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A Guide to Becoming a Chimney Sweep

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What You Need to Know

  1. Chimney sweeps clear ash, soot and other potential obstacles such as bird nests from chimneys, thereby reducing the risk of chimney fires and the risk of dangerous smoke, gases and dirt entering a home or workplace.
  2. According to the National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS), the vast majority of its new members get into the profession through an NVQ in Chimney Engineering.
  3. If you are completely new to the chimney sweeping industry, you could consider applying for the Specialist Apprenticeship Programme for Chimney Engineering. This is overseen by the National Association of Chimney Engineers (NACE).
  4. Most new sweeps get their first jobs with the experienced sweeps they’ve been working with while learning the ropes.
  5. Once qualified and with experience in the trade, you may want to set up your own business; this gives you more flexibility as you are your own boss.
  6. If you do choose to set up your own small business, then the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps runs a training and mentoring initiative, the Passport Training System.
  7. Chimney sweeping is not an easy life; the work can be physically demanding, dirty and dangerous. Additionally, you have to find your own business and, chances are, look after your own paperwork and tax.

What Do Chimney Sweeps Do?

Chimney sweeps clear ash, soot and other potential obstacles such as bird nests from chimneys. By doing so, they reduce the risk of chimney fires and the risk of dangerous smoke, gases and dirt entering a home or workplace.

While in the old days, chimney sweeping was associated with young boys working in dangerous conditions, these days, it is a modern, well-regulated profession. Indeed, as a modern chimney sweep, you could be working on private homes one day and then working on massive commercial premises the next. Additionally, modern sweeps are often hired to carry out repair jobs, or even complete renovations of chimneys or flues and, as such, you will be expected to have a sound knowledge of the dangers posed by carbon monoxide and combustible gases, as well as the skills needed to remove flammable substances such as creosote and even the ability to operate thousands of pounds worth of intricate camera equipment and other high-tech gadgets.

Training

Thankfully, the days of chimney sweeps starting off as very young apprentices are long gone. In place of this old-fashioned system – whereby boys would work from the age of four and eventually progress to being master sweeps – there are number of routes open to you. According to the,National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS), the vast majority of its new members get into the profession through an NVQ in Chimney Engineering. By taking this course, you will be required to demonstrate competence in a number of key areas, including workplace health and safety, chimney cleaning and the use of different materials and equipment. Note that the NVQ is not a formal, classroom-based examination. Rather, you will be assessed ‘on the job’, so you will need to find a working chimney sweep to help you gain professional experience.

If you are completely new to the chimney sweeping industry, you could consider applying for the Specialist Apprenticeship Programme for Chimney Engineering. This is overseen by the National Association of Chimney Engineers (NACE) and more information is available on its website.

Finding Jobs

Given that most chimney sweeps work for themselves, or at least in small companies, there are relatively few job openings advertised in this area. Indeed, most new sweeps get their first jobs with the experienced sweeps they’ve been working with while learning the ropes. Then, once they have enough experience, they set up their own small business.

If you do choose to set up your own small business, then the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps runs a training and mentoring initiative, the Passport Training System. This allows you to make use of the knowledge of experienced sweeps and learn all about promoting and running your own one-man business. More information on this scheme is available online.

Benefits of Working as a Chimney Sweep

Chimney sweeping can be hard, dirty work. However, it does have its attractions. Above all, most chimney sweeps are self-employed, so choosing this as a career means that, once you are qualified and have a little experience, you can become your own boss and work the hours you want to work. Additionally, chimney sweeps tend not to work during the summer months, meaning you can work hard for the rest of the year and then have a season off. Other benefits include enjoying the fresh air on a daily basis and meeting a wide range of people through your work.

Potential Downsides to Being a Chimney Sweep

Again, chimney sweeping is not an easy life; the work can be physically demanding, dirty and dangerous. Additionally, you have to find your own clients and, chances are, look after your own paperwork and tax affairs, while if you want to take on bigger jobs, you may have to invest in expensive new equipment. Furthermore, due to how modern homes are built and heated, demand for chimney sweeps isn’t anywhere near as high as it once was, making competition for work fierce and stressful.

Further Reading

  • If you’re looking to gain practical skills, why not check out the range of vocational training courses on offer from Home Learning College.
  • This line of work can pose some potential dangers. Read our guide to health and safety in the workplace and familiarise yourself with your rights if you’re working or training with an organisation.
 
3 comments
chris railton chris railton
02/03/2014

hi my farther made his living sweeping chimilys in the 1950s and 1960s he did raf camps made more than any body did in a factory from chris

 
mark reed mark reed
26/01/2014

i would like to get into the chimney sweep business but feel like i need some basic knowledge of this to help me before i pursue the training options.
i live in cinderford gloucestershire an will be grateful of any help.
as i work on the highways at the moment i feel evenings an weekends will be the best time for me to help anyone that needs it and for me to 'learn the ropes' to help me for the future.
any help will be appreciated.:)
many thanks, mark. 07927 477 281

 
Louise Carter Louise Carter
16/01/2014

I would like to be a helper as a chimney sweep.

 

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