When & Why To Sweep

All fuel burning fires and stoves produce smoke, soot and gases which can be dangerous to you and your home. Chimneys were invented to provide a direct route for these emissions to leave your home. This is why it is essential your chimney is well maintained. We have summarised below the main reasons why you should have your chimney swept and our recommendations for how often it should be done.

At Brighton Chimney Sweeps we sweep open fires, wood and multi fuel burning stoves and gas fires. We are fully insured, professional, diligent and dedicated to delivering the highest standard of service.

Sweeping Frequency

Most fireplaces and Stoves are used regularly during the colder months of the year and then not at all for the rest of the year. East Sussex Fire Service recommend the following sweeping frequency based on the type of fuel used:

  • Smokeless fuels – at least once a year
  • Bitumous coal (ordinary house coal) – at least twice a year
  • Wood – quarterly when in use
  • Oil – once a year
  • Gas – once a year

We recommend sweeping at least once a year, before you start using your fire or stove to remove any soot and debris that has built up inside the chimney and to make sure it is not blocked. If you use your fire or stove regularly, have it swept regularly.

Never light a fire for the first time in a long time, i.e. months or years, without having the chimney swept. It may be blocked and harmful smoke, soot and gases like carbon monoxide could come back into your house instead of escaping through the chimney.

It is good practice to have the chimney swept again at the end of the season to remove soot or debris that has built up during the use of the fire or stove, so it doesn’t fall down into the room while then chimney is not in use.

We recommend using a Chimney Balloon in open fireplaces while the fire is not in use. This will stop drafts coming down the chimney and prevent any dust and debris entering the room.

Chimney Fire Prevention

Soot is a byproduct of burning any solid fuel, including ordinary house coal, wood and even smokeless coal. Creosote is a by product of burning wood, particularly if the fire is burning inefficiently or the wood is ‘wet’ or un-seasoned. Both soot and creosote are combustible and in large enough quantities can catch alight inside the chimney causing what is known as a chimney fire.

The Department for Communities & Local Government report that the number of chimney fires in the UK in 2013/14 was 7,700. To find out more about chimney fires, their causes, how you know you have one and how to avoid them, check our Chimney Fires page.

If you ever experience a chimney fire, leave the property and call the fire brigade immediately.  

How to Avoid a Chimney Fire
  • Prevention is the best cure so have your chimney swept regularly
  • Only use dry, seasoned wood
  • Avoid overnight burning or smoldering wood for long periods
  • For wood burning stoves use a stove thermometer to check the stove is burning at optimum temperature
  • Use the stoves air intake vents to manage the amount of air entering the stove to maintain constant flames that fill the firebox, ensuring wood is burnt properly and reducing the amount of creosote being produced
Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas produced when burning coal or wood. It is poisonous to humans and animals and can kill.

Exposure to high levels over a short period of time or low levels over a long period of time are dangerous and symptoms can vary. Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning cause symptoms similar to those of a cold including shortness of breath, headaches, mild exertion and nausea. High levels of carbon monoxide poisoning can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and fainting, disorientation and mental confusion.

Carbon monoxide should travel up the chimney and out of the house safely along with other emissions from the fire, but if there is an issue with the chimney and smoke is coming back into the room, this means there is carbon monoxide coming back into the room as well. Smoke coming into the room could be caused by a number of issues including downdraft, blocked or partially blocked chimney, the size of the fireplace opening, the height of the chimney. .. read more on our FAQ Why does smoke come into the room? or call us on 01273 726 989 or 07742 829 848 to discuss any concerns you may have.

It is now a legal requirement to fit a carbon monoxide detector when fitting a new stove and we recommend fitting one in any room where there is an open fireplace or existing stove. If you live in an old property or your flue is un-lined, installing a Carbon Monoxide detector in rooms above the fireplace, i.e. rooms that the chimney passes through, ensures that if there are any leaks in the flue and Carbon Monoxide is leaking into other rooms, you will be warned.

Carbon Monoxide is lighter than air so detectors should be fitted above the fireplace, ideally on the ceiling. If your alarm goes off, ACT IMMEDIATELY. Get everyone out of the room, open doors and windows to allow ventilation and if anyone is experiencing symptoms, call 999 straight away.

