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Open Fire Chimneys • Multi-Fuel Stoves / Burners • Gas & Oil Boiler Flues • Oven Ranges etc...
PROFESSIONAL CHIMNEY SWEEP CLEANING, SERVCING & ADVISING IN AND AROUND ESSEX
• Why should I use a Guild of Master Chimney Sweep registered chimney sweep?
Guild sweeps undertake an extensive training and final assessment process. This is based on the most comprehensive training manual produced and recognised in the UK. All sweeps must be fully insured and fully equipped to deal with all job situations. Importantly as the Guild is owned equally by all its sweep members it acts like a co-operative, benefiting from the sharing of information and so able to draw on years of experience to solve any customer problems.
In the unlikelihood that a sweep is unable to help you, they will be able to recommend another Guild sweep that can.
• How regular should my chimney be swept?
It advised by the Solid Fuel Association (SFA) and the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps and in most cases also stipulated by your insurance company. That in order to reduce the chance of a chimney fire that your chimney / flue liner is professionally cleaned (providing a valid insurance accepted certificate) at the following frequencies;
• Smokeless Fuel: At least once a year
• Wood: Quarterly when in use
• Bituminous coal: Quarterly when in use
• Oil: Once a year
• Gas: Once a year, where flue is designed to be swept
NB: It is worth mentioning that the above is a guide and several other factors should be taken into consideration by the chimney sweep when advising sweep frequency; type of fuel (moisture content of wood), appliance used, duration of use, purpose of use and type of chimney.
• Why do I need to have my chimney swept?
Firstly, worth mentioning that this may well be a stipulation on your home insurance policy, which most people as not aware of (including me) and could invalidate a claim?
Think of the chimney or liner as the lungs of your fire / appliance and these must be non restrictive and free from blockage to allow free passage of dangerous combustion gases. Regular sweeping will remove build up of soot, tar & creosote (also any bird nests or fallen masonry etc), assisting in preventing of possible dangerous chimney fires. This can also increase the efficiency of some appliances.
• Does it make a mess?
This is a very common question asked and simply the answer should be, very rarely. Guild sweeps have a number of best practice techniques for preventing dust escapes. A rare exception may be when the chimney is severely blocked with say a bird’s nest and it is sometimes difficult to contain all dust.
• Should I do anything in preparation for the sweep’s visit?
Generally a clear passage to the chimney and adequate space to work in around the area is required. Any ornaments on or around the fire hearth and perhaps from the mantelpiece should be removed. Importantly, ensure that the fire has not been used prior to the visit and is cold (sounds obvious but you would be surprised). Also clearing the grate of any remaining fuel, ash and rubbish, as cleaning up before commencing a job is a particular pet hate of most sweeps.
• Do I need to have my gas/oil flues swept?
In short yes, a rule of thumb is if an appliance burns fuel then it requires a clean (see above sweeping frequency table). Although burning fossil fuels does not normally deposit much soot there are numerous other potential problems which can affect the chimney or appliances function. Sweeping of these can identify and in the majority of cases resolve these.
NB: Some European countries such as Germany, it is a legal requirement to have all chimneys and flues cleaned annually. This clearly has a direct affect as the number of carbon monoxide poisonings and chimney fires are a fraction compared to the UK.
• Can I burn any kind of wood?
You really should only burn quality seasoned wood, this is wood that has a low moisture content, which has been left outside for a year and stored undercover outside for an additional year. Fruit wood e.g. apple, pear etc should be left outside for a further year (3 years in total).
This will reduce but not eliminate the build up of tar and creosote in your chimney flue, which wood always produces. Therefore the more wood you burn the more frequently the fire will need to be swept.
• What action should I take if I think I have a chimney fire?
• Dial 999 and ask for the Fire Service. It will help if someone can wait outside to meet them.
• If you have a conventional open fire, extinguish the fire by gently splashing water onto the open fire.
• If you have a solid fuel appliance, close down the ventilation as much as possible.
• Move furniture and rugs away from the fireplace and remove any nearby ornaments.
• Place a spark guard in front of the fire.
• Feel the chimney breast in other rooms for signs of heat.
• If a wall is becoming hot, move furniture away. Ensure that access to your attic or roof space is available for the Fire Service as they will want to thoroughly check this area for signs of possible fire spread.
• If you see smoke or flames from any part of your home wait for the fire service outside.
• Why do I have smoke coming into the room / through my appliance etc?
There are a number of possible causes and any one of these or a combination can contribute to a smoking fireplace or appliance. Listed below are a number of common possible reasons;
1) Un-swept or blocked chimney;
There could be a build up of soot or tar/creosote deposits, bird’s nests, fallen bricks/masonry etc. In the majority of cases by just having a professional sweep will clear the problem or will identify the true problem.
2) Chimney’s contains cold air;
It is very common if the chimney has not been used for a while, especially if located on an external wall, that it can contain cold air. Because the cold air is heavy in order to ensure correct smoke free operation, your fire requires to be heated up quickly to make sure the cold air is expelled. Otherwise it will force smoke back into the room.
Simply start the fire by using dry tinder to heat up the chimney quickly. In most instances this will remedy the problem and remove the cold air and assist the draw.
