(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the chimney services sector
Until the 1960s coal was the main fuel for domestic heating and this generated strong demand for the chimney sweep's services. However, the 1960s and 1970s saw gas beginning to replace coal and this led to many traditional sweeps leaving the trade or retiring. Those that remained had to become familiar with cleaning gas chimneys where previously they had only cleaned coal, wood and oil chimneys.
The switch away from coal has continued and now many homes are heated by gas, oil or electricity. Many don't have an open fire at all. If there is an open fire it may only be lit every now and then, meaning that some customers don't get their chimney swept every year but every four or five years. Some chimney sweeping businesses now have thousands of customers where previously they had hundreds - the difference being that many of these customers have their chimney swept every three or four years instead of annually.
Modern chimney sweeps now offer a wide range of chimney services. They may be qualified to work on gas, oil and solid fuel appliances as well as being able to clean flues serving all fuels (coal, wood, peat, oil and gas). The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS) has been active in highlighting the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning from blocked flues and the need to have gas chimneys cleaned regularly. Also, regulations have been brought in which require landlords to make sure that appliances and flues and chimneys are checked for safety once a year - they can't pass this responsibility on to their tenants. This has helped to maintain demand for chimney sweeps' services - or 'chimney technicians' as some now call themselves.
Recent years have seen wood burning and solid fuel stoves become popular, partly as they are fashionable and partly because of rising energy prices. This has also boosted demand for the chimney sweep's services, especially as chimneys for these burners need sweeping as often as every quarter when they're in use.
Keeping up to date with developments
Joining a trade association is an excellent way of staying up to date with developments in your industry.
The chimney sweeping industry is represented by:
- the National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS) which promotes high standards for the sweeping, inspection and maintenance of chimneys. Members must undertake compulsory training and comply with a Code of Practice. Contact the Association at Units 14-15, Emerald Way, Stone Business Park, Stone, Staffordshire ST15 0SR
- the Northern Ireland Association of Chimney Sweeps (NIACS). All NIACS members are trained, registered and approved. Visit the NIACS website for further information
- the Association of Professional and Independent Chimney Sweeps (APICS). APICS represents sweeps working in Cornwall and the south west and members must sign up to the APICS continuing professional development (CPD) scheme. Visit the APICS website for details
- the Institute of Chimney Sweeps (ICS). ICS represents chimney sweeps in the UK, Ireland and Europe. All members must hold public liability insurance and receive ongoing training. Visit the ICS website for more information
You may be eligible to join the Guild of Master Sweeps. Applicants must meet strict criteria and comply with the Industry Standard National Code of Practice for Chimney Sweeps. You can contact the Guild of Master Sweeps through their website.
Registered members of NACS, APICS and the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps can apply to become a HETAS Approved Chimney Sweep and benefit from a listing in the online HETAS Find a Chimney Sweep search facility.
The NACS hosts the annual NACS Exhibition trade show which should be of interest to anyone working in the chimney services industry.