If you want to start a chimney cleaning business, now is the best time.
Competition is low compared to other service industries. And, since chimneys need to be cleaned at least once per year, there’s guaranteed recurring demand from homeowners.
Combine this with relatively low chimney sweep startup costs ($7,500 in some cases) and the chance to make healthy profits (12.5% to 20% average profit margins), and you have a market that is ripe for the picking.
However, just because there’s a business opportunity, doesn’t mean that starting a chimney sweep business will be easy.
There’s a lot to do—from getting certified and registering your business, to setting up marketing and operations.
To help you along this journey, we spoke with Patriot Chimney, a chimney cleaning business that generated more than $212,000 in its first year.
Read on and use this “How to Start a Chimney Cleaning Business” eight-point checklist to get started.
How to Start a Chimney Cleaning Business: Your Eight-Point Checklist
1. Get certification and experience
By law, you don’t need a chimney cleaning license to start a chimney sweep business. A general business license will do (more on that later). However, you can be liable for damages that result from not cleaning a chimney properly.
The best way to prevent this is to get certified to improve your knowledge of the job. Plus, having the certification is a way to market your business and attract higher-paying clients. It’s a stamp of credibility that tells homeowners you put their safety first and can do a reliable job.
How do you get a chimney sweep certification?
The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) offers a six-day workshop you can attend to get certified. You can also enroll in prep courses offered by certified instructors throughout the country. Finally, brush up your knowledge by visiting the National Fire Protection Association and the National Chimney Sweep Guild.
Besides getting certified, we also recommend you gain experience in the field as a technician. On the job experience will help you find out if this industry is a good fit, while teaching you how to avoid mistakes that could cost your business customers and money.
If your background is business or marketing, you can always hire certified technicians to do the work or build a team with diverse skills. That’s exactly what Mitchell Blackmon and the team (Matt and Billy) at Patriot Chimney did in order to launch a profitable chimney sweep business.
“My experience in the past few years has been a mix of marketing and sales,” explains Mitchell. “So my focus now is primarily on building the sales and marketing strategy. My brother (Matt) and a friend of his (Billy) focus on operations and doing some real dirty work.”
2. Choose a business name and logo
Give your business name some thought and choose one that’s both practical and professional. After all, your name will be on all your quotes, invoices, marketing materials, uniform, and even van.
But, don’t spend weeks and weeks agonizing over your name, as this will unnecessarily delay starting your business.
Your name and logo will go hand-in-hand. Create a logo that you can place on your uniform and is easily recognizable and memorable for customers. To design a logo, use a designer or services like Canva and 99designs.
Patriot Chimney was named after the company’s founders (two combat vets turned certified chimney sweeps), and their logo is simple, bold, and easy to replicate on business cards, uniforms, and vans.
3. Register your business and get insurance
This part is not the most glamorous as it involves loads of paperwork. However, it’s something you have to deal with if you want to legally start a chimney sweep business.
- First, choose your business structure (LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship, or partnership). An LLC is usually an excellent option as you won’t be liable if sued.
- Second, register your business with local and state governments and get the required permits and licenses. Business licensing requirements vary by state and city, so contact the local municipality or the Small Business Administration for guidance.
- Third, get general liability insurance that protects you if you accidentally damage someone’s property, and worker’s compensation for your employees.
Getting insurance can be tricky, but it’s peace of mind you absolutely need.
Shop around and get quotes from several insurance companies if you need to, but whatever you do, do not skip this step.
4. Build a service list and price list
There are many services you can offer as a chimney sweep such as chimney inspections, remodels, chimney sweeping, fireplace cleaning, chimney relining, and pipe and liner repair.
But you don’t have to offer them all to run a profitable chimney cleaning business. Instead, focus on those services that have a market, you’re good at, and you want to do.
Once you have your service list, set your prices. If you’ve already been working as a chimney service technician (recommended in step one), you should have an idea of chimney service pricing, profits, and costs in your region. You can use this information as a guide, but do not rely solely on your competitors to determine your chimney company pricing!
Instead, implement a smart pricing strategy that works for you, such as tiered, hourly, or value-based pricing. You should take into consideration how much you need to charge to reach your profit margin goals. Not sure how? Learn about profit margin calculations here.
“We price based on different formulas that consider average job completion time, materials, equipment used, and a few other pieces of information,” explains Mitchell. “This helps us provide a reasonable price while also being very profitable.”
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5. Determine what chimney sweep equipment and tools to buy
The exact equipment you need depends on what services you plan to offer. That said, here’s a list of chimney sweep equipment and tools you’ll probably need at some stage in your business.
