Tools of the
[Top 10 in 2020]
Chimney sweeping has come a long way since the beginning. You can trace our trade back to the 16th century and as you can imagine a LOT has changed.
Back then, chimney companies employed children, known as “climbing boys,” to climb into the flue to do the sweeping. The climbing boys would use their back, elbows, and knees to climb up the flue and brush away any creosote buildup they came in contact with.
Unfortunately, a lot of these climbing boys would get stuck in the flue and many would suffocate from the creosote build-up. The Chimney Sweepers and Chimney Regulations Act of 1840 passed to end child labor in the industry. And then the Chimney Boys Act prohibited anyone under 21 years old to sweep a chimney.
In addition to using climbing boys, chimney sweeps used to tie the legs of geese together and drop it down the flue. The frightened bird flapped its wings and broke down any buildup inside the flue.
Fortunately, Joseph Glass invented the chimney sweep brush, and his original style is still used by many sweeps today.
But running a chimney company is much more than sweeping. We need tools to climb, inspect, mitigate dust, repair, and clean your chimney. Chimney companies are no longer grunt laborers; we are certified tradesmen using specialized tools and I’m happy to share some of these with you.
1. Chimney Brushes
We use chimney brushes to remove creosote and other deposits from your flue. Brushes are either made of steel wire or polypropylene, which is a synthetic material used a lot for ropes. Brushes come in all sorts of shapes: round, oval, square, or rectangular.
2. Rods & Connectors
For a long time chimney sweeps may have used a rope with a weight attached to pull or drop a brush through a flue. Today, we use flexible rods that connect to one another to help reach the entire length of the flue.
3. Rotary Cleaning Systems
Many chimney technicians use a rotary cleaning system on most sweeping jobs. These are often loops or strands of steel cable connected to an electric drill that turns the loops to remove any deposits from inside your chimney.
4. Hand Brushes
We use a variety of hand brushes to clean the interior of your firebox, smoke chambers, connectors, thimbles, stove interiors, and chimney caps. The most common hand brushes are the U-brush, pot brush, and a wire brush. The U-brush is one of the most versatile and useful devices we carry since it can be used to clean just about everything in your chimney.
5. Creosote Removers
Creosote removers are some of the most important tools that we use since they help us remove that nasty hard glazed creosote and the tacky, sticky deposits. We use scrapers, mechanical devices, and chemicals.
Scrapers are just hand tools that remove glazed creosote. They are attached to cleaning rods to scrape flue interiors and smoke chambers. They work for the job, but certain mechanical devices and chemicals are way more effective.
Mechanical devices are effective when removing hard, bumpy deposits, but less so with tacky, sticky creosote. We use rotary tools with a steel cable strand or chain attachments for removing glazed creosote
The chemicals we use for creosote removal come in several varieties and each type has a specific purpose. For example, some chemicals are applied directly to the interior of the flue and are formulated to change the chemical composition of the hard glazed creosote so that the flue can be swept. Another type of chemical acts as a poultice to dissolve and absorb the creosote.
I’ve always heard that the most important task for chimney sweeping is managing the dust. And we use vacuums primarily for that purpose: controlling dust migration. We use pretty big vacuums that have the capability of moving air at a minimum of 250 cubic feet per minute.
7. Hand Tools & Drills
We use different hand tools and drills every single workday. These are tools that you can find in any well-stocked toolbox but here’s a list of our most commonly used tools:
- Screwdrivers and nut drivers
- Different types of pliers and vise grips
- Different saws
- Sledgehammers, masonry hammers, and claw hammers
- A variety of masonry chisels for mortar, concrete, and brickwork
- Masonry hand trowels and pointing tools
- Adjustable wrenches, Allen wrenches, and open wrenches
- Wrecking bar, pry bar, and pinch bar
- A variety of high-speed metal and masonry drill bits
- Flashlights and drop lights
We use different ladders depending on the requirements of the job. From a 5-foot step ladder to a 40-foot extension ladder. CSIA recommends that technicians never utilize a ladder that is not designed for commercial applications. Safety is a priority of ours, so we utilize accessories such as stabilizers, levelers, and ridge hooks.
Your chimney is likely full of harmful elements. When we are sweeping and cleaning your chimney those elements turn to dust that is very easy to inhale. Respirators help protect us from breathing in air containing these harmful elements. There are two types of respirators commonly used by chimney techs:
- Positive pressure-powered air-purifying respirators – uses a battery-powered fan to pull air through the filters to remove contaminants and then blows the purified air into the mask.
- Negative pressure respirators – uses the power of the technician’s breathing to draw air through filters to remove the contaminants.
10. Chimney Inspection Tools
Chimney inspections require specialized tools and equipment. Most commonly these are special mirrors, lights, and a camera.
- Mirrors – We use a pocket-sized glass mirror and larger inspection mirrors with extendable handles to look up the flue or through thimbles.
- Lights and Cords – We use different lights and cords to help light up the interior of the flue and the smoke chamber during inspections and sweeping. A fluorescent drop light is preferred by most technicians.
Video Scanning – Video inspections are included most frequently in Level 2 chimney inspections and Level 3 chimney inspections. But at Patriot Chimney, we make sure to include it in all inspections, even our Level 1 Inspections.
We’ve made it a long way from using geese and small children to clean your chimney. As you can see a lot of tools and work goes into cleaning and maintaining a chimney. Brushes, rods, and chemicals are only a few tools that will help get the job done.