by Sally McKnight

Previously on this site to commemorate Women’s History Month, I wrote about carving out my niche as a female chimney sweep. Now, I want to share more of my story and of what my profession means to me.

After a chance response to a posting for a part-time job at a chimney sweep business, I fell in love with all the industry had to offer.

In a few short years, I would work my way up to the ownership of my own company. At the height, I managed fourteen employees: three sweep crews and two masonry crews.

I had reached what some would consider the pinnacle, but I was miserable. During this time as an administrator, my love of chimney sweeping – the actual work – was reaffirmed. I just like being in the field. I like being with my customers. I like getting into the trenches. It’s why I eventually fired all of my employees and got back to sweeping.

Thirty years later, it is still so. I spend five days a week in the field with my trusty assistant, Mario.  At the end of my day, I return home to respond to the voicemails and emails, schedule appointments, enter documentation, print photographs, write reports, develop estimates and attend to the accounting.

Our work as chimney professionals is challenging. There are so many variables. It’s like living life inside a rubric cube, and with the dawn of each new day, we face entirely new sets of circumstances.

My profession engages most of my talents and pushes me to develop new ones. The work is gritty; but I remain congenial, because I’m able to solve problems, manage logistics and be a master of in-the-field improvisation.

When I first became an assistant chimney sweep, customers would challenge me at times. Today, I understand how to hear my customers. I’ve learned that I can educate them and they can benefit from my knowledge.

I may not know a customer’s short or long term goals, how much money is in their checkbook, or how long they will live in that house. But I can provide guidance and suggestions and if called upon; I can bring their wishes to life.

I’m proud to be a chimney sweep. I’m proud to be a service provider. I’m proud that women have found their way into the work force across America, and that mine is only but one story.


Guest Blogger Sally McKnight is the owner/operator of  The Irish Sweep in Alameda, CA. She is a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep with more than three decades of experience in the industry. You can learn more at