As you read through this list, keep the following in mind:
1. You don’t have to buy all this equipment at once—you can wait until you’ve booked a job that requires a specific tool before you decide to buy.
2. You also don’t have to invest in top-of-the-line equipment. That only places an unnecessary financial burden on your chimney sweep business when starting out. Don’t be afraid to use quality second-hand equipment and to finance it instead of purchasing it outright. Just make sure that if you do finance the equipment that you have enough money coming in to pay back the line of credit.
Chimney Sweep Supplies and Materials
- Rotary cleaning rods
- Vacuum cleaner
- Angle grinder
- Grout bag
- Fireplace cleaning tools
- Cleaning and wire brushes
- Impact driver
- Impact driver set
- Power tool batteries
- Hang light
- Extension cord
- Measuring tape
- Step stool
- Leather gloves
Besides the essential supplies and materials, you also need chimney cleaning business software.
What is Chimney Cleaning Business Software?
This is software that helps you manage and run your chimney sweep business from a single platform. The platform lets you manage clients, accept online bookings, quote for jobs, check schedules and job notes on a mobile app, schedule employees, track time, invoice clients, and much more.
Chimney service business software such as Jobber can help you save time, look more professional, and run a more efficient and profitable chimney sweep business. Bonus: you can try Jobber free for 14 days.
6. Use marketing to build your client list
There’s no shortage of ways to market yourself when starting out. To avoid getting overwhelmed, focus on marketing tactics that will help you get a few clients fast.
(Referrals are an excellent source of revenue for chimney service businesses. If you provide a good clean job and excellent customer service, customers will be happy to call you again and again, and send their friends.)
So, which marketing methods should you use when you’re just starting out?
- Reach out to family and friends to let them know you’re in business
- Join local Facebook groups where your clients hang out
- Use Google LSA, Thumbtack, or similar lead generation services that are popular in your region.
- Go door-to-door, handing out flyers and door hangers.
Better yet, use a combination of these marketing tactics to stay top of mind and influence homeowners in your target market.
For example, Patriot Chimney used both digital marketing and door-to-door marketing when starting out. “I focused almost exclusively on digital marketing, doing the typical SEO, PPC, and social media,” says Mitchell. “That kept a steady stream of customers. Matt & Billy hit the ground, canvassing neighborhoods, calling old friends, and having conversations about what we were doing.”
In addition to all of that, Patriot Chimney hired a sales person go door-to-door with flyers on a regular cadence. Here are some examples of door hanger flyers and referral cards they’ve used:
Even if you’re just starting out and don’t have a team to delegate the work, you should make sure to start with the home service marketing basics: a professional website, a Google business listing, and at least one offline tactic, such as flyers or postcards.
7. Set up systems to book work, schedule, and complete jobs
Next up, think about how you’ll handle customers once you start to get leads from your marketing.
Where will you write down property information when a customer calls? Will you send appointment reminders to avoid cancellations? What will you do if your customers only want to pay by credit card?
Set up these systems as early as possible to avoid unhappy customers, negative reviews, and frustrated teammates.
“If we could do things differently, I would probably say that I would’ve gotten our operations software, Jobber, sooner and we would’ve hired Kaylin [our office administrator] sooner,” says Mitchell.
“When we first got started, Matt and Billy were working with pen and paper, answering calls, scheduling clients. […] Poor Matt and Billy, both of whom have small children, were working hours upon hours well after the jobs during the day were over just to call people back, submit the proposal info over to me, and prepare for the next day. Having something to organize all of that and Kaylin to send the quotes and answer phones, have been absolutely instrumental in our success. If it weren’t for those two pieces, I literally do not think our company would be where it is today.”
8. Plan for growth
By now, you should be just about ready to start your chimney sweep business. But before you pull the trigger, start thinking about some bigger picture questions:
- How big do I want my chimney sweep business to be?
- What are my profit goals?
- Would I ever want to bring in partners?
- How will I keep my costs down?
- How will I remain ahead of the competition?
By contemplating these questions early, you’ll have a clearer picture of your goals, vision, and how to achieve them. For example, Patriot Chimney’s goal is to double their net profit in the next year, and plans to accomplish this by:
- Continuously updating their pricing so that it’s more in line with their client demand
- Buying material in bulk
- Introducing new technology to automate tasks and reduce manual processes, so they can concentrate on business growth
Start your chimney cleaning business today
Starting a chimney sweep business may be a big business opportunity, but it’s also a massive challenge.
Make sure you complete the startup tasks such as getting experience, building a service list, marketing your business, and planning for growth.
Then once you’re up and running, optimize your business like Patriot Chimney did to remain efficient and profitable.