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