Birds Nests

Birds like to nest on top of chimneys as they offer a warm and safe location away from most predators. Usually they nest on top of the chimney stack in amongst the pots but on rare occasions they can nest on top of chimney pots, particularly if the pots are close together. Some birds and animals like to nest inside chimneys, particularly Jackdaws and squirrels and it’s not unknown for bees and wasps to build nests inside chimneys.

It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to destroy or remove a nest while it is in use and the act recognises birds nesting season to be from 1st March to 31st July. That said if the birds were late breeders, laying their eggs in July, then the nestlings could fledge late August early September.

Removing a nest from inside a chimney can be difficult and messy. Jackdaws hold twigs in the centre and push them down inside the chimney so each end of the twig is jammed into the sides of the chimney. When the Jackdaw feels sufficient resistance indicating the twig will stay in position on its own, it will return with lots more twigs, clumps of grass, moss, rubbish, basically anything to add to the nest to build it up. This mass of material can be stuck very tightly inside the chimney and be very difficult to remove. Sometimes sweeps are able to remove nest from below using special tools, but if the nest is just too stuck in place it may need removing from the top, i.e. pulling it out from the chimney pot.

Tell tale signs of a nest in or on the chimney are twigs and debris falling down into the fireplace. But if the nest is packed tightly high up in the flue there may be no signs it’s there. Signs of a bee or wasp nest in the flue are bees or wasps coming and going in the room with the fireplace. They will enter their nest from above and below.

NEVER try to ‘smoke out’ any flue residents, you are risking a fire inside the flue and if a nest is blocking the flue, smoke and carbon monoxide will come back into the room. This is one reason why it’s so important to have a sweep before using a fire.

Once a nest has been removed it is good practice to put a suitable cowl on top of the chimney pot as birds and squirrels will come back to a previous nesting spot the following year and start again.

Debris – Bricks, Dust & Sand

It is not uncommon to find sand like material (old lime mortar) and small chucks of brick collecting inside the flue and eventually falling down into the fireplace and room. Since the 1965 Building Regulations were introduced, all chimney flues (the cavity that runs through the chimney from the fireplace to the chimney pot) must be built with ‘liners’ during their construction. These liners are usually made from clay and are installed in sections when the building is built.

A lined flue is far less common in houses built prior to 1965. Flues were usually “parged” (rendered) on the inside with lime mortar as the chimney was built. This lime mortar can be corroded over time by acids and tars produced during combustion. The mortar deteriorates into dust and sand which falls in the flue and collects on shelves as the flue bends. This exposes the brick face and the lines of mortar between the bricks both of which can also deteriorate over time again due to acids and tars. Tiny amounts of moisture inside the flue, whether from burning fuel that has a high moisture content or even from entering through the chimney pot, can freeze and expand in between bricks and cracks in brickwork. This can break off small chunks of brick which fall down the flue. If enough mortar between bricks is worn away, whole bricks themselves can become loose and fall. Small cracks in brickwork and broken or missing bricks can results in leaks in the flue whereby smoke and other emissions like carbon monoxide can move from one flue to another flue (passing through cracks or gaps in the ‘feathers’ (the thin, vertical walls of bricks that separate different flues that run alongside each other inside the chimney) or even into the building itself, directly into rooms, or floor and ceilings spaces or into the loft area.

If you can smell smoke in a room above the room where your fire is, perhaps in a bedroom or the loft area, this could indicate a leak inside the flue and it MUST be addressed immediately. If you smell smoke then Carbon Monoxide is also present. Carbon Monoxide is colourless and odourless and it’s deadly. Short term exposure to large amounts or long term exposure to small amounts can be fatal. To properly test for leaks you must undertake a ‘Smoke Pressure Test’, full information about how to do this can be found on our Smoke Tests page.

To fix a leak in a flue, it needs to be re-lined. There are a variety of methods of doing this and it can be expensive. The type of fireplace or appliance you use will affect the type of lining that is suitable for your flue, you should consult a lining expert. Placing a carbon monoxide detector in the room with the fireplace and each room above it will warn you of any leaks and keep you safe. An experienced chimney sweep should be able to spot issues with the flue and make recommendations as to how to resolve them.

Insurance Requirements

At the moment it is not a legal requirement in the UK to have your chimney swept. Perhaps it should be given the unnecessary risk to life and the financial cost of the fire service attending these fires (on average over 7,700 per year). It is a legal requirement in much of Europe so no doubt we will catch up one day soon.

