If you look at property trends over the last few years, you’ll notice that many homeowners love traditional fireplaces or wood burning stoves – and it’s not hard to see why!
An open fireplace or wood burning stove in a large living area adds ambiance, warmth and a focal point to the room. It gives any room personality and character, creating that homely feeling. Better still, if you take care of your fireplace you can keep yourself warm and happy for decades.
However, knowing how to comprehensively clean a fireplace and chimney to avoid a build-up of soot, ash and dirty isn’t something that you should attempt to do yourself. Now, sure we’re all perfectly capable of sweeping ash from the floor or even balancing a stiff wire chimney brush in your hand and cleaning the interior vents, but there are times when you need to call the experts.
So, if you’re interested in learning when to get someone to clean your chimney, read on to learn everything that you need to know.
Essential Maintenance Advice
It’s a good idea to clean your chimney in autumn in preparation for the autumn and winter months. Over the summer, nesting birds may have found a home atop your chimney stack. Birds can have large, messy nests, the detritus of which can become lodged inside your chimney and cause blockages.
Always remember to burn hardwood seasoned logs. Wood should be as dry as possible before burning (less than 20%). This is especially important because hardwood seasoned logs produce more heat and fewer condensates. The wetter your logs, the greater the chances of condensates accumulating inside the chimney. Why is this bad? Condensates cause chimney fires.
Make sure to choose high quality logs. You’ll reduce the frequency that you’ll need to clean your chimney. Kiln dried beech, oak and olive wood are especially favoured by people with a wood burner. Each produces less smoke and hence less soot and condensates because of their low moisture content.
How to Tell When Your Chimney Needs Maintenance
Professional chimney cleaners use cameras to peek inside your chimney and diagnose any blockages or damage. However, you don’t need to be quite as sophisticated because there are a few dead giveaways for when maintenance is needed.
Smoke Billows into the Room
If your home becomes filled with smoke when you have a fire lit, something could be blocking the chimney. This could be a dislodged brick or, as we’ve mentioned earlier, a bird’s nest. Another cause could be an accumulation of soot which prevents the flue from drawing smoke safely up the chimney.
Carbon Monoxide Levels
Any room with a fireplace or wood burning stove should also have a carbon monoxide detector. A byproduct of combustion, carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that can remain unnoticed and build-up slowly until it reaches lethal levels.
Should you find that your carbon monoxide detector is sounding, this can indicate that smoke is not being drawn up the chimney efficiently, filling the air with carbon monoxide. Remember to immediately extinguish your fire, open the windows, and call a professional to help resolve the problem.
A Smell of Burning
A chimney fire can be a sudden, violent event that strikes your home out of the blue. It can also be the result of more subtle, slow burning over a longer period. If you’ve put the fire out, but can still smell burning, or if you’re chimney stack is still smoking, this may be because creosote deposits in your chimney have caught alight.
If this happens call for help immediately. The smell of burning may be an annoyance, but if you don’t address it then you’re risking a potentially large fire.
The last, and most obvious way to tell if your chimney needs maintenance is if the structure has obvious damage. Blockages can occur for several reasons and if your chimney has noticeably physical damage, it probably won’t be able to draw the smoke up the stack and outside.
Why Hire a Professional
Before attempting to clean your chimney, consider if you can do it yourself. Some of us believe that they’ll be able to do it without much fuss, buy a wire brush and start poking. Now, we’re not knocking anyone’s initiative but cleaning a chimney is a little more complicated than that.
Unseen build-ups of creosote and soot can cause blockages. Someone without the experience, tools or expertise probably won’t be able to thoroughly clean a chimney – and making sure your chimney is cleaned as meticulously as possible is paramount.
Why? If blockages are not removed, you could fall victim to a chimney fire which can have devastating consequences. In fact, Cheshire Fire and Safety, deals with 100 chimney fires in 2019. According to the latest statistics, there are approximately 7,000 chimney fires in the UK every year. Most of these are preventable.
How to Choose a Professional Chimney Cleaner
If you want to ensure that your chimney cleaner can complete the work to a high standard, choose a registered professional. HETAS (the national organisation for consumer safety with regard to biomass and other fuels) recommends that anyone thinking of paying a professional to clean their chimney should make sure they have the below accreditations:
- The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS)
- The Association of Professional Chimney Sweeps (APICS)
- The Guild Master Chimney Sweeps (GoMCS)
- Sweep Safe
When Should I Get Someone to Clean My Chimney?
If you’re in any doubt about the performance, or especially the safety, of your chimney, you should get someone to examine it. You’re perfectly fine having a look yourself, but when it comes to fire don’t take any risks.
Interested in browsing the finest selection of wood for burners and multi-fuel stoves? Feel free to browse our products. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call us on 0333 300 1299.