ST. JOSEPH, Mo — The term chimney sweep might evoke images of Dickens’s England and soot-covered orphan boys in the minds of some.
But today as venting systems for coal, heating oil, gas, wood and pellet-burning appliances need to be maintained, the chimney sweep is still in demand.
Instead of using orphan boys in England, most modern chimney sweeps are professionals like Brad Moore, owner-operator of Chim-Chiminey Chimney Sweep.
Moore said the job is enough to keep him busy. He said he serves anywhere from 750 to 1,000 customers yearly, with the bulk of the work being done in the fall.
“I’ve been doing this for 33 years now. A friend of mine started this business, and when he told me he was going to do this I thought he was crazy. I worked for him for one year and ended up buying it out,” Moore said.
The job of chimney sweeper is an old one. In Great Britain in the 1700s, master sweeps took apprentices, typically orphan boys, and trained them to climb into chimneys.
The same hiring practices were used in America, too. That is until the Chimney Sweepers Act of 1788 forbade children under the age of 8 to work as chimney sweeps.
The Chimney Sweeps and Chimney Regulation Act of 1840 made it illegal for a person under the age of 21 to clean chimneys. By 1875, all chimney sweeps had to be registered with and supervised by the police.
“It’s important to have it done,” Moore said. “You see a lot of chimney fires and ... you could lose your house, possibly lose your lives. It’s just not worth not cleaning your chimney.”
Chimney sweeping is pretty much the same as it was in the past, with the standard chimney brush still being used. Vacuums, cameras and special chimney cleaning tools are also are employed today.
“A lot of guys now have the cameras that they wanna drop down in your chimney, and I’m kind of old-school. I like to just do everything by eye, you know, just what I’ve learned over the years,” Moore said.
Chimney sweeps also do more than just clean chimneys. They diagnose and service problems, repair all types of chimneys and install fireplaces.
“Every chimney’s different. It’s not standard cut-and-dried,” Moore said.