The Importance of Chimney Sweeps

There is no substitute for a chimney sweep who scrubs and vacuums until every inch of baked-on grime is gone. Charleston Chimney Sweeps know what they are doing and do it well. Historically, master chimney sweeps bought and sold children known as ‘climbing boys’ to work as apprentices. The ‘climbing boy’ depended on the master sweep for food, clothing, and shelter.

Chimney SweepAs the name suggests, a chimney sweep’s primary job is to clean your chimney. During your chimney inspection and cleaning, they will use brushes, extension poles, and a vacuum to clean the inside of the flue and the chimney itself. The goal is to remove any accumulated creosote coating, which forms when wood, fossil fuel or tar is burned and can be very toxic to your family.

They will also check that the chimney is free of any blockages. They may do this from inside your house or by climbing up on the roof, and they will take proactive measures to minimize any debris that falls into your home. They will also carefully inspect the chimney for any signs of damage, which they can usually complete the same day.

Back in the old days, Master Sweeps couldn’t fit inside of a chimney flue, so they hired apprentices called “Climbing Boys.” The boys were orphans who began their apprenticeship at around 4 years of age. Their parents or legal guardians signed Papers of Indenture that effectively enslaved them until they were adults, and they would often suffocate from the toxic creosote buildup as they climbed up chimneys. Master sweeps used to prick the rear ends and feet of the boys to make them move faster up the chimney, and they were sometimes caught in the flue and killed.

The modern-day sweeping process is much safer, thanks to technology and advances in chimney safety equipment. But you still need to find a reputable company that is licensed and insured to do the work, and you should look for personal recommendations or search paywalled sites such as Angie’s List to learn about the companies in your area. The National Fireplace Institute and the Chimney Safety Institute of America both certify professional chimney sweeps, so they host searchable databases to help you locate qualified candidates in your area.

When you set up your appointment, don’t light a fire in the fireplace until after your chimney sweeps have arrived. Your chimney needs to be completely cool to work safely.

They Keep You Safe

Chimney sweeps may not be the most glamorous profession, but their work is important and valuable. Many homeowners overlook the need to have their chimneys inspected and cleaned, but those who make it a regular part of their home maintenance routine save themselves money in repair bills and from potential fire hazards.

A clean chimney helps your fireplace to draft and burn efficiently, keeping smoke out of the living areas. This can lower your energy bills, too. The National Fire Protection Association recommends having chimneys, flues and vents inspected and cleaned on an annual basis by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep to reduce the risk of fire.

The creosote glaze that builds up on the inside of a chimney is a fire hazard. It also contains harmful toxins that can leak into the home. These toxins are flammable and can wreak havoc on your furniture, carpets and walls. Chimney sweeps use brushes and other manual chimney cleaning equipment to remove the glaze, which makes it safer to light and burn a fire.

An obstructed chimney can cause smoke and carbon monoxide to back up into the living area. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless gas that can be deadly at high levels. Chimney sweeps check for obstructions such as twigs, leaves, animal nests and chimney crown damage to ensure air flow is unobstructed.

Chimney sweeps have been helping families stay safe for years. Historically, chimney sweeps were young boys who used their backs, elbows and knees to climb up a chimney and brush away the creosote. The job was dangerous and arduous, and many children died from suffocation or other complications. Master sweeps often employed pricking methods to get the boys moving faster, including using sticks to poke them, and pulling them up by their hats.

Today’s chimney sweeps arrive at their inspections armed with a whole new set of tools. They may have a vacuum cleaner attached to a long, flexible tube with a special dual HEPA filter that keeps dust out of the air and off your floor. They may also have a camera that scans the chimney for cracks and other damage and gives them an up-close look at the inside of your chimney to help prevent costly repairs.

They Save You Money

Chimney sweeps are a valuable part of the home maintenance and repair crew. In fact, they can often save homeowners money when they are able to spot problems in the early stages. Whether it is the early detection of water leaks or the spotting of small cracks in the chimney, these experts are able to prevent more costly repairs in the future.

It is important to have your fireplace and chimney cleaned regularly in order to maintain a safe environment for your family. A dirty chimney is a fire hazard and can cause harmful toxins to leak into your home. It also contributes to poor air quality and can affect your health. Chimney sweeps can remove creosote buildup from the flue liner which helps prevent toxins from being released into your home and ensures that your fires burn properly.

Early on, chimney sweeps would hire young children to help them clean. They would put the children on a harness and have them climb up into the chimney to scrape away the soot. It was a messy job and children didn’t get very far before they got soot in their hair, eyes, clothes, and noses. Later on, a chimney sweep named Joseph Glass invented the chimney sweep brush. This style of brush is still used to this day.

Chimney sweeps often work in the spring, summer and fall. This is because they know that many homeowners don’t use their fireplaces as frequently during these seasons and it makes the task of cleaning and inspecting a lot easier for them. They can also avoid icy or snowy conditions which could make the job more difficult.

One of the most important benefits of hiring a chimney sweep is that they can save you money on your energy bills. A dirty chimney is less efficient and can reduce heat transfer by as much as 50 percent. Chimney sweeps can remove blockages that restrict air flow and discover any other issues that may be reducing your energy efficiency, like air leaks.

Chimney Sweeps aren’t grunt laborers anymore. They are certified technicians in a very specialized field and they have all the tools and technology needed to do their jobs well. By keeping your chimney and fireplace clean and performing routine inspections, you will be able to enjoy your fireplace for years to come.

They Keep You Healthy

When chimneys aren’t cleaned regularly, toxic smoke and other harmful pollutants can leak into your home. This can cause respiratory distress, irritation and even infections. Chimney sweeps use special brushes and vacuums to decrease particulate pollution in your home. They also clean and reline your chimney so that smoke and toxins don’t back up into your living spaces.

Historically, chimneys were narrow, pitch black, and complex mazes that chimney sweeps had to navigate. They were often the victims of perilous conditions, as they would be sent into these dark, confined spaces to clean out the creosote and soot. The majority of chimney sweeps were children, called climbing boys or girls. These children were orphans, who were chosen by a master sweep or sold to him by their guardians. They were utterly dependent on their master, signing papers of indenture in front of a magistrate that enslaved them to him until they were adults.

Soot is a highly toxic substance that contains carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Studies in animals indicate that soot extracts are genotoxic. Additionally, soot exposure may increase the risk of bladder cancer in humans. Chimney sweeps have long been known to suffer from occupational lung disease and even death. This is due to the intense labor and poor ventilation in their work environment.

The main tool chimney sweeps use is a brush that looks similar to a giant bottle brush. They also wear protective clothing to decrease contact with the creosote and soot while cleaning a chimney. They usually have to climb a ladder or scaffolding to access the chimney and roof, which can be dangerous in cold or rainy weather.

It is important to hire a CSIA certified chimney sweep because they have the experience and knowledge of how to safely and effectively inspect, clean, and repair your chimney system. They will also have all the necessary tools and equipment needed to do a proper job. If you try to clean your chimney yourself, you might injure yourself or damage your chimney, causing a dangerous situation. The only safe way to do a chimney inspection and cleaning is with an experienced professional.

William Ramm