Be a Chimney Sweep

By Eric Hammer

ChimneyFlickr Photo by George Foster

Anyone who saw Marry Poppins as a child or who saw the modern Broadway version has likely wondered what life would be like to take the job of Bert, the chimney sweep. However, few people will actually go into this rather unusual profession since it's no longer such a popular job. After all, in order to become a chimney sweep, one must find enough homes with fireplaces to actually land work in the field.

However, for those few who do become chimney sweeps, the handful of people who insist on a real, wood burning fireplace will always be in need of your services since an unswept chimney is considered to be a fire hazard. In fact, it was estimated in Great Britain that as many as 138 deaths from 1996 to 2008 could be directly attributed to home owners failing to hire a professional chimney sweep to ensure that their chimneys were safe.

On the other hand, those who think that Bert had a very dirty job are both right and wrong. They are right that at the time that Mary Poppins was made, a chimney sweep had a very dirty job. However, today with modern tools, the job is considered much cleaner, though still somewhat dangerous.

How Much Can You Make?

According to, the average chimney sweep makes about $18,000 per year. However this amount can vary greatly depending on where in the country you are located and how aggressive you are about pursuing business (most chimney sweeps are self employed).

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As noted above, the days of the bristle brush are long gone, replaced by modern blower equipment which makes being a chimney sweep much less of a dirty job. On the other hand, the job of the chimney sweep is still quite dangerous since you do need to climb onto rooftops and drag along quite a bit of equipment in order to do the job.

You also need to know more than just how to sweep the chimney. You also need to be able to inspect the chimney and recommend and often carry out repairs as needed and you of course must be able to take proper safety precautions to ensure that you don't cause smoke damage to the home.

Qualifications / Requirements

Some states will require licensure from a chimney sweep while all chimney sweeps will need to learn how to use the equipment properly. In most cases, there is no formal training though. Most training is on the job.

First Steps

Start by contacting local chimney sweeps in the area and asking if you can apprentice under them. This is likely the best way to learn the business as there are no formal schools available to teach you how to become a chimney sweep.


Check out this helpful resource to learn more about becoming a chimney sweep:

Guild of Master Sweepers - While it is a British rather than an American organization, the Guild of Master Sweepers is still a great place to start learning about becoming a chimney sweep. And of course, for British readers, this is the perfect place to go.

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