How Often Should A Chimney Be Swept?
Hampshire Fire Service advice (see this link) and the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps advise a schedule of sweeping thus:
– Solid Fuel Fires/Stoves/Appliance – Annually for smokeless fuel and twice per year for coal
– Wood Burning Fires/Stoves/Appliances – Every three months when in use
– Gas Appliances – Once every year if designed for sweeping
– Oil Fired Appliances – Once per year
What About Thatched Properties?
Hampshire Fire Service provide a thorough information pack and video with supporting material, developed to help owners of thatched properties minimise the risk of fire. See this link where you can download the pack as a PDF.
If You Think You Have A Birds Nest
Birds such as blackbirds and pigeons will often be heard chirping and cooing down the chimney. Chimney pots are comfortable places for them to sit and rest, there is always warm air even when the fire is not alight moving from the house up the chimney and this is pleasant for them. Cooing and chirping will sound loud owing to the echo and it is easy to think they are in the chimney, or nesting, but they may not be.
If you are you getting smoke in the room from a fire or you otherwise suspect a nest, look up the chimney with a torch, are there twigs? Are there twigs dropping into the grate? Observe the chimney pot from the garden, see if you are watching birds tending the chimney pot regularly.
Jackdaws are prolific chimney nest builders. They nest between February and August and if you are unfortunate enough to have jackdaw nest and it is being used, it is illegal to disturb it until the young have fledged. This often means a wait until August to clear it (See this RSPB link). The nest is removed from the fireplace with specialist hooks and rods, pulling the nest downwards and out through the fireplace opening. They will often be many metres in depth, growing the whole length of the flue and may fill at the worst 4 or 5 sacks with nesting material, which will consist of twigs, animal fur, horse dung, earth, faeces and much else.
It is a dirty specialist job to clear it and at Cleaner Chimneys there is much experience of clearing these!
Do You Fit Cowls?
We can arrange cowls for all fire types and this is a reliable method to keep out birds and weather. We often encounter simple chicken wire type inserts into chimney pots, or inappropriate cowls for the fire type and will recommend removal for safety reasons.
My Fire Doesn’t Draw Very Well, Or Occasionally Smokes Into The Room, What Do You Advise?
Most importantly, seek advice quickly; you may have a birds nest or other blockage which may cause a chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Draw problems are generally solvable and may take some investigation on site, but the main causes are:
– Too much air competing to get up the flue
– Too little air to fuel the fire
– Inadequate air control operation on a stove
– Downdraught caused by tall trees or surrounding buildings, strong winds and other causes
– Poor flue design
Cleaner Chimneys can work with you to identify the problem
Tips To Ensure Your Wood Supply Is Good
As a customer you really have little chance of verifying claims that wood is properly seasoned. We recommend the use of a moisture meter to check the logs at the time of purchase and when filling up your log basket from your outside store. You can buy these anywhere, but Cleaner Chimneys carries on the van a supply of moisture meters for sale to customers.
A good log supplier won’t mind you saying that you are going to test a few logs when the truck arrives before they drop the load, if they do object, don’t use them!
Chop and split the logs to store, and keep your logs outdoors, in a three sided shelter with the open side away from prevailing weather if possible so that air can get around the wood. HETAS are the official body recognised by Government to approve biomass and solid fuel domestic heating appliances, fuels and services including the registration of competent installers and servicing businesses. There is some useful advice here (PDF) regarding wood use on fires.
Does My Chimney Need Re-Lining?
Often before the installation of a stove it will be suggested that a stainless steel liner be fitted to ensure efficient operation of the appliance. This can be the biggest cost of a stove installation.
Older houses generally pre 1965 can often suffer degradation and present a risk to occupants in use, so a chimney may need re lining in this case.
Here (PDF) is some useful HETAS advice re lining Cleaner Chimneys can always put you in touch with recommended and registered installers.