Tak­ing good care of your chim­ney

DAILY GRIND As the weather cools down, busi­ness heats up for chim­ney sweep Ciaran Fitz­patrick. The Grey Lynn res­i­dent talks to re­porter Jess Lee about the ups and downs of the in­dus­try.

Central Leader - - NEWS -

There’s much more to the chim­ney main­te­nance trade than just soot and brooms.

But when Grey Lynn man Ciaran Fitz­patrick gets to work clean­ing, you’d think not much has changed since Dick van Dyke and his chim­ney sweep­ing crew danced across rooftops in Mary Pop­pins.

Mr Fitz­patrick and his part­ner Kim­berly Mun­caster started their busi­ness in 2012.

An aver­age day can in­clude ev­ery­thing from clean­ing to knock­ing down, re­plas­ter­ing and re­build­ing chim­neys across Auck­land.

It’s a job people of­ten for­get about but is vi­tally im­por­tant, Mr Fitz­patrick says.

Clean­ing rods are used to clean some from the bot­tom up and some from the roof down. A chim­ney should be cleaned at least once a year to clear the flue of block­ages. Ne­glect­ing it can be fa­tal in the worst cases with a po­ten­tial for the chim­ney to catch fire or col­lapse.

‘‘I can’t be­lieve how many you see that are cracked from top to bot­tom or have bricks miss­ing.

‘‘But you don’t of­ten look up at it. There al­ways seem to be more press­ing things to fix be­cause it’s not one of those things that’s in your face.’’

Mr Fitz­patrick is at his busiest dur­ing win­ter when a cold snap re­minds people to get their fire cleaned out.

He was 22 years old when he first picked up the trade from a fam­ily friend in his na­tive Ire­land.

‘‘They were build­ing chim­neys the old way and it just grew from there re­ally. I loved work­ing with my hands and get­ting out­side – I was never an of­fice man,’’ he says.

Safety rules and reg­u­la­tions have im­proved over the years and are par­tic­u­larly strict in New Zealand, he says. It means a har­ness is manda­tory for work­ing on a roof.

But you never quite know what to ex­pect in this trade. Birds and bee­hives are some of the sur­prises he en­coun­ters on the job.

‘‘I was re­mov­ing honeycomb from one in Te Atatu. There was a full hive in their chim­ney – I was up to a me­tre and a half in honey.’’ Good old-fash­ioned cus­tomer ser­vice is the key, Mr Fitz­patrick says.

‘‘Just do it right. Turn­ing up on time and just be thor­ough with the job. The trade in­dus­try is ap­palling for let­ting people down – people tell me at the door that they can’t be­lieve we’re on time.’’

There will al­ways be a place for the hum­ble chim­ney sweep, Ms Mun­caster says.

‘‘Es­pe­cially for some­one with the skill to rebuild and knock them down.

Photo: JESS LEE

Chim chim­ney: Ciaran Fitz­patrick is a chim­ney sweep by trade. He cleans, knocks down and re­builds chim­neys for his Grey Lynn-based com­pany Com­plete Chim­ney Care.

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