How often do I need my chimney swept?
This depends on how often the fire is used and what you burn. A general guideline is, for occasional evening and weekend use, once a year is enough. For more frequent use, you should have your fire swept once before you start having fires then once again half way though the burning season.
Smokeless coal: At least once a year (Often believed to not need cleaning)
Wood: Quarterly when in use
Coal: Twice a year
Oil: Once a year
Gas: Once a year
Can the chimney be cleaned properly with just a vacuum?
No a vacuum is used to suck up soot that falls when sweeping the chimney to prevent it from entering the room. Brushes must be used to sweep the soot from inside the flue.
I have a gas fire, do I still need the chimney swept?
You should have your gas appliances checked and serviced regularly by a gas safe registered engineer. This should be done yearly or more often if a problem occurs. At the time of the service, the engineer will check the draw of the chimney and, if there is a problem sweeping the chimney will almost certainly be necessary, nothing to do with soot. A properly maintained and serviced gas appliance should never produce soot. Spiders though like gas flues, and often build webs inside the flue. These then trap fluff and dust, so the spider builds another and another….. These can be so obstructive as to cause carbon monoxide to be released into the living space.
Why does my chimney smoke?
There are different reasons why your chimney may smoke. Below is a list of the major causes. It may be that only one or a combination of any of them could cause the smoke to blow back into the room.
Cause - Build up of soot, creosote, tar, birds nests, spiders webs or other debris blocking the chimney.
Solution - Having the chimney swept will either correct the problem or highlight where and what the blockage could be. The chimney sweep can then advise on what work will be necessary.
Cold air up the chimney
Explanation - Cold air is heavy and if the flue isn't heated quickly enough, the cold air will force the smoke back into the room.
Cause - If the fire hasn't been lit for a while, the air up the chimney can be cold.
Solution - Initially, just burn newspaper as this will create a lot of heat quickly and will heat the chimney up moving the air upwards.
Explanation - Downdraught is a brief flow of air down the chimney resulting in puffs of smoke into the room.
Cause - Possible reasons for downdraught are the chimney stack has been built too short or trees, buildings or other large high objects are interfering with the airflow over your chimney pot.
Solution - To help with this problem, a cowl can be fitted on the pot to divert the airflow. It is advisable to ask your chimney sweep which type of cowl to use as there are many different designs suited for different problems. If the incorrect cowl is fitted, it may make the problem worse.
Explanation - Siphoning is when smoke is carried up and out of the chimney and pulled directly back down by a neighbouring one filling your home with smoke.
Cause - This may only happen when the wind is blowing in a certain direction, blowing the smoke across the top of another pot, so that the smoke is then siphoned down this chimney.
Solution - Open a window in the same room as the fire, install an air vent in the same room as the fire or install a taller pot.
Expanation - All fires need air to make them burn properly.
Cause - A lot of properties are very well insulated with double glazing etc. thus not allowing a flow of replacement air into the room.
Solution - This can be solved by fitting air vents or simply leaving the door to the room open.
The wrong sized fireplace
Cause - In the uk, the average size fireplace opening is about 18" wide and 24" high. If it exceeds this by a large amount, some of the smoke may curl out into the room.
Solution - Try either lifting the grate up or lowering the entrance to the flue with a hood to reduce the distance the smoke has to travel to the flue.
How can I stop birds nesting?
Birds nesting especially jackdaws can be a problem. More so the nearer you get to the countryside. There are companies who make purpose built bird guards. These should always be used in preference to putting chicken wire on the pot. Proper bird guards are strong enough to withstand any efforts from the birds to pull them off. They do not reduce the size of your chimney pot in any way. Which is important for the draw of your chimney.
Can I sweep my own chimney?
There is nothing wrong with cleaning your own chimney, but you must ask yourself is it worth it. If it's not done right you could have a soot covered house! If you still want to clean your own chimney you will need rods and brush head suitable for your chimney flue size. You will also need a high powered HEPA vacuum to catch all the fine particles of soot. Please don't use you home vacuum as you will probably blow soot all around your home as well as killing it!
Do I need a certificate for my household insurance?
When you have your chimney swept it is advisable that the chimney sweep gives you a certificate to prove to your insurance company in the event of a chimney fire, you have had your chimney swept. More and more insurance companies are requesting this, your insurance may be invalid if you have a chimney fire with no proof of sweeping.
Do I need a liner for a stove?
The answer to this is no as long as the chimney stack is sound and does not leak and there is nothing that can catch fire such as timber beams etc. most modern homes built after the mid 1960's with a fireplace already have a lined chimney because of building regulations. In very old houses or very large chimneys it is advisable to have your chimney lined as problems with condensation will occur and a build up of tar.
Why is there cold air pouring down my chimney?
During winter, the chimney is warm, the air in it is warm and so is the air in the room. Warm air is light and rises, and there is a continuous stream of air up the flue which reinforces the flow. In the summer, the stack cools, and can end up quite cold when compared to the surrounding air. The air in it cools, and then starts to fall, warm air is drawn in at the top, and is cooled… thus starting up a reverse flow. The only cure is to block the throat until you wish to use the fire again, or to warm the flue until the problem stops. Once you have warmed up the flue, the usual flow will return. However, after some time this problem can return until you start using the fire regularly and the flue warms properly.
Why do I need to sweep a chimney before it is closed off?
If a chimney is closed off, it can get a bit damp. If there is soot up there, then this soot can turn into a black acidic slurry that in an old chimney can soak into the internal walls causing severe problems. If bad enough this damp can penetrate thru to the room where it will cause unpleasant stains on the walls.
Is it OK to dry wood next to the stove?
Not really. Many people do this, and get off scot free. However for those poor souls who are not so lucky, the consequences can be fatal. Even if the house does not catch fire, the burning wood will fill the place with smoke, which can still be fatal on its own. In addition, this usually will result in the room or rooms being so badly smoke damaged that a complete redecoration will be needed. Bad cases involve stripping off the plaster.
Can I burn wet or unseasoned wood?
NO, you should never burn wet or unseasoned wood, the main reason for this is as the gases rise up your chimney, the moisture in the gases condensate on the inner walls of the chimney and set as a hard tar. This is in most cases will not be able to be removed and if built up could catch fire and lead to a large chimney fire. Burning wet wood gives out little heat and may spit sparks into the room. You can avoid this by buying a moisture meter, this way you can reject damp wood, the wood should not have a moisture reading of over 20% anything higher will start leading to problems.
What are the benefits of a wood burner over a open fire?
More and more people are realising the benefits of having a stove fitted instead of a open fire. The reasons for this is a stove is far more efficient, uses less fuel and gives much more heat into the room. The average open fire when lit is around 20% efficient this means that 20% of the heat created comes out into the room and 80% goes up the chimney and out of the house. Where as a good stove can be up to 90% efficient that is 90% of the heat coming back into the room and only 10% going up the chimney. The other down side to a open fire is that when your not using the open fire, heat from the house is still rising up the chimney and out of the house and cold air is then brought back in to the house from outside to replace it by the way of draughts. You can lose up to 40% off your central heating this way. With a stove you can close the doors and shut the vents so warm air is not being lost up the chimney when not in use.
Do I need an existing chimney to have a stove?
No, because stoves are becoming more popular stove companies have been coming up with more ways of people being able to have them fitted using insulated flue liners that can run up the outside or even the inside of a home, so there is no need for an existing chimney in a home.