If there is a fire in your property that is caused by your fireplace, or perhaps smoke damage due to smoke not escaping through the chimney as it should do, you may have difficulty making an insurance claim if you haven’t had your chimney swept. An insurance company will state that you have a duty of care when using a fireplace, stove or any kind of heating appliance to take every precaution possible to ensure the fireplace is used properly and safely.

Professional chimney sweeps that have been trained by one of the three nationally recognised organisations – A.P.I.C.S. (The Association of Professional Independent Chimney Sweeps), N.A.C.S (The National Association of Chimney Sweeps) and The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, will issue you with a certificate confirming the sweep has taken place. The certificate will include the date of the sweep and any relevant feedback or comments about the sweep. You can use this certificate to demonstrate to your insurance company that you have taken appropriate precautions to ensure your chimney is safe to use and as long as you have the chimney swept regularly, this should satisfy them.

Keep Your Property Clean

All solid fuel fires produce soot and other emissions which can collect on the walls inside the chimney flue and stack, sometimes forming a tarry substance known as chimney tar. These deposits build up over time and can restrict the size of the flue and even cause chimney fires. Other debris that can collect inside the flue includes dust and sand from the lining of the chimney, i.e. the render, mortar and brickwork inside the flue.

All of this debris clings to the inside walls and collects on shelves in the flue and can easily fall back down into the fireplace and the room where it sits. As well as floating around in the air you breathe it can make a real mess on furniture, carpets and other surfaces.

Sweeping can never get rid of all soot and debris inside the flue but it will remove the majority of it. A chimney balloon fitted into the flue when the fire is not in use will stop any remaining dust getting into the room.

Our Chimney Sweep Service

Chimney Sweeping is an essential service for anyone using a fireplace, stove or boiler that burns coal, wood, heating oil, natural gas and wood chip (pellets, reconstituted logs etc).

At Brighton Chimney Sweeps we offer a full chimney sweeping service to private homes and commercial properties across Brighton and Hove and further afield. We are fully insured, professional, diligent and dedicated to delivering the highest standard of service as quickly and efficiently as possible.

We sell Wood Burning Stoves and Multi-Fuel Burning Stoves on our online Shop and work with HETAS registered stove installers to provide a full installation service. We also sell Fireplace Mantels, Chimney Balloons, seasoned Logs and more.

Sweeping Frequency Most fireplaces and Stoves are used regularly during the colder months of the year and then not at all for the rest of the year. East Sussex Fire Service recommend the following sweeping frequency based on the type of fuel used:

  • Smokeless fuels – at least once a year
  • Bitumous coal (ordinary house coal) – at least twice a year
  • Wood – quarterly when in use
  • Oil – once a year
  • Gas – once a year

We recommend sweeping at least once a year, before you start using your fire or stove to remove any soot and debris that has built up inside the chimney and to make sure it is not blocked. If you use your fire or stove regularly, have it swept regularly.

Never light a fire for the first time in a long time, i.e. months or years, without having the chimney swept. It may be blocked and harmful smoke, soot and gases like carbon monoxide could come back into your house instead of escaping through the chimney.

It is good practice to have the chimney swept again at the end of the season to remove soot or debris that has built up during the use of the fire or stove, so it doesn’t fall down into the room while then chimney is not in use.

We recommend using a Chimney Balloon in open fireplaces while the fire is not in use. This will stop drafts coming down the chimney and prevent any dust and debris entering the room.

Chimney Fire Prevention Soot is a byproduct of burning any solid fuel, including ordinary house coal, wood and even smokeless coal. Creosote is a by product of burning wood, particularly if the fire is burning inefficiently or the wood is ‘wet’ or un-seasoned. Both soot and creosote are combustible and in large enough quantities can catch alight inside the chimney causing what is known as a chimney fire.

The Department for Communities & Local Government report that the number of chimney fires in the UK in 2013/14 was 7,700. To find out more about chimney fires, their causes, how you know you have one and how to avoid them, check our Chimney Fires page.

If you ever experience a chimney fire, leave the property and call the fire brigade immediately.
 
How to Avoid a Chimney Fire

  • Prevention is the best cure so have your chimney swept regularly
  • Only use dry, seasoned wood
  • Avoid overnight burning or smoldering wood for long periods
  • For wood burning stoves use a stove thermometer to check the stove is burning at optimum temperature
  • Use the stoves air intake vents to manage the amount of air entering the stove to maintain constant flames that fill the firebox, ensuring wood is burnt properly and reducing the amount of creosote being produced
Carbon Monoxide Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas produced when burning coal or wood. It is poisonous to humans and animals and can kill.

