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Chimney sweeping and the wind of change

Becoming a good chimney sweep takes a few years, becoming an expert takes longer with ongoing learning and attention to detail.


Outdated stereotyping of chimney sweeps...


Historically chimney sweeping was regarded as a low-grade job in the UK, you only need to watch Mary Poppins to get an understanding of what I mean. The outdated stereotyping is changing now with excellent training opportunities, qualifications, modern technology and new equipment in the industry.


Chimney sweeping is a highly regarded occupation in other countries...


Interestingly, there is a difference in how people perceive chimney sweeps in the UK and Europe. In Germany, Sweden and France, it’s a serious, highly regarded occupation. A lot of European countries have tighter safety laws and chimney sweeping is a legal obligation. Property owners need a certificate to say that their chimney has been maintained and swept. Most house insurance companies insist on it, especially in rental properties.


The first in Bedford & Milton Keynes...


The NVQ Level 2 qualification in chimney sweeping has helped people realise that it is a skilled job. Years ago a chimney sweep would simply clean the chimney, give limited advice to the customer then leave. It didn’t make them a bad sweep, there was just a lack of understanding about health & safety, products and processes. Now, it’s very different and it’s not simply a matter of pushing a brush up and down a chimney.


Whilst it is very important that a property owner uses the services of a registered sweep to clean their chimney, such as, HETAS/NACS/GOMCS registered, it is a ‘registration’ which is not the same as a qualification. Both a qualification and registration would be ideal to make sure you receive a highly professional, safe and experienced chimney clean. I’m very proud to say that I am the first chimney sweep in and around Bedford & Milton Keynes to get an NVQ Level 2 in chimney sweeping and it’s a valuable qualification.


What changes have there been with regards to tools and equipment used by chimney sweeps?


· Chimney problem and diagnosis: Traditionally, to check a chimney stack for maintenance issues a sweep would need to use a ladder to get access to the roof. For higher buildings, scaffolding or cherry pickers would be the safest option. Now, sweeps can use inspection cameras or drones to be able to access the damaged areas of chimneys

· Cameras for blockages: A common problem with chimneys is bird nesting. Now, CCTV cameras can be installed so property owners would be aware if birds had started to build a nest or if debris was collecting in the chimney stack

· Power sweeping and testing: Sophisticated equipment has come to the market, allowing a sweep to do a power sweep on the chimney, diagnose chimney faults and do leak testing


By using an NVQ qualified chimney sweep, you are guaranteed that they have a good understanding or access to information about the following:


· Support for business success

· A pathway to qualifications

· Assessments and inspections

· Consumer safety and awareness

· Knowledge of domestic fires and fuels

· Information about authorities and industry bodies

· Health and safety qualifications

· Good knowledge of selecting materials, components and equipment

· Cleaning and preparing chimney structures

· Understanding of emissions and user error of fires in the home

· The importance of the free passage of dangerous combustion gases

· Removal of soot, bird nests, cobwebs, other blockages and creosote


Outdated perceptions, the environment and saving lives...


1000s of fires are prevented by regular chimney sweeping, it is a life-saving process that only needs to be done once or twice a year depending on the type of fire and fuel.

We as chimney sweeps want the general public to shake off their outdated perception of what a chimney sweep is. The process and success of chimney sweeping have come a long way and using a qualified, registered sweep would give a property owner peace of mind.


The chimney sweep that you use should be able to explain to you the most efficient and safest way to use your fire in the home. They should be able to explain about emissions and the effect of fires on the environment. Correct usage of fires in a property saves money, heats your home safely and saves lives.


Contact me today for more information about my services info@rjlchimneys.co.uk.


Richard Lowe – NVQ Level 2 qualified. HETAS, Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, Sweepsafe registered.





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