What Do Chimney Sweeps Do?
Chimney Sweeps are trained to inspect and clean chimneys, fireplaces, and flue systems. Depending on the sweeper’s policies and tools, they may also perform some repairs. They are professionals and will take proactive measures to minimize mess both inside your home and on the roof, including using drop cloths in their work area.
Chimney sweeps may obtain their professional certification through a variety of methods. They can get on-the-job training as an apprentice, enroll in a chimney sweeping school, or take a course offered by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). In addition to gaining experience, they need to pass two tests to become certified. The first, called a “closed book exam,” requires candidates to read several publications, including Successful Chimney Sweeping and NFPA 211. The second open-book exam is based on the International Residential Code.
A chimney sweep’s job duties include cleaning combustion and smoke vents and removing deposits from ventilation systems. They can also examine fire places, fire safety devices, and other associated equipment to check their functionality. They need to report any chimney problems to the homeowner and any relevant authorities.
Lastly, chimney sweeps must be able to work in outdoor conditions. They will often have to climb near power lines, so they must use insulated ladders and be aware of the potential for electrical shock. They may also have to deal with ice on a roof or in the gutters and be exposed to harmful gases such as carbon monoxide.
It’s important for a chimney sweep to be knowledgeable about the latest safety guidelines in their industry. This includes knowledge of fire safety regulations and the proper use of tools such as torches, chimney sweeping brushes, and vacuum cleaners. They should also be familiar with the latest gas fireplace technology and installation techniques.
It is a good idea for a chimney sweep to be insured. This can help protect them from liability if they are injured while working on a client’s property. Some insurance companies offer policies specifically designed for chimney sweeps. They may also find that a good reputation is a key factor in their ability to attract and retain clients. If a client is pleased with a sweep’s work, they are more likely to bring them back for annual cleanings and repair services or recommend them to others. This helps a chimney sweep’s business grow. The right insurance policy should provide a good amount of coverage for the chimney sweep’s vehicle, tools, and other essential equipment, as well as general liability coverage to cover any damage to a home or its contents during the course of the sweep’s duties.
A chimney sweep’s job is to clean the inside and outside of the fireplace, fire place, or wood stove flue. They will use brushes and extendable poles to clean the chimney walls, including the top of the chimney, where soot can collect. The chimney sweep may also take the opportunity to do a thorough inspection of the fireplace and flue. If they discover that a homeowner needs a repair, they will discuss options with the homeowner and give a quote.
A sweep will also remove animals and their nests from the chimney. They are trained to safely remove these pests without causing any harm. Chimneys are often a favorite place for birds, squirrels, and other animals because they are dark and cool. Having a regular appointment with a chimney sweep can keep furry and feathered visitors away.
During the Middle Ages, the chimney sweep was one of the most important tradesmen in the world. Without a working chimney, homeowners couldn’t cook or heat their homes. Carbon monoxide poisoning from a poorly functioning chimney was one of the leading causes of death during this time, but it was easily preventable with a chimney sweep’s services.
Chimney sweeps were also believed to bring luck and good health. This belief was especially true in Britain, where chimney sweeps are still considered lucky today. The British also believe that chimney sweeps carry the ashes of those who have died in house fires.
Chimney sweepers should be licensed and insured. A license is important because it ensures that the sweep has completed the required training and is up-to-date on industry technology and fire safety. A certificate of insurance is also important because it protects the homeowner in the event of an accident or injury while on the job. A reputable sweep will have this documentation. They will also have a keen eye for possible violations of current codes and standards and be able to communicate well both verbally and in writing. They will enjoy working alone and staying busy, and they should have excellent problem-solving skills.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends getting your chimney, fireplace, and venting system inspected and cleaned at least once per year. It’s even more critical that you arrange for a thorough inspection and cleaning if you use your fireplace on a regular basis. If you do, you can avoid the dreaded creosote glaze, a cake-icing-like sticky mess that’s hard to remove and can lead to dangerous chimney deterioration.
A CSIA-certified chimney sweep will evaluate your fireplace and venting system, including the flue, to verify that it’s structurally sound and free of combustible deposits such as creosote. They will also examine the firebox, smoke chamber, and damper assembly for obstructions, cracks, or any other complications that could make your fireplace unsafe to use.
Your sweep should explain everything they find to you in an easily understood manner. They should also provide you with a detailed report of any necessary or recommended repairs, including the cost and time frame for each project. Many sweeps offer additional services such as firebox and chimney liner repair, tuckpointing, or crown repair.
Before your chimney sweep arrives, it’s a good idea to take down any decorations, pictures, or other items that might be in the firebox or on the mantle. This will prevent the sweep from accidentally knocking them over during the sweeping and inspection process. Similarly, you should clear out any logs or other flammable material in the firebox. You should also make sure that your children and pets aren’t inside when the sweep is working.
During the chimney sweep’s visit, they may need to climb up on your roof and inside your chimney. If so, you should make arrangements to have someone home at that time to supervise them and keep them safe. They will use a tool that resembles a giant bottle brush to clean the interior of your chimney and may also remove any blockages from the fireplace itself. Depending on the sweep’s policy, he or she may also use a chemical treatment to eliminate late-stage creosote glaze.
Chimney sweeps often work on roofs with steep pitches and high peaks. This can be hazardous and expensive work, so it’s important that you interview several candidates and choose a qualified one.
If your chimney hasn’t been professionally cleaned in awhile, you may have a dangerous creosote buildup. This flammable substance can cause chimney fires, block your flue, and allow smoke and carbon monoxide to flow back into your home. Chimney sweepers use special brushes and rods to remove this dangerous material.
Chimney sweeps also perform masonry repairs such as chimney cap installation and repair, flue liner replacement, and tuckpointing or rebuilding of masonry chimneys and chimney crowns. Chimney sweeps also inspect and repair fireplace inserts, wood stoves, hearths, and smoke chambers.
Although chimney cleaning is not considered “home improvement,” many sweeps also offer repairs that fall into this category. These include the installation or repair of a chimney cap, flue liner repair, and even mortar replacement. These types of jobs require a homeowner’s license or certificate from your local building official, and any do-it-yourself attempts at these tasks can void your home warranty.
If a chimney sweep suggests that your fireplace or chimney needs to be repaired, you should ask for an estimate of the work and how long it will take. It’s also a good idea to compare estimates from several companies before choosing one.
Putting off chimney maintenance and hiring discount sweeps can actually cost you more in the long run. Chimneys that aren’t maintained properly can lead to code violations, leaking chimneys, and expensive structural damage to your home.