Best Methods of Protecting a Customers House from Soot

Well, I am not entirely sure what the weather’s up to at the moment? … Certainly no snow or any proper wintery weather to be seen here in the Yorkshire lowlands, mainly been warm, wet and blustery! I have only had to de-ice my sweep van 3 times through the whole of the 2016/17 winter season so far. Very Bizarre!

Not the best weather for a chimney sweep. To start with, soot and rain are really not the best combination! Then there are some of our customers who only use their fires ‘occasionally’ when it is really cold weather, who will most likely choose to miss out on what should be their next chimney sweeping appointment.

But never mind, that is the nature of our work and thankfully we seem to be keeping rather busy in what can be a fairly steady time of year for us sweeps, so we can’t complain too much.

In recent Sweep related goings on we have purchased new respirator masks and we have been featured in the Dalesman! (a very famous Yorkshire publication) which I am more than pleased about. we are now a bit like rural Yorkshire celebrities, with regular customers that are Dalesman readers being very impressed. Amongst all that excitement and all the usual eventful things that go along with day to day sweeping, I have discovered the joys of working with magnets! …Wow!
I have been extremely impressed with the selection of magnets I purchased, one could even say they have been life changing! Now there’s a statement, – but seriously they have come is so handy for many, many sweep situations. So far I have used mine for the following…

Stove sweeping –for holding up, within the stove those awkward baffles/throat plates, keeping them up and well out of the way, giving that all important extra few cm/inches, that making all the difference for removing the side and back bricks on certain stove designs. Not having to do this one handed whilst supporting a potentially heavy baffle is massively helpful.

The dreaded register plate underside access! A chimney sweeps least favorite job! The magnets are great for stainless steel register plates. Once the access is removed, using the magnets to securely hold up heavy duty refuge sack allows you to be able to neatly sweep through and/or then easily remove the soot and debris from the top of the register plate directly in to the bag with minimal mess or fuss.

Seeing what I’m doing! Even my new posh torch is magnetic. Perfect for popping on the stove top, attaching to the cast surround of an open fire or up to the register plate for illuminating what you’re working on. Especially when customers don’t always feel the need to put the room lights on for you, which happens a lot.

The magnets also work hand in hand with a new method of sheeting up we have been introduced to and adopted, using clear Polythene sheeting. Very simple, very effective, very good.

Seemingly a technique that has been around for many years but more recently growing in popularity and being adopted by more and more sweeps as this practice has a lot of positive benefits.

When it first came to trying out the Polythene sheeting method, I was admittedly a little skeptical. I have been sweeping for a good while now, quite happily using my trusty soot sheets and tape, so why change a perfectly good method?
After a little coaxing from my Husband Tom (also a chimney sweep) I gave it a go and I must say I was very pleased with the result.

I have found using the Poly really does help aid in carrying out a thorough clean sweep of any chimney all because you can clearly see what’s coming down the flue through the clear polythene.

If whilst sweeping there continues to be a great deal of soot dropping from a certain section of the flue, you can really see it requires a bit more attention and extra sweeping in that area until the build-up is fully cleared and the soot has stopped falling. Simple yet effective, very clean and the customers loves to watch all the soot coming down, as do I, very satisfying.

Then there is the jackdaw nests, corroded liners and other chimney issues to contend with, where seeing what’s made its way down in to the grate means you can stop and take immediate action where required.

After finishing that job the Poly sheet can then be disposed of along with the soot (or popped in the recycling bin) without having to be shaken out and washed like the old sooty sheets, a big perk for me as I always have piles of washing anyway without adding extra sooty sheets to it.

Back to the magnets, they really do work well for me, saving a fortune on tape. We used to go through rolls and rolls of the stuff and have drastically cut down, but I do still keep the cloth tape close at hand as there will always be the York stone and brick surrounds to contend with so out comes the trusty tape again.

But as the old saying goes ‘‘there is more than one way of skinning a cat’‘ and all sweeps use various techniques depends on the job in hand and individual preference.

Of course, the ‘clear Poly’ method will not suit everyone and it still has its down sides, like having to bulk buy large sheets in and cut them down to the various required sizes. This can be a little tedious and time consuming… a job I leave to my husband, now his job for life! Official sweep polythene cutter! He he.

Other tried and tested sheeting up tactics include the trusty cloth soot sheets, used for centuries quite happily, and manufactured by several quality and respectable companies right here in the UK. These can be taped, clipped or held in position by extendable props, or even going old school by using slightly bent old rods.

I was once given by a retiring and very traditional chimney sweeping chap, a selection of well used and well-loved wooden sweeping frames, all beautifully panted in green, with a sponge edging with a circular hole in the middle and a protruding cloth sleeve where the rods ran through, all rather tired and grubby with soot by the time of their donation to me, but a lovely thought. These frames worked simply by sitting on the hearth and offering the sponged edge up to the fireplace to create a seal with the weighty frame keeping it secured in to position. I must admit I never did use them as they were so bulky they would have taken up half of my van…not to mention me having to lug them in and out of people’s houses, probably trailing soot as I went, ekk.

With the move within the sweeping industry towards rotary power sweeping, sponge blocks have been a popular choice for many sweeps as they complement the power sweeping very well indeed, being quick and effective to seal. Alas I personally do not seem to have got to grips with the sponges, although I know of lots of sweeps who really love their sponge blocks, I think my issues come from being set in my ways after using sweeping cloths for such a long time, perhaps too different a technique for me?

One of my very favourite tools in the van are a pair of quick grip clamps that I use regularly when sweeping chimneys via a builders opening. This is normally ahead of a stove being installed, so usually there is a rather large opening with exposed dusty bricks that our good old cloth tape is very reluctant to stick to. Using the quick grips I can very quickly and easily hold into place a large heavy duty sheet by gripping on to the lintel, the grips then take the strain of the sheet so I can then just tape around the edges. Simple… though You do have to watch your eyes/head on the protruding lengths from the quick grips.

I really could go on and on about this topic but in summary as Professional and individual Chimney sweeps we all find our own preferred methods over time, and although it is good to try these new things, it may not always be suited to the individual. After all It is ‘‘whatever works for you’’ is the best! whether it be magnets, poly, sheets, tape, clamps, clips or sponges, props or frames… Providing that the method keeps all the soot well contained that is.
We are each as individual as the chimneys we sweep!

I hope those who were lucky enough to be able to attend the Rodtech open day had a splendid time,
And wish all who are attending the upcoming Guild of master sweeps trade show a wonderful couple of days.
Happy sweeping to all.

Click to see Katie Sweeps other diary entries

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