Frequently asked questions
Hints, Tips & Advice.
Why do I need my chimney swept?
There are 3 basic reasons why you should get your chimney swept
1. To protect your health.
Breathing in the fumes from gas or solid fuel fires can cause serious damage to your health, and in the worse cases prove fatal. Having your chimney swept will help make sure that the flue is sufficiently clear to allow the dangerous fumes to escape safely out of the chimney.
2. To avoid chimney fires.
Having your chimney swept regularly will drastically reduce the chances of having a chimney fire. Chimney fires can cause property damage the least usually being a cracked chimney pot. Which will need to be replaced and the worst being you could lose your home! Fortunately, the more extreme outcome does not happen very often, but it does happen.
3. To avoid smoke damage.
Each time the fire is used, soot will accumulate up the chimney. Gradually, this will decrease the size of the flue which in turn, will lower the draw of the smoke upwards. If the chimney does not have enough pull, the smoke will enter into the room, not only causing irritation to you, but can also blacken your fireplace, the walls, or the decoration above. The accumulated creosote also corrodes the flues, meaning you will need them replaced sooner.
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.
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. Brushes must be used to sweep the soot from inside the stack.
How long does it take to sweep a chimney?
It takes around 45-60 minutes from start to finish to sweep the average chimney. If your chimney sweep is in and out within a short period of time he is not doing the sweep properly.
I have a gas fire, do I still need the fire swept?
You should have your gas appliances checked and serviced regularly. This should be done yearly or more often if a problem occurs. At the time of the service, the serviceman will check the draw of the chimney and, if there is a problem sweeping the chimney will almost certainly be necessary.
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.
1. Blocked chimneys
Solution- Having the chimney swept will either correct the problem or highlight where and what the blockage could be. The chimney sweep can the advise on what work will then be necessary.
2. Cold air up the chimney
Solution- if the fire hasn't been lit for a while, the air up the chimney can get cold. Cold air is heavy and if the flue isn't heated quickly enough, the cold air will force the smoke back into the room. Initially, just burn newspaper as this will create a lot of heat quickly and will move the air upwards.
Solution- downdraught is a brief flow of air down the chimney resulting in puffs of smoke interfering with the wind flow. To help with this problem, a cowl can be fitted at the top. It is advisable to ask your chimney sweep which type of cowl to use as there are many different designs suited for the different problems. If the incorrect cowl is fitted, it may make the problem worse. One reason for downdraught is that the chimney stack has been built to short and another could be trees, buildings or other large high objects.
Do I need a certificate for my household insurance?
When you have your chimney swept it is advisable that the chimney sweep gives you an invoice 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.
Can I burn wet or unseasoned wood?
You should never burn wet or unseasoned wood. The main reason for this is as the gases rise up your chimney stack, the moisture in the gases condensate on the inner walls of the chimney stack and set as a hard tar. In most cases they 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 little heat and may spit sparks into the room.
What are the benefits of a slow combustion fire over an open fire?
More and more people are realising the benefits of having a stove fitted instead of a open fire. A stove is far more efficient, uses less fuel, and gives much more heat in to the room. The average open fire when lit is around 20% efficient this mean 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 stack. The other down side to a open fire is that when you're 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. 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 stack to have a Wood Stove?
Slow combustion fires are very popular, and heating companies have been coming up with more ways to have them fitted using metal flue and flue liners that can run up the outside, or inside of a home, so there is no need for an existing chimney stack.
Solution- all fires need air to make them burn properly. If your windows are closed during fire operation, simply leaving the door to the room open.
The wrong type of cowl fitted
Solution: Many people are ill advised as to the correct type of cowl to fit. Fitting the wrong type can either cause the problem or make it worse. Consult your chimney sweep as to whether you have the right cowl fitted.
How can I stop birds nesting?
Birds nesting in chimneys, especially Indian Minors, can be a problem. Chimney sweeps 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 capping 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. I have been called out on many occasions to get lost or stuck brushes out of peoples chimneys, and been told many stories of mess and soot covered houses made by people sweeping their own chimneys. If you still want to clean your own chimney you will need a selection of brushes and chimney rods that are suitable for your chimney. A set of lock fast rods are reccommended, as these don't unscrew. You will also need a high powered dust control vacuum that is made to catch all the fine particles of soot, and personal protective equipment. Please don't use you home vacuum as you will probably blow fine soot particles all around your home and destroy your vacuum. The total cost of all of this equipment is around $2500 which is not cost effective as a chimney sweep is $200 to $250.