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What is a Chimney Sweep?

It is hard to miss the “what is a chimney sweep” question when conversing with new homeowners who have just purchased a home with a fireplace.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a chimney sweep as “a person whose occupation is cleaning soot from chimney flues.”

If you have watched the Mary Poppins movie, you probably remember the Step in Time rooftop dance by sooty chimney sweeps. It didn’t seem like a lucrative career back then. But over the years, the profession has been redefined and dignified.

History of Chimney Sweeps

Until the invention of the chimney, chimney sweeps were unheard of. During the 13th century, the first chimneys were invented in Italy. It took some time before the invention birthed the chimney sweep profession in 16th century England.

At the onset, only wealthy homeowners could afford chimneys. As time elapsed and chimneys became more popular, the working class began requesting chimney installments in their houses.

The upsurge of chimney use saw a demand in chimney sweeps throughout Europe.

Chimney sweeping was a filthy job despised by many. It was left to orphaned young boys or those sold off by their penurious parents. To homeowners, these boys were a symbol of good health and a clean hearth.

Ironically, a chimney sweep profession meant affliction with a myriad of respiratory diseases. Sadly, most of these boys never lived past middle age.

Chimney Sweep Dynamics

It is impossible to discuss what a chimney sweep is without pointing out the changes that have defined the profession over the years. Initially meant for 5-11-year-old orphaned boys, the chimney sweep profession has evolved into a certified career for trained adults.

Thanks to the 1864 Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers, which banned child sweepers.

In addition, chimney sweeping has evolved into a health-conscious career. Children no longer have to climb up and down narrow, soot-filled flues, and professionals have adequate safety equipment to their disposal including protective glasses, a respiratory dusk mask, a ladder, and an adjustable chimney brush.

To a 19th century citizen, the question “what is a chimney sweep,” would be met with a lot of disgust. However, to citizens of the 21st century, chimney sweeping is a profession like any other and what a chimney sweep does to homeowners is as honorable as what a doctor does to patients. Undoubtedly, there is a sharp contrast between what a chimney sweep was in the past and what a chimney sweep is today.

Is it necessary to hire a chimney sweep?

Knowing whether or not to hire a chimney sweep depends on your chimney’s status. We strongly recommend hiring a professional after a prolonged period of regular use because of the buildup of soot and creosote.

Besides cleaning, a professional will identify and correct any structural damages. It is safer to hire a professional chimney sweep if your roof is high and steep or when you do not have the necessary tools and equipment for a chimney inspection.

However, if your chimney has recently been cleaned and inspected, you can conduct an inspection and sweep–only if you have the necessary equipment and tools.

Essentially, knowing what a chimney sweep is isn’t enough when seeking professional chimney cleaning services. Hiring the correct chimney sweep may sometimes be challenging.

So to ensure you do not go wrong, avoid door-to-door chimney sweep advertisements which appear too good to be true. Conduct a thorough internet search for reputable chimney sweep companies in your region and check out their reviews. Hiring a professional may not be the only way to get your chimney sparkling clean, but it is the safest and most effective way.


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