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Chimney sweeping top tips before winter

Before you settle down in front of your fire with a hot chocolate, you'll need to check your chimney is safe to use. To do that, you'll need a chimney sweep. Here are some chimney top tips from our very own David Johnson of Safer Chimneys.

As the summer warmth starts to fade, it’s time to make your chimneys safe, says David Johnson of Safer Chimneys, member of the National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS) and HETAS registered.

Perhaps the best part of winter is curling up in the cosy warmth of our open fires and wood-burning stoves with a mug of hot chocolate.

Hold on – drop the lighter and marshmallows. Before you can get cosy in front of the fire, you need to check your chimney. It’s essential to make sure your log burner is safe for you and our planet.

David answers our questions on chimney sweeping and burning fuels.

First expert tip from David Johnson from Safer Chimneys – he recommends that you do not store logs next to the appliance, as it’s a fire hazard.

How often should your chimney be swept?

That depends on several things, including what kind of stove it is, if it’s an open fire, if your chimney is lined, what fuel you burn and how often you use it. For most of our customers, once or twice a year is sufficient. For those relying on their stove for their heating, we tend to sweep every few months during their high use in winter.

The NACS website provides some useful information on this, as will your local Fire & Rescue. In Hampshire, where David is based, you can find the information here or try your local Fire & Rescue Centre.

Your chimney sweep will be able to help you with specific recommendations for your use and appliance. Always have your chimney swept before you begin to use it after a break.

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What should we burn?

Use seasoned logs. Make sure they’re not too big, and they will burn more efficiently.

What we burn and how we burn it is essential to give you an efficient fire that minimises damage to the environment. Dry seasoned wood burns well because it has less than 20% moisture content which is very important. To be sure, you can buy a moisture meter to test the water content of your logs.

Smokeless coal fuels are the best option if you’re burning coal. Always check to see if you are in a smokeless zone which has particular restrictions on what you can burn.

How we burn is vital to ensuring that our fires are as environmentally friendly as possible. If wood smoulders rather than burns, that’s when we create polluting smoke and dangerous tar in our chimneys.

Smaller logs, 125mm wide or less, burn at a higher temperature which is more efficient and better for the environment. You can find some excellent information on the science behind this here.

When a stove burns at a too lower temperature, the deposit is lumpy. The soot should be fine and far less. This type of burning pollutes the atmosphere and damages the flue liner.

Stove with seasoned logs

Is chimney sweeping messy?

This is a question that new customers often ask, and the answer is an emphatic no!

Professional sweeps will completely seal your appliance so that your room is protected from falling soot. Responsible and correctly trained sweeps will leave your home at least as clean as they found it!

How do I know if a chimney sweep is good?

Checkatrade, of course! Independent reviews and referrals are always the best.

Choose a sweep that is a member of one of the leading associations like NACS or The Guild of Master Sweeps. They will have been trained to a high standard and have the right equipment and the necessary insurance in place. They will also be able to issue certificates from their recognised association, giving comfort to you and your home insurers that the job has been completed correctly.

Stove burning too lower temperature

And David’s top tip?

Plan ahead! The closer Santa gets to coming down the chimney, the busier chimney sweeps get too!

You can find more information on chimney sweeping here.

How much does a chimney sweep cost?

Most homeowners will pay an average of £65 to have their chimneys cleaned. Costs may be higher in some locations, such as London, where it could be around £80.

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