As the temperatures drop, those lucky people with wood burning stoves or open fires are looking forward to cosy nights in, snuggled up by the fire. Before you light your fire for the first time this year (if you haven’t already!), make sure that it is safe.
Throughout the year, leaves and debris may have fallen into your chimney; birds may have nested and that build up of soot from last year’s winter may have solidified, got wet and dried out to form a lovely, flammable lining for your chimney.
If you have a chimney fire and you haven’t taken the right precautions, you may well not be covered on insurance. Here is what you need to know.
When Should You Get Your Chimney Swept?
Chimneys have a very simple job: to let the poisonous by-products of combustion leave your house. By sweeping them regularly you will make sure that your fireplace is safe, and you could improve its efficiency. The more you use your fire, the more often you will need to get your chimney swept, but the general rule is at least once a year. A good clean out before your inaugural autumn fire will help to keep the chimney clear and reduce the risk of fire. If you are in doubt, check with your local chimney sweep.
Can’t Face The Mess?
The idea that having your chimney swept will fill your house with black soot is an outdated myth. The days of chimney sweeping being an incredibly messy job are long past. Many chimney sweeps use a piece of technology similar to a giant vacuum, which simply sucks the dust and soot out with minimal fuss or mess. A good chimney sweep will bring dust sheets, too – just in case.
Gas And Oil Flues
There is no legal requirement to get gas and oil flues swept, but it is advisable. In countries where it is the law, there are fewer instances of carbon monoxide poisoning. Good practice is to sweep all flues at least once a year – your chimney sweep may recommend more regular attention.
Nesting birds can cause a huge problem in chimneys and are responsible for a large proportion of chimney fires. These birds happily spend the warmer months making their home in your chimney, only to become smoked out when the temperature drops. Months’ worth of loot (twigs, leaves, feathers) may have been used to create a cosy nest in your chimney; all lovely and dry and just waiting for a spark to ignite it. If you don’t have a cowl or cage on the top of your chimney, ask your chimney sweep; this will prevent birds from nesting and protect your home.