Chimney Sweeps


Education and Training Requirements

High School

To understand the damage done to chimneys by smoke, fire, and creosote, take science courses—particularly chemistry classes. In chemistry class, you'll learn more about the chemical reactions from fireplaces, such as carbon monoxide, that can cause illness and death if not contained. You may also work with some chemicals to break down creosote glaze. With a clear understanding of the chemistry involved, you can easily explain problems to customers and stress the importance of chimney sweeping and repair.

In business courses, you can learn about marketing, budgeting, tax requirements, insurance, and other details of small-business management. Computer courses will give you some experience with databases, spreadsheets, and other programs that assist in record keeping and billing.

Postsecondary Training

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), the educational branch of the National Chimney Sweep Guild, actively trains sweeps and venting specialists and provides information to the general public about chimney safety. The CSIA Technology Center, a training facility, was opened in Plainfield, Ind., in 2002 to satisfy the educational needs of chimney sweeps. CSIA also offers a number of workshops and seminars across the country that introduce new sweeps to the business and provide continuing education to established sweeps. Training in such subjects as safety codes, environmental protection requirements, chimney construction, and technique helps sweeps prepare for the CSIA certification exams.

No college degree is required, but community college courses in small business management or tech school training in brickwork can help you prepare for ownership of your own chimney sweep service. Some experienced sweeps may even take you on as an apprentice; though the opportunity may not pay anything, it will provide you with valuable experience and education, and help you in your pursuit of certification. Many chimney sweeps have worked as firefighters or in other aspects of fire control and prevention. You may consider applying to your state's fire academy for training. With experience in firefighting, you'll learn to recognize fire hazards, which is important knowledge for sweeps.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification isn't required to work as a chimney sweep but it is highly recommended by professionals in the industry. In its education of the public regarding chimney safety, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) strongly advises homeowners to use only the services of certified sweeps. An unskilled sweep may be unable to recognize the potential for fire and health hazards in a deteriorating chimney and may even do more damage in the sweeping and repairing process. Those who attend an online or in-person review session, pass an exam, and sign the CSIA Code of Ethics can use the designation "certified chimney sweep". There are more than 1,800 CSIA-certified chimney sweeps in the United States. With certification, you can offer your clients additional security. Certification is valid for three years, after which you can retest or attend CSIA-approved continuing education programs.

Liability insurance is also important for chimney sweeps. Some sweeps have been named in lawsuits following fires in homes they serviced. Even if a sweep alerts a homeowner to potential hazards and the homeowner chooses not to have the work done, the sweep may be held liable if he or she didn't document the warning.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

It will be difficult to obtain experience as a chimney sweep before completing industry-sponsored training. You can obtain some basic experience by reading books and journals about chimney sweeping and landing a job as a helper or administrative worker at a chimney sweeping company.

You should have good technical and mechanical skills, as you'll work with power tools. Patience is important because replacing linings and tiles and removing hard, glazed creosote can be time consuming and tedious. Communication skills are also valuable, as you'll need to clearly explain to your clients the repairs needed and how to maintain a safe hearth. An outgoing personality and background in customer relations is a definite plus in this industry.