A lined and insulated chimney will tend to draw better than one that is not. The same can be applied to stoves also, where the cast iron fire box is cold.
3) Competition with another chimney or extractor;
There may be another chimney in the property with a stronger draw, therefore pulling air from another source of which one may be the smoking chimney. Try blocking off anyway unused chimneys, ensuring it is sufficiently ventilated so that they cannot draw air including your central heating from the house. Similarly if you have a stove on another chimney then close the air vents and door. If the smoking problem improves then the other chimneys are partly to blame as they are pulling air down the smoking chimney. Cap chimney pots of any unused chimneys.
If you have any extractors such as a cooker hood fan in a nearby room, then ensure that these are turned off. An extractor sucks air out of your house which means that it requires an air supply from outside the house. Make sure that there is an air supply (e.g. ventilation) near the extractor then it will draw most or all the air it needs from this and so there will be fewer draughts and it will not compete with the chimneys in your house. If the smoking improves when the extractor is off then it is at least partly to blame for your smoking.
4) Inadequate Ventilation:
It is very important to let you solid fuel appliance breath properly or the flue will be unable to take away the fumes effectively which will lead to smoking back or slow gas speed meaning that the flue will soot up quicker. Insufficient air flow will also lead to incomplete combustion, low levels of heat output and increased pollution. Additionally, with modern construction techniques such as double glazing, wall cavity insulation and sealed laminate floor / carpeting the amount of air available in the room is reduced.
• Ventilation for appliance (stoves etc);
Require less air than a traditional fireplace to function, but they do still need some. Without this air supply the stove will smoke as there will not be a movement of air through the chimney to carry the smoke away, which is potentially dangerous. Current Building Regulations (Document J) state that for each KW (kilowatt) greater than > 5KW, a 550 mm2 of permanently open ventilation is required.
• Ventilation for traditional fireplaces;
Require a much larger quantity of air than a stove, due to the large opening. If your fireplace has a throat (where the chimney opening narrows above the fire) then you need to provide permanently open vent(s) at least 50% of the cross sectional area of this throat, this is usually 16,500mm2 for a typical open fire. If the fireplace does not have a throat then (but has a canopy above) you need to provide permanently open vent(s) of at least 50% of the cross sectional area of the flue.
Houses built before 2008 have a 5KW size allowance without the need for a vent. If the stove is bigger than 5KW a vent must be fitted. The vent needs to be 550mm2 per KW over 5KW this means an 8KW stove would need a vent of 1,650mm2.
If the house is built after 2008 then a vent needs to be fitted that is 550mm2 per KW so an 8KW stove in a new build would need a vent of 4,400mm2
NOTE: It is sometimes necessary to fit a vent in an older property with a 5KW stove if there is not sufficient air flow.
Your Guild sweep will be able to advise you on your ventilation requirements.
Without adequate permanently open ventilation / air source your chimney or appliance is likely to not light or perform properly. This means that the dangerous smoke /gases are unable to evacuate up and out of the chimney correctly and producing smoke that flows into the house. That is an obvious health concern and potentially lethal with carbon monoxide poisoning.
You can discover whether your smoking fireplace or appliance requires extra ventilation, simply open a window in the room, if that room does not have a window then open a window or external door in the room closest to the room, and make sure that the doors between these two rooms are open. If the smoking improves then ventilation is at least partly to blame.
5) Size of fire place to large;
The size of your fireplace may cause smoke to swirl within the opening and roll out into the room, rather than flowing directly straight up the chimney.
Solutions to this problem maybe to re-design opening by raising the height of the fire grate, fit a canopy to the top, consider adding a recessed metal plate at the top of the fireplace opening to make it smaller or install a stove.
6) Restrictive chimney pot or insert;
Having the wrong type of cowl fitted may restrict the flow of gases and in some cases cause a blockage. A number of pots and inserts are not suitable for use with a fireplace or stove.
7) Insufficient chimney height;
Generally the higher a chimney is the better the draw. You could consider raising the height of your chimney by adding another few courses of bricks or by adding a taller pot.
8) Downdraught (negative pressure);
This is when external air flows back down the chimney into the fire place. Typically this will result in puffs of smoke coming out of the stove or fireplace. This can sometimes be incorrectly identified as downdraught when in fact it is not. Because if the smoke is continuously coming out of them this is not downdraught. As it is typically caused by a chimney that is either not high enough or where there are high buildings or trees nearby that affect the wind currents around the chimney. Often only occurring in certain specific conditions, so this may only occur on days when the wind comes from the North.
Downdraught can often be resolved by either;
* Raising the height of the chimney being the simplest solution. With a double skin insulated chimney this can be done by attaching another length, with a masonry chimney you either have to extend the brick/block courses.
* Perhaps by considering adding a taller chimney pot.
* Alternatively adding an anti downdraught cowl and is a quick and easy solution.
(Such as a rotor vent cowl designed to improve the draw when there is wind to turn it).
NB: If the fireplace or appliance is producing continuous smoke it is unlikely to be a downdraught issue, as chimney downdraught usually produces a ‘puff’ rather than a steady stream of smoke (see bottom of list for downdraft information).
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Chimney sweep services throughout Essex