Haus Schwatz: Cati's DC Real Estate


What the Chimney Sweep Has To Do With Luck

There’s a reason Mary Poppins had to fall in love with a chimney sweep--she was a lucky girl.

Europeans firmly believe that nothing is a better predictor of good fortune than the sight of a passing chimney sweep. The English hire them to be guests at their weddings, and in Germany even grown-ups cross the road to shake the hand or touch the sooty outfit of a sweep in his traditional black uniform.

When I was a child, many of the houses, apartments and buildings in the big cities were still heated with coal, and the sweeps were riding bicycles loaded with ropes and huge brushes.

But what’s so lucky about them? I only began to understand after I had entered real estate. It’s because they save lives.

Many house fires in our region get started in fireplace chimneys that—yep, you guessed right—haven’t been swept or inspected in a while.  A home inspector once told me about a fire that was caused by a dead bird blocking the flue (that's what that wire mesh on top of the chimney is supposed to prevent!), and two of my neighbors had fires caused by either an excessive build-up of debris or a design flaw that only became apparent after several heating seasons. Cracked liners or gaps in the masonry can let smoke enter the walls of the house or, even worse, start smoldering little fires that spread elsewhere.

If you have a wood burning fireplace, you should have it cleaned and inspected at least once a year, either before or after fireplace season. Don't wait; do it now while the sweeps are less busy.  Make sure luck stays on your side.


© 2012, Catarina Bannier


Comment balloon 6 commentsCatarina Bannier • May 14 2008 09:55PM


Catarina, this reminds me that I must call Priddy Clean Chimneys before I light another fire! 

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 11 years ago

Yes, Pat!  Better now than when everybody wants them.  Neat name, by the way.  Bet they don't have cars as cute as the ones from my guys, though.  The picture is from my first winter here, and I got all choked up when they pulled up.

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) over 11 years ago

Advice worth its weight in coal. We get sweeped regularly. Last year we installed a Jotul wood-burning stove that also needs regular checking. I'd re-run this article next September and October. 

Posted by Blogger To Be Named Later over 11 years ago

Catarina:  Down here in TEXAS, this is really a neglected thing.  So few people use their fireplaces down here and those that do use them so seldom, that people overlook the importance of keeping the flues clean on their units, even the pre-fabbed ones.  (I will make an effort to put this reminder out in my client newsletter that I send out next month) - Thanks!  Steve

Posted by Steve Homer (The HBH Group (Keller Williams affiliate)) over 11 years ago

Andrew--thanks, that's a good idea.  I checked out the Jotul stoves online--very nifty.  Are they energy-efficient.  As it happens I saw a very similar looking piece in an old farm house today.  The owner said it had never worked in her time but that she left it because it was so decorative.

Steve--I'm hooked on the fire during the winter (I have a fireplace in my home office and could spend hours cathecting it), but can imagine that you guys just don't have too many days on which you'd be longing for a cozy fire!  So if someone only lights a fire once a year for a holiday party, they might not think about it.

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) over 11 years ago

Catarina, They are extremely energy efficient as compared to the wood burning fireplace. Most Jotul stoves have an electric blower motor. They are actually alternative heating systems. Some folks heat their whole house. I would stoke the coals, load up the wood, choke down the damper and go to sleep. Eight hours later -- still a hot red bed of coals waiting for more wood! 

I love the damn thing. I wrote a blog on Jotul. 

Posted by Blogger To Be Named Later over 11 years ago