A day in the life of a London Chimney Sweep
In the UK, until the middle of the 19th century chimney sweepers were usually young boys that were small enough to climb up chimney flues. Life for these boys was extremely hard and often they became very ill from their lungs being filled with soot, sleeping on the materials they worked with and having fire lit beneath them to encourage them to work. Thankfully now the chimney sweeping profession does not consist of young children but trained professionals who have years of experience in safely and efficiently cleaning chimneys.
Modern day chimney sweeps arrive at a job with a wide variety of tool to help them carry out the job. Their job can vary depending on what work needs to be done for the client, it can range from cleaning off hard creosote to removing debris fallen from the chimney and fixing the broken areas. However, even just cleaning the chimney is not a simple job and requires a number of checks and step.
The first step will be for them to do a visually inspection of the chimney flue, roof and fireplace to get an idea of what state it is in. Working on the basis that there are no immediate issues such as cracks that gas can leak through or blockages from fallen mortar or debris such as birds nest then they can begin the cleaning process. The room will need to be cleared and they will cover the floors with drop cloth as well as any nearby furnishing. It is likely that a lot of soot and ash will fall in the process so they must be prepared for this by wearing protective glasses and a mask. During this time occupants will not be allowed in the vicinity for their own safety.
One of the jobs will include clearing off any creosote that has built up over time as a result of incomplete combustion. Creosote is tar that condensates on the sides of the chimney flue and over time if it builds up enough it can put the property in danger of a chimney fire. Chimney fires are extremely dangerous as they can not only harm occupants but compromise the structural integrity of the building. If the build-up is deeper than 1/8 of an inch it immediately will need to be cleaned off. The time taken for this can vary based on the consistency of the creosote as sometimes if it has built up for too long it can become extremely hard. Chimney sweeps are always prepared for any build up, it simply comes down to the time needed on the job.
Removing any soot and debris is usually done using a specialised vacuum and equipment. Many people think that it I a job they could do themselves with their home vacuum but this can be extremely dangerous when you don’t know what you are doing. One wrong move and the entire surrounding area in the property will be covered in soot and debris which could also cause harm to yourself. They will also often use a range of brushes and tools to scrape down the excess but this can only go so far. Further up the flue there may be material they cannot reach and so often you may see them use a variety of chemicals on the fire that once burned will allow anything remaining to drop off.
Finally, the last part of the cleaning process will always be to inform the client how they can help maintain the efficiency and safety of their fireplace. They will also give them information on how often they should have their chimney cleaned and when I the best time for this.