As a general rule of thumb, if there are no deposits in your chimney then it cannot catch fire as there is nothing there to burn but of course there is nothing more important or reassuring than being able to inspect your chimney yourself, but especially at the upper heights, it is nigh on impossible.
Not only could their be a soot build-up that you are unable to see or are unaware of but a lot of chimney fires are also caused by debris falling into a chimney or being placed in their by birds who choose to nest within the shelter offered by an enclosed chimney. These nests and any similar debris will of course restrict the flow of air and as well as posing a fire hazard may also lead to a build up of carbon monoxide which could end up poisoning you and your family. For more information on carbon monoxide and what you can do to protect yourself, please CLICK HERE
For this reason we recommend that you get all chimneys cleaned and inspected at least once a year to ensure they are in a safe condition to use.
Obviously if your property is older or features thatch then the frequency of inspections should be increased to take into account the nature of your home.
Another hidden problem which effects householders are birds nesting. Everyone loves to see birds in their gardens but the last thing you want are nests blocking chimneys as these blockages not only cause the air flow to be impacted leading to inefficient heating but the nest blockage may also cause a buildup of harmful gases. A birds nest in the chimney also present a serious fire hazard if they catch light in situ or even fall into an open fire. The most common bird to nest in a chimney is a Jackdaw, these are habitual birds and once they have a nest established they will return year after year so it is important that the nest is fully removed.
Birds nests are not only limited to chimneys as smaller birds such as blue-tits love the warmth and security offered by boiler flues. There narrow openings make them safe from predators but their safety could be putting your safety at risk! By simply dropping sticks into the end of the pipe, a bird will very quickly establish a stable platform to build a nest upon but whilst doing this, they are creating a blockage in the ventilation which will cause gases such as carbon monoxide to be forced back into the room. This blockage will eventually cause damage to the boiler, and indeed I see many cases where the boiler is simply recommended to be replaced. Regular inspection should be carried out and removal where necessary along with the fitting of a wire guard to prevent the bird’s entry in the first instance.
Whilst most people love an open fire, installing a woodburning stove is one way of enjoying the benefits of a wood fire without some of the maintenance and hassle. On average chimneys tend to be better protected and cleaner when using an efficient stove. Of all the stoves on the market I find British built Clearview Stoves have the most consistent positive feedback and produces the cleanest chimneys.
Smokeless coals: At least once a year – a popular misconception is that using smokeless fuel means a chimney does not require cleaning. This is incorrect as deposts and residues from burning smokeless fuel do still build up on the inside of the chimney as with all other fuels. Please CLICK HERE to read our advise on using smokeless fuel.
Ordinary house coal (bitumous): Twice a year
Wood: When use on open fires you should look at having your chimney swept at least once during the season it is being used. If using a stove then twice a year would be recommended.
Oil: Once a year
Gas: Once a year
But please don’t just take our word for it, see what our friends over at the Essex County Fire & Rescue Service have to say about the importance of having your chimney cleaned and inspected CLICK HERE