Lots of people! The industry has been on the up (in more ways than one) in recent years.
Far from a dying trade, the business is expanding – both in terms of there being ever more sweeps and because the role of the sweep has grown. Chimneys still have to be swept, but most sweeps are now finding themselves fitting stoves and fireplaces, installing flues or chimney lining – and there’s still plenty of wedding work.
With all the new responsibilities comes a lot of training – and an influx of new trainees. Chimney Sweeps now have to be HETAS accredited so they can install and maintain stoves and appliances and sign off on their own work. Training centres have been set up with all sorts of appliances for aspiring sweeps to tinker with. They also have to practice flue lining with the different materials available.
There’s steel (flexible and rigid, twin-walled and single-walled) clay tiles, ceramic coatings… They all require very different installation methods, and your trained sweep needs the knowledge to be able recommend the best type for any given chimney.
And obviously sweeps need to be experts at sweeping and checking your chimney. A trained sweep can tell from the soot if you burn coal, wood or oil. More importantly, they can tell from inspecting your chimney if it is structurally sound and not leaking smoke or gasses into the house. The strength of a chimney sweep’s inspection is so great that insurance companies won’t pay out on chimney fires if a chimney hasn’t been recently swept and checked by a sweep.
Which a high demand for their services and such a varied role for today’s chimney sweep, the tools of the trade have become more sophisticated to save time while doing a good job. Sweeps use thousands of pounds-worth of CCTV equipment to inspect chimneys for blockages and damage. Industrial vacuums clear the soot from the chimney before it can make a mess of a client’s living room.
The industry has modernized, and continues to grow. For chimney sweeps, the sky’s the limit.