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How to take care of your chimney

Taking proper care of your chimney has a vast number of benefits. The first is safety. A clean and well maintained chimney can help protect against damage to your fireplace, chimney fires, and the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. It also helps ensure the longevity of your appliance, and the chimney itself, as well as helping fuel to burn safely and efficiently.

Chimney fires

Chimney fires usually start from one of the following:

•    Infrequent sweeping and cleaning.
•    Burning unseasoned wet wood.
•    The wrong sized fire.
•    Overnight burning or smouldering of wood for long periods.

General Fire and Chimney Safety

Although we're naturally clued up on fire safety, we've jotted down a few guidelines, just to ensure you don't forget anything:

•    Don't store wood right next to your fire or stove. Keep it in a separate log store, or in a log basket kept at a distance.
•    Try to use wood that is dried to less than 20% moisture, as it results in less tar build up in the appliance.
•    Don't leave open fires unattended.
•    Use fire guards where appropriate.
•    Use audible smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
•    Ensure that your appliance complies with building regulations, and is fitted by an accredited HETAS installer.
•    Always use the correct and appropriate fuel. Never burn anything like cardboard, paper, or plastic.
•    Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
•    Have the chimney swept regularly by a registered chimney sweep.  They will do much more than just sweep the chimney to ensure your continued safe use of the fire. 


Chimney Sweeps

You should always use a professional and registered chimney sweep. They will ensure that the chimney is cleaned correctly, as well as carrying out any appropriate safety checks. You should also be issued an approved certificate. Under no circumstances should you use an unregistered and improperly trained chimney sweep. Doing so could have fatal consequences. Click here to read more about finding a chimney sweep.


How often should my chimney be swept?

•    Smokeless Coals – At least once a year.
•    Wood – Up to 4 times a year.
•    Bituminous Coal – Twice a year.
•    Oil – Once a year.
•    Gas – Once a year.


What if my chimney is damaged?

The chimney stack itself can be damaged by fire, external weathering, or internal corrosion from soot. Damage to the chimney stack and flue can negatively affect the performance of the chimney, and degrade its ability to remove harmful gases. Your chimney sweep will make a number of checks every time they clean the chimney, and will be able to advise the best repair route. If you suffer a chimney fire at any point, it is a good idea to have an integrity test and camera survey on the installation and flue before you use it again.


How to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning.

Normally, Carbon Monoxide (CO), will pass harmlessly out of the top of the chimney. If your chimney is blocked, leaky, or if you have a faulty stove or inadequate ventilation, CO could seep in to your home. CO gas is undetectable without an alarm. We cannot see it, hear it, taste it or smell it, but in large amounts it can kill quickly. You can help avoid CO poisoning by following these steps:

  • Ensure that your chimney is swept regularly by a trained and registered chimney sweep.
  • Ensure that the fire has adequate ventilation at all times, and do not block the vents.
  • Use only HETAS registered installers for fitting solid fuel appliances.
  • Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your home.

Click here to read more about carbon monoxide safety.

As we enter the colder months, we’ll be using our fires more and more. So spend some time thinking about your chimney, and have one less thing to worry about this winter.