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How to find a good chimney sweep

July 2022
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When it comes to homeliness, warmth and cosiness, it’s hard to beat a real fire in your home. Whether you have a traditional fireplace with a real open fire or stove, or a freestanding multifuel or woodburning stove, the atmosphere and warmth produced by these solid fuel appliances is second to none.

What’s more, wooden fire logs, heat logs and briquettes area renewable heating source, unlike gas or coal. And with gas and electricity prices still rising sharply, it doesn’t take much to work out that using a real fire can help keep your energy bills more manageable too.

In terms of upkeep, an annual service is recommended for stoves, while HETAS encourages homeowners to have their chimney swept at least once a year when burning smokeless fuels, and twice a year when burning wood or house coal. The most important part of maintaining the safety and efficiency of your real fire or stove is the visit from your chimney sweep.

Why do chimneys need sweeping?

Chimney sweeping is necessary to remove the long-term build-up of soot and creosote inside the chimney or flue that comes from burning logs.

If you burn unseasoned wood, you will notice that it smoulders, smokes and releases particles into the air. These are toxic and combustible and the build-up inside the chimney liner can be a fire hazard. It may only be a matter of weeks for this to become a problem. Chimney fires are an emergency and you need to call the fire brigade immediately. We would not recommend the use of wet, unseasoned firewood in any open fireplace or stove, for obvious safety reasons.

Seasoned firewood has a much lower moisture content (around20%) and kiln dried logs are dried to 10-20% moisture content. These are the only quality of logs we would recommend for stoves and open fireplaces. Well-seasoned logs that have dried out for at least 1 year don’t smoulder when burnt and produce very little smoke. As a consequence, it takes much longer for soot and creosote to build up inside the chimney. An annual inspection by a professional chimney sweep will suffice in many cases.

Read more: 4 key questions about firewood for your wood burning stove

When should you have your chimney swept?

The best time to book your annual chimney sweep visit is at the end of the summer. As your chimney is going to get the most use during the colder months, it makes sense to have your inspection just before the burning season starts, so you’re ready to go when the weather turns.

Bear in mind that the most highly rated chimney sweeps are going to be booked up from September to January, so get in early if you can. Also keep in mind that that you may need to book a further chimney sweep visit after Christmas if you’ve got the fire on all the time.

If you’ve recently moved into a house with a fireplace or stove, we would advise that you have them cleaned as soon as possible and certainly before you attempt to burn any logs. It may be unclear as to when the chimney or flue was last in use, inspected or cleaned. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

When exactly the cleanings should take place depend on how often you use your fireplace or stove. If you notice that the logs are hard to keep alight, there’s a nasty smell coming from the flue or smoke creeps into the room, it’s high time you made that call.

Where to look for a good local sweep?

Word-of-mouth recommendation is always a powerful endorsement of good tradesmen. Ask your friends and neighbours who they’ve used and go from there. If you are looking for a chimney sweep in Sussex, you can contact the Sussex Fireplace Gallery team for professional advice.

Chimney sweeping is not a regulated profession and they don’t need a licence to operate or advertise their services – so it pays to be careful. That said, real professionals will have a licence from an organisation such as HETAS or be members of the National Association of Chimney Sweeps(NACS), the Association of Professional and Independent Chimney Sweeps (APICS)or the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. HETAS have a list of their approved chimney sweeps that you can search here.

What happens during the inspection visit?

A professional chimney sweep will arrive fully prepared with all the equipment needed. This includes a camera, chimney brushes and other specialist cleaning equipment designed to do the job with the minimum of mess. The operative will usually work from bottom to top, so soot and creosote can be released through the chimney caps. The area around the fireplace will be sheeted to protect your carpets and floors from dust and mess.

If your chimney or flue is in a good state of repair, an annual clean will take around an hour. However, if chimney repairs are required, the process can take much longer.

HETAS certified chimney sweeps charge a base rate of around£50-£80, or in the region of £90-£120 for properties in and around London. Removing blockages, bird’s nests, CCTV health checks for appliances, fitting chimney cowls or other maintenance work will be charged extra.

For professional advice about the supply, installation and maintenance of open fires, fire surrounds, woodburning and multifuel stoves, Sussex Fireplace Gallery are at your service. Visit our showrooms in Eastbourne and Brighton to see a wide range of products including many working fires on display, and speak to our knowledgeable team who will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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