A chimney sweep cleans soot and debris from chimneys and flues. The soot comes from wood and coal-burning fires and stoves. The debris is usually from birds' nests. A chimney sweep's other tasks include cleaning the flues of oil and gas burners to clear obstructions, and giving advice about the safe operation of solid-fuel appliances. The skills needed to start a chimney sweep business include an organised approach to work, tidiness and the ability to talk to customers. The work is manual, so a chimney sweep must be used to physical activity.
Take a chimney sweep training course. The National Association of Chimney Sweeps and the Institute of Chimney Sweeps offer a range of relevant training. This includes basic skills, flue lining, rooftop safety and solid fuel regulations.
Read and adopt the National Code of Practice for Chimney Sweeps. The National Association of Chimney Sweeps and the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps jointly introduced the code as a national standard. It covers issues such as equipment, waste disposal and best practice. By following the code, chimney sweeps give customers confidence in their skills.
Buy chimney sweeping equipment. This includes a vacuum cleaner suitable for soot, protective clothing and a set of brushes. Ensure you have a vehicle suitable for carrying the equipment.
Buy insurance. This should cover third party liability, damage to a customer's property and theft or loss of equipment. Trade bodies such as the National Association of Chimney Sweeps provide advice about specialist insurance companies.
Join and maintain membership of a chimney sweep trade association. The UK's Health and Safety Executive encourages this to ensure chimney sweeps work to an acceptable standard and follow best practice. The Health and Safety Executive also supports the view that the public should only employ a qualified and registered chimney sweep.
Conduct market research in the proposed area for the chimney sweep business. Check for competition by using the Yellow Pages and searching online. Ensure the area has a large number of older residential properties with chimneys.
Develop a marketing campaign to build a client base for the chimney sweep business. Advertise using leaflets, local magazines, newspapers and signage on the business vehicle. Work also comes from recommendations and repeat orders so act professionally towards all customers.
Create a website to advertise the chimney sweep business. Use social media to promote the business and attract customers. Ensure the business features in the online directories of chimney sweep associations.
Contact local heating appliance suppliers and coal merchants (See Resources 5). Ask them if they are willing to recommend the business on their websites and premises (See Resources 5). Promote the business to residential landlords by contacting their local associations (See Resources 8).
Ask customers where they found the details of the chimney sweep business and make a note (See Resources 7). Use these notes to measure the success of marketing initiatives (See Resources 7). Keep records of all customers and contact them when their chimneys are due for cleaning (See Resources 8).
Chimney sweep associations can provide training, business advice and a professional network of colleagues. UK associations include the following.
The Association of Professional and Independent Chimney Sweeps (APICS) Ltd. The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. The Institute of Chimney Sweeps. The National Association of Chimney Sweeps. The Northern Ireland Association of Chimney Sweeps.
HETAS (heat equipment testing and approval scheme) runs an Approved Chimney Sweep course.