would wish for in an applicant?. Please bear in mind I have not mentioned any required skills or qualifications required to work on gas or oils fuels. That job advert might start like the one below:
Job title Chimney sweep.
Required skills: physical strength and stamina, customer relations, advertising expertise, book keeping and accounting, business management, working with power tools, self motivation, clean driving licence, social media, cleanliness, telephone sales, Microsoft; excel and word, data base management, working at heights, camera surveying, H003 or h009, fault observation and documentation.
Qualities: Honesty, reliability, courteousness, punctuality, eagerness, determination, patience, tenacity, flexibility and be eager and willing to add to their knowledge and skill.
combustion chemistry specifically creosote formation, gaseous fluid dynamics ie; how a chimney works, building practices and structure, carbon monoxide issues, ventilation requirements, smoke testing, sweeping processes and tool selection, fault finding based on country regulations, personal protective equipment, sweeping history, fire precautions, basic knowledge of thousands of appliances with regards to servicing and access. Soot storage and disposal, building regulations.
The candidate must be willing to work very long hours in the winter and possibly have little or no work for a significant part of the summer. Must like getting really mucky and finally listen to Mary Poppins Chim, Chim Cheroo played repeatedly in the background in many jobs around the Christmas holidays.
How much would a job which requires so many different and diverse skills be worth it were advertised as such in the global market place? How many years would it take to master all of these skill sets?
When you look at what you offer as a sweep it’s nothing short of amazing, yes there are still those who simply clean soot but these are very few and far between nowadays and have been mostly superseded by multi tasking professionals.
When you break down what a chimney sweep does today the description of a chimney cleaner does us no justice. In reality cleaning is the smallest part of what a professional chimney sweep does. We are more; business entrepreneurs, fire prevention personnel , chimney cleaning gurus , building assessing, documenting, safety super heroes.
Keep up the good work chimney professionals make our industry proud.