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How to start a business as a chimney sweep

Once a filthy, dangerous job, modern techniques and equipment mean that now a chimney can be swept safely and cleanly How to start a business as a chimney sweep

Fantastic to curl up in front of on a cold winter’s night, the popularity of open fires and wood burners has surged in recent years. No surprise then that the demand for chimney sweeps has correspondingly increased. Not that chimney sweeps just sweep out the soot. They may also advise on health and safety matters, suggest and carry out repairs, re-line chimneys, fit cowls and caps, and remove bird nests. But once a filthy, dangerous job, modern techniques and equipment mean that now a chimney can be swept safely and cleanly, offering great opportunities for canny entrepreneurs.

Qualifications

There are no formal qualifications to become a chimney sweep, but household insurance policies will often be made void if there is a problem with a chimney and it wasn’t swept by a HETAS approved chimney sweep. The industry body for solid fuel heating appliances, HETAS approves training courses as well as trade associations such as The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. A basic course lasts about four days and costs around £1,600. Additional courses will mean you can add additional skills such as flue smoke testing and chimney stack repair to your repertoire and provide a more allround service for clients.

Skills

You need to be good with heights and physically fit, as well as practically minded. Ideally, you’ll be a people person so you can build up a good relationship with your customers – you want to be the chimney sweep people come back to year after year.

Hard essentials

You need to invest in a chimney sweep kit, but this needn’t be expensive. This includes a set of chimney rods and a brush, a vacuum cleaner to remove the soot, dust sheets and a dust mask. A set of access and roof ladders, hooks to pull out birds nests and also a van to carry everything around in. It’s also a good idea to invest in a range of chimney cowls. You’ll also need public liability insurance.

Getting the work

To start, a website will be a must. Given that chimney sweeps can start work after completing a course lasting just a few days, trust is hugely important. Ideally, you’ll provide testimonials of people whose chimneys you’ve cleaned – offer to clean friends and neighbours for free in exchange for a quote or two to put on your website. Look out for houses with working chimneys and wood stacked up in the yard – and drop leaflets through their doors. Network local fireplace and woodstove installers – they will recommend chimney sweeps to their clients, and also use them to clean fireplaces as part of their work. Once you’re up and running, word of mouth will be the main way you’ll win work, so be sure to be charming, efficient – and to leave clients properties spotlessly clean. In time, you may want to expand your business into solid fuel appliance installation Read more like this

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