A fireplace or wood burner is a fantastic addition to any property, providing warmth, ambiance and a focal point for the home. With proper maintenance your fireplace will give you decades of happy use. Along with the regular sweeping of ash and cleaning of the hearth and surround, it is also crucial that you keep the flue and chimney properly cleaned and maintained.
Unseen build ups of soot and creosote can cause blockages and can even ignite causing what is known as a chimney fire, with potentially devastating consequences. In fact, last year there were over 5000 avoidable chimney fires across England and Wales.
We would recommend using a professional chimney sweep who will have the tools and skills to clean and maintain the areas that you can’t reach on your own.
How often to sweep chimney?
It is always a good idea to get your fireplace or wood burner fully serviced in the autumn before your first fire to make sure that everything is working properly, and the chimney is clear of any debris. Nesting birds can be a real problem in the summer, with jackdaws especially favouring chimneys to build their large messy nests. If you have fires regularly, especially if you burn seasoned logs, then you should schedule one or two additional sweeps during the colder months to ensure that the chimney and flue keep working effectively.
You can reduce the need for cleaning and maintenance by only burning high quality fuels. Smokeless coal and heat logs are some of the many clean fuels on the market that produce minimal smoke and soot. If real wood logs are you fuel of choice, then it is best to use high quality kiln dried logs that have a guaranteed low moisture content. Wood that is damp will generate more soot and layers of sticky tar in your chimney, which are the main cause of chimney fires.
Signs that your chimney needs maintenance
These days, chimney sweeps are far from the soot-stained urchins of Victorian novels. They are certified professionals that are trained to service both your chimney and fire appliances. They will be able to identify and remedy potential problems before they can cause damage to your home or health. If you don’t use a professional, then the following are sure signs that you need to call one in immediately:
- If the room is becoming filled with smoke, then something could be blocking the chimney. This could be a dislodged brick or a something like a bird’s nest. It could also be caused by an accumulation of soot that is preventing the flue from effectively drawing smoke safely up the chimney. A sweep will be able to survey and clear any blockage.
- You should definitely install a carbon monoxide detector in any room that has a fireplace. A by-product of combustion, carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas as it can build up slowly and unnoticed until it reaches lethal levels. If your detector shows a high reading then you should extinguish your fire immediately, open windows, and call in a professional to identify the source of the problem.
- A chimney fire can be a sudden and violent event, or it can be more subtle, burning slowly over a period of time. If your fire is out but you can still smell burning or notice that your chimney is still smoking, then this could be a sign that the creosote deposits in your chimney have caught alight. Call for help immediately.
- We tend to monitor the room that the fireplace is in yet forget that the chimney passes through the walls of upstairs rooms. If you smell a strong smell of smoke in an upstairsoom this may be because the chimney lining has failed and is leaking smoke. A professional will have the correct camera equipment to inspect the chimney and identify where maintenance is required.
Choose a registered professional
HETAS, (the national organisation working for consumer safety with regard to biomass and other solid fuels) recommends using a HETAS Approved Chimney Sweep in order to ensure a high standard of workmanship. HETAS is associated with the following professional bodies:
- The Association of Professional Chimney Sweeps (APICS)
- The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps (GoMCS)
- The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS)
- Sweep Safe.
Burning premium grade kiln dried wood, such as ours, together with ensuring your chimney or flue is regularly swept will reduce the build-up of soot in your chimney to eradicate blockages and eliminate the risk of any blockages that can cause house fires.