I started doing this because I was helping a friend. He took off to Bali and never came back. Ever since I had my own website, it just went ballistic really.
I think there’s about a dozen chimney sweeps in Melbourne, of varying quality.
I use the old methods, like in Mary Poppins, with a brush and vacuum. It’s one thing that can’t be computerised. The kids love it. Sometimes they start singing the song (Chim Chim Cher-ee).
When I tell people I’m a chimney sweep, they’re a bit surprised sometimes, but there’s a definite demand for it. Because Melbourne has got so many renovations happening all the time, people get you to sweep their chimneys while they’re renovating and then real estate agents get you to sweep the chimneys between tenancies.
It’s certainly not a passing fad. If anything, people are using their fireplaces more. There’s more atmosphere than gas, and gas is getting quite expensive. People think if I can scrounge the wood I’ll use the fireplace. I’d rather look at a fireplace than look at a ducted heating duct.
They have to be serviced – it’s like anything. The soot builds up and it can be like cholesterol in an artery, it’s clogged up with soot, especially wood heater flues.
It’s not really something people can do themselves. They wouldn’t have the right equipment and a lot of people wouldn’t put up with the heights and the dirt. I wear a mask and goggles; you’ve got to look the part.
Dead birds and dead possums and dead ducks, all sorts of things go down chimneys. They can get to the stage where they won’t draw properly and also you can have beehives in chimneys.
I normally do them from the top down, top and bottom you know. People think you go up the chimney, but no, you don’t.
I just did two in St Kilda. The house was about 130 years old and I don’t think they’d ever been done. People sometimes can live in a house for years, then they suddenly decide ‘I might start using the chimney’.
It’s very important that people have their chimneys checked out before they light them because sometimes they can be capped off at the top. Sometimes you can have a fireplace but there’s actually no chimney there, so you can’t use it. What would happen? Well they’d burn the house down.Normally in the winter months I work six days a week. I may do three days in summer, it depends.
I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else, because I don’t want any more competition!”
As told to Larissa Ham