Exposure to high levels over a short period of time or low levels over a long period of time are dangerous and symptoms can vary. Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning cause symptoms similar to those of a cold including shortness of breath, headaches, mild exertion and nausea. High levels of carbon monoxide poisoning can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and fainting, disorientation and mental confusion.

Carbon monoxide should travel up the chimney and out of the house safely along with other emissions from the fire, but if there is an issue with the chimney and smoke is coming back into the room, this means there is carbon monoxide coming back into the room as well. Smoke coming into the room could be caused by a number of issues including downdraft, blocked or partially blocked chimney, the size of the fireplace opening, the height of the chimney. .. read more on our FAQ Why does smoke come into the room? or call us on 01273 726 989 or 07742 829 848 to discuss any concerns you may have.

It is now a legal requirement to fit a carbon monoxide detector when fitting a new stove and we recommend fitting one in any room where there is an open fireplace or existing stove. If you live in an old property or your flue is un-lined, installing a Carbon Monoxide detector in rooms above the fireplace, i.e. rooms that the chimney passes through, ensures that if there are any leaks in the flue and Carbon Monoxide is leaking into other rooms, you will be warned.

Carbon Monoxide is lighter than air so detectors should be fitted above the fireplace, ideally on the ceiling. If your alarm goes off, ACT IMMEDIATELY. Get everyone out of the room, open doors and windows to allow ventilation and if anyone is experiencing symptoms, call 999 straight away.

Birds Nests Birds like to nest on top of chimneys as they offer a warm and safe location away from most predators. Usually they nest on top of the chimney stack in amongst the pots but on rare occasions they can nest on top of chimney pots, particularly if the pots are close together. Some birds and animals like to nest inside chimneys, particularly Jackdaws and squirrels and it’s not unknown for bees and wasps to build nests inside chimneys.

It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to destroy or remove a nest while it is in use and the act recognises birds nesting season to be from 1st March to 31st July. That said if the birds were late breeders, laying their eggs in July, then the nestlings could fledge late August early September.

Removing a nest from inside a chimney can be difficult and messy. Jackdaws hold twigs in the centre and push them down inside the chimney so each end of the twig is jammed into the sides of the chimney. When the Jackdaw feels sufficient resistance indicating the twig will stay in position on its own, it will return with lots more twigs, clumps of grass, moss, rubbish, basically anything to add to the nest to build it up. This mass of material can be stuck very tightly inside the chimney and be very difficult to remove. Sometimes sweeps are able to remove nest from below using special tools, but if the nest is just too stuck in place it may need removing from the top, i.e. pulling it out from the chimney pot.

Tell tale signs of a nest in or on the chimney are twigs and debris falling down into the fireplace. But if the nest is packed tightly high up in the flue there may be no signs it’s there. Signs of a bee or wasp nest in the flue are bees or wasps coming and going in the room with the fireplace. They will enter their nest from above and below.

NEVER try to ‘smoke out’ any flue residents, you are risking a fire inside the flue and if a nest is blocking the flue, smoke and carbon monoxide will come back into the room. This is one reason why it’s so important to have a sweep before using a fire.

Once a nest has been removed it is good practice to put a suitable cowl on top of the chimney pot as birds and squirrels will come back to a previous nesting spot the following year and start again.

Debris – Bricks, Dust & Sand It is not uncommon to find sand like material (old lime mortar) and small chucks of brick collecting inside the flue and eventually falling down into the fireplace and room. Since the 1965 Building Regulations were introduced, all chimney flues (the cavity that runs through the chimney from the fireplace to the chimney pot) must be built with ‘liners’ during their construction. These liners are usually made from clay and are installed in sections when the building is built.

A lined flue is far less common in houses built prior to 1965. Flues were usually “parged” (rendered) on the inside with lime mortar as the chimney was built. This lime mortar can be corroded over time by acids and tars produced during combustion. The mortar deteriorates into dust and sand which falls in the flue and collects on shelves as the flue bends. This exposes the brick face and the lines of mortar between the bricks both of which can also deteriorate over time again due to acids and tars. Tiny amounts of moisture inside the flue, whether from burning fuel that has a high moisture content or even from entering through the chimney pot, can freeze and expand in between bricks and cracks in brickwork. This can break off small chunks of brick which fall down the flue. If enough mortar between bricks is worn away, whole bricks themselves can become loose and fall. Small cracks in brickwork and broken or missing bricks can results in leaks in the flue whereby smoke and other emissions like carbon monoxide can move from one flue to another flue (passing through cracks or gaps in the ‘feathers’ (the thin, vertical walls of bricks that separate different flues that run alongside each other inside the chimney) or even into the building itself, directly into rooms, or floor and ceilings spaces or into the loft area.

