Chimney sweeps in high demand this week...

Tudor chimney

Tudor chimney - Credit: Archant

It’s the right time of year to start thinking about the cleanliness of your chimney.

This week is Chimney Fire Safety Week - marked annually for raising awareness to those with working fireplaces and chimneys.

Homeowners who enjoy a warming fire in their living room often pay special attention to the safety around the hearth rather than what’s towering above it. But as autumn creeps in households will be stocking up on coal and kindling ready for lighting that first fire of the season.

The first task on everyone’s fireplace To Do list should in fact be to check out the state of your chimney. The most common causes of chimney fires are blockages from soot or bird nests, which could have easily built up or appeared over the summer. And on average, the UK fire departments deal with 7,000 chimney incidents a year.

If you’ve got a chimney, now’s an excellent time to prep it for the winter. Source a local chimney inspector or cleaner and get them up there. Even if you didn’t use the fire much last winter, there are plenty of things that could still be obstructing the flue - such as leaves and debris from the wind or creosote build-up in the chimney lining.

Then it’s up to you to maintain the chimney sufficiently as you use the fireplace over the encroaching chilly season. How should you do this?

Don’t burn wet wood...

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If you don’t use dry or unseasoned logs for your fire, the water in the wood heats up and becomes steam, which mixes with the exhaust gases and extinguishes the secondary burn. Not only does this reduce your heat production by 50 percent it causes unburned gas particles - in other words, wet smoke. This will condense onto the walls of the flue and produce excessive creosote.

Fuel should be of good quality...

Buy your fuel from trustworthy sources that you know are well-regarded, such as Herts Wood Fuel or Day Bros coal merchants in St Albans. The type of fuel you use will also determine how often you should have your chimney checked. If you use oil, gas or smokeless coal, at least once a year is recommended. If your coal is bituminous, twice a year is advisable. If you burn wood, up to four times a year is the recommended number of checks.

The other end...

While the chimney itself requires this attention and the fuel is important, the area around the fireplace and hearth are just as crucial. Fire guards are a must (and also offer an opportunity for an interesting interior design accent) and a carbon monoxide detector is a good idea. These can actually help detect a potential chimney fire. Being aware of the signs of a chimney is also crucial. They often create a distant rumbling sound along with pops and cracks from the flue. And naturally, smoke alarms must be fitted throughout the house.

Fireplaces in the home are there to be enjoyed. Much like any part of the home, maintaining them is the best way of ensuring they work effectively and it will be more expensive to deal with an irregularly checked chimney in the long-run. And of course the damage a chimney fire will inevitably cause to your home is not only expensive but potentially traumatic. Get the chimney swept this autumn and enjoy your winter evenings by the fire, worry free.