Why do you need to clean your chimney?
Chimneys, like cars, need servicing, or cleaning. When coal or wood is burnt the smoke goes up the chimney and releases chemicals as part of the burning process. Some of them leave a stain or deposit on its way up. This is the soot and includes a flammable substance called creosote. Over a period of time, these deposits start to block and eventually completely block the chimney. The soot needs to be cleaned for the smoke to escape. If it is not cleaned there is a danger of the chimney becoming clogged or even a chimney fire. A cleaner chimney is safer and also more efficient. Sweeping your chimney saves you money!
In addition to this, unused chimneys are frequently used by birds as a place to build nests. This clogs the chimney and there is always a risk of setting fire to the nest which in turn increases the risk of setting fire to the soot.
How often should you clean your chimney?
Most sweeps recommend cleaning at least once a year. The truth is that for coal fires you should get them swept twice a year and 4 times a year for wood ones (according to the Solid Fuel Association)
This doesn’t mean that a chimney won’t need cleaning at other times. If you suspect the chimney is blocked, even partially, you should get it inspected.
Watch out for signs such as smoke in the room or a fire that burns slower than usual.
What kind of chimney sweep should you use?
Many people make the mistake of going for the cheapest sweep they can find. This is a false economy and could even be dangerous. We recommend that you choose a local sweep who is experienced and reliable and does not leave a mess behind rather than just pick the cheapest one you can find. Just as there are a lot of cowboy builders and you need to choose carefully, it is sad to say there are inexperienced sweeps out there too. We would recommend avoiding somebody who has just set up as opposed to an experienced sweep, and definitely sweeps who seem to be very cheap. As a guide anybody charging less than £35 probably should be avoided.
What’s the story about chimney sweeps at weddings?
A chimney sweep saved the life of King George III by stopping some out of control horses. The King proclaimed that sweeps were bearers of good luck and the tradition was established whereby sweeps are invited to weddings and they kiss the bride for good luck.
3 mistakes people make with chimneys
1. Not getting the chimney inspected on the outside and around the fireplace
It’s not just the inside of a chimney that needs to be cleaned, the outside of the chimney and the fireplace need inspection as well. Many chimneys in houses in England are more than 100 years old and the condition of the brickwork needs to be inspected.
The chimney needs to be inspected to see if it’s damaged or leaning, or whether the brickwork needs re-pointing.
Around the fireplace especially at the back the condition of the bricks needs to be checked. After a period of time the brickwork can become damaged from the heat of the fire and some cracks may be present. Large cracks will need repair work or replacing.
2. Burning the wrong fuel
Burn hard wood (such as birch, elm, hazel, oak) rather than soft wood (such as cedar, conifer and pine). The hard wood burns more slowly than soft wood which makes it cheaper as less logs chimney sweep be used. The hard wood also burns at a hotter temperature which reduces the amount of creosote that becomes deposited inside the chimney.
3. Trying to do it yourself
You can sweep a chimney yourself but you’re unlikely to enjoy the experience. It’s likely to be hard physical work and likely to be dirty. Use an experienced professional who knows what he is doing. You’ll need to hire some brushes, it’ll probably take you most of the day whereas a professional will take less than an hour for an average chimney that isn’t too dirty.