So your chimneys I sweep, in soot I sleep
The days of using small boys to clean chimneys reads as a sad part of 18th century history. Because chimneys were very narrow back then and the tools were extremely basic, small children were taken in by Master Sweeps, forced to climb up the chimneys, cleaning as they went. As one can imagine, this was a dangerous and dirty occupation. Sadly, the list of job-related illnesses that affected these boys was long. Skin and eye disease, respiratory illnesses and twisted spines ranked highly, and, if those weren’t bad enough there was a skin cancer (known as chimney sweep’s cancer) caused by constant irritation by the soot. Sometimes, the children simply got stuck in the small spaces or burned from the fires lit under them by cruel masters, who wanted to make them move a little faster. It was not until 1864 that an act was finally brought before parliament by Lord Shaftesbury. It was named the “Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers”, and it banned anyone under the age of 21 from working as a sweep. Although it was largely ignored at the time, it marked the beginning of rights for all people involved in cleaning chimneys.
Why choose a Master Chimney Sweep?
Moving on many decades, we can take heart that the techniques for cleaning chimneys now are safe for those who perform this important task. Furthermore, we recognise that with every maintenance job around the home, it never pays to cut corners. Hence, the best way to ensure your chimney is cleaned correctly is to make sure you engage a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. Unlike some European countries, anyone in the UK can claim they are a chimney sweep. They do not need any particular training or qualifications to take up the profession. For a sweep to be accepted as a member of the Guild, individuals would need to satisfy the stringent criteria set down by the organisation. Furthermore, on becoming a member, they are supported with ongoing training and the experience of senior colleagues. And, if the sweep you have contacted can’t help you, another member of the Guild usually can. Ultimately, the standards set by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps are there to safeguard your home and leave you satisfied that the job has been done properly.
What will a Master Chimney Sweep do?
First and foremost, a Master Sweep will check the functioning of your chimney, to make sure it is venting correctly. They will check for blockages of the flue (such as birds’ nests), and most importantly of all, clean the inside of the chimney of soot and creosote build-up. They can also check flues for risk of gas or oil fires and advise on any situations that might cause carbon monoxide leaks. They will also be able to provide you with basic information on how to correctly use your appliance, and which fuels will best suit your heating system. Finally, a Master Sweep will issue you with a Certificate of Sweeping every time a chimney is cleaned. You should check your household insurance terms as this document can be a requirement by some insurers, but crucially, the document certifies that the job has been done to the exacting standards of the Guild.
How often should I get my appliance cleaned?
Always refer to the manufacturers instructions, if that information is available to you. Depending on your appliance and the type of fuel you choose to use, your chimney may need to be cleaned more regularly than others. Remember, the cost of a certified chimney sweep is a lot less than the cost of refurbishing a fire-damaged home. As they say in the Guild, “If your chimney is clean, it will not catch fire, as there is nothing to burn”.