If you can smell smoke in a room above the room where your fire is, perhaps in a bedroom or the loft area, this could indicate a leak inside the flue and it MUST be addressed immediately. If you smell smoke then Carbon Monoxide is also present. Carbon Monoxide is colourless and odourless and it’s deadly. Short term exposure to large amounts or long term exposure to small amounts can be fatal. To properly test for leaks you must undertake a ‘Smoke Pressure Test’, full information about how to do this can be found on our Smoke Tests page.

To fix a leak in a flue, it needs to be re-lined. There are a variety of methods of doing this and it can be expensive. The type of fireplace or appliance you use will affect the type of lining that is suitable for your flue, you should consult a lining expert. Placing a carbon monoxide detector in the room with the fireplace and each room above it will warn you of any leaks and keep you safe.
An experienced chimney sweep should be able to spot issues with the flue and make recommendations as to how to resolve them.

Insurance Requirements At the moment it is not a legal requirement in the UK to have your chimney swept. Perhaps it should be given the unnecessary risk to life and the financial cost of the fire service attending these fires (on average over 7,700 per year). It is a legal requirement in much of Europe so no doubt we will catch up one day soon.

If there is a fire in your property that is caused by your fireplace, or perhaps smoke damage due to smoke not escaping through the chimney as it should do, you may have difficulty making an insurance claim if you haven’t had your chimney swept. An insurance company will state that you have a duty of care when using a fireplace, stove or any kind of heating appliance to take every precaution possible to ensure the fireplace is used properly and safely.

Professional chimney sweeps that have been trained by one of the three nationally recognised organisations – A.P.I.C.S. (The Association of Professional Independent Chimney Sweeps), N.A.C.S (The National Association of Chimney Sweeps) and The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, will issue you with a certificate confirming the sweep has taken place. The certificate will include the date of the sweep and any relevant feedback or comments about the sweep. You can use this certificate to demonstrate to your insurance company that you have taken appropriate precautions to ensure your chimney is safe to use and as long as you have the chimney swept regularly, this should satisfy them.

Keep Your Property Clean All solid fuel fires produce soot and other emissions which can collect on the walls inside the chimney flue and stack, sometimes forming a tarry substance known as chimney tar. These deposits build up over time and can restrict the size of the flue and even cause chimney fires. Other debris that can collect inside the flue includes dust and sand from the lining of the chimney, i.e. the render, mortar and brickwork inside the flue.

All of this debris clings to the inside walls and collects on shelves in the flue and can easily fall back down into the fireplace and the room where it sits. As well as floating around in the air you breathe it can make a real mess on furniture, carpets and other surfaces.

Sweeping can never get rid of all soot and debris inside the flue but it will remove the majority of it. A chimney balloon fitted into the flue when the fire is not in use will stop any remaining dust getting into the room.

Our Chimney Sweep Service Chimney Sweeping is an essential service for anyone using a fireplace, stove or boiler that burns coal, wood, heating oil, natural gas and wood chip (pellets, reconstituted logs etc).

At Brighton Chimney Sweeps we offer a full chimney sweeping service to private homes and commercial properties across Brighton and Hove and further afield. We are fully insured, professional, diligent and dedicated to delivering the highest standard of service as quickly and efficiently as possible.

We sell Wood Burning Stoves and Multi-Fuel Burning Stoves on our online Shop and work with HETAS registered stove installers to provide a full installation service. We also sell Fireplace Mantels, Chimney Balloons, seasoned Logs and more.

To Book A Professional Chimney Sweep In Brighton & Hove, Get In Touch Today To book a chimney sweep appointment, call us on 01273 726 989 or 07742 829 848. Alternatively you can book online using our simple Online Booking Tool. It is quick and easy to use, you can select the date and time that suits you and pay securely with a debit or credit card via PayPal. Stay safe when using your fire or stove, keep your chimney clean!