FREQUENTLY ASKED CHIMNEY QUESTIONS.
WILL THERE BE A MESS WHEN THE CHIMNEY IS CLEANED?
No. The fireplace is sealed off using a cloth adjusted to the size of your fireplace and taped in place. Care is taken to ensure that the seal is not broken during sweeping and to ensure the soot is removed without creating a mess. You may experience a smell from the vacuum exhaust for a time.
WHAT AREAS OF SOUTH WALES DO YOU COVER FOR CHIMNEY SWEEPING AND CHIMNEY COWL FITTING ETC?
I cover a wide area of South Wales which includes :- Cardiff, Machen, Newport, Abergavenny, Caerphilly, Pontypridd, Penarth, Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, Trethomas, Bedwas, Caerphilly, Llantrisant, Blackwood and Beddau.
WHY SHOULD I HAVE MY CHIMNEY SWEPT?
Chimneys should be swept regularly to reduce the risk of a fire. It also helps the safe venting of the products of combustion. Carbon Monoxide can be fatal and frequent cleaning improves the chances of problems being detected. In addition soot residue is highly acidic and can cause the stainless steel metal in a stove fit chimneys to pit or corrode, I have seen this myself on old liners. As chimney liners get older more will fail.
WHAT PREPARTIONS SHOULD I MAKE FOR THE CHIMNEY SWEEP?
It is helpful if you could clear out the grate, move back anything in front of the fireplace and clear the hearth, surround/ mantelpiece. If you do not have time to do this then do not worry I can do this as necessary. But I am sure you understand that I do not want to be moving delicate items like glassware.
IF YOU SWEPT THE CHIMNEY IN THE PAST CAN I GET ADVICE ABOUT IT IN THE FUTURE?
Yes for up to 5 years. I keep my hand written duplicate copies of the certificate and chimney report so I can give you advice. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT NOT TO RING ME TO ASK YOUR QUESTION IF YOU CAN HELP IT. I CLEAN A LARGE NUMBER OF CHIMNEYS EVERY YEAR AND I WILL NOT REMEMBER THE JOB! Please email your invoice number and your question and I will pull the report and certificate and ring you in the early evening to discuss it for as long as you want. During the day I do not have time to discuss chimney problems really. If you have to ring me for advice then please ring for in the evening. PLEASE NOTE I WILL NOT DISCUSS YOUR CHIMNEY REPORT WITH OTHER PEOPLE WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION! IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU HAVE THE INVOICE NUMBER, WITHOUT THAT I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO FIND MY COPY.
DO YOU REMOVE BIRDS NESTS ETC. FROM CHIMNEYS?
Yes but it must not be an active nest. It is potentially an offence under the wildlife and countryside act to disturb a nest of a wild bird. You should monitor the chimney to ensure it is no longer an active nest before booking. If you suspect you have a blockage then please let me know when you book. The time taken to remove a blockage can vary considerably and I need to allow more time for it. However long it takes I will not charge you more than the maximum I quoted when booking the job. If you want the chimney cowling the same applies if the nest is active.
WHY IS MY CHIMNEY / FIRE SMOKING BACK?
The stack might terminate in a high pressure zone causing downdraft.
The wind can cause downdraft.
The flue could be blocked or need sweeping
The size of the fireplace might not be compatible with the cross sectional area and height of the flue.
The grate might be too far forward.
You might not have the correct ventilation for the fire, especially in the case of an open fire which needs a lot of air.
If you have a stove you should check the baffle/ throat plate on a regular basis, they can become distorted and split and so the entrance into the chimney can become blocked, this is very dangerous and a big carbon monoxide risk. Check out the picture opposite of a damaged baffle. I saw one once that actually got sucked up into the collar of the stove. Buy a stove thermometer to help control the temperature and do not over fill the stove.
Some times the air in the chimney can be heavier than the air outside the building and if so the air in the chimney can fall and not rise thus causing the fire to smoke back. This usually happens if the chimney is on an outside wall and you get a cold spell with a sudden change in the weather causing the outside air to warm up. It can usually be overcome by opening a door to the outside air before lighting the fire or if you have a stove with a small cross section chimney (lined) you can buy a blow torch and preheat the chimney. Once the chimney has warmed it it should run ok then. This is called an inversion or reverse convection.
CAN I REMOVE YOUR GAS FIRE SO THE CHIMNEY CAN BE SWEPT?
I am a HETAS engineer which means I can install wood burning and solid fuel appliances and so I have no right to disconnect your gas fire. Only a qualified gas engineer can undertake that work. I can of course recommend a very good gas engineer should you need one. This also means that I cannot line the chimney for a gas appliance.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BURNING WOOD?
Recently cut wood has a high water content, burning wet wood produces little heat and produces lots of steam. A 2kg log at 50 percent moisture contains around 1 litre of water. Dried logs mean a cleaner chimney and less flue fires/ failures. Wet wood means that the resins in the wood do not combust and escape into the chimney. The resins form a lining which is highly combustible. Also this tar lining is corrosive and so attacks the chimney structure. You could always try using a moisture meter to check the water content. It is always best to purchase hardwood as the higher density of such wood produces more heat for a given volume.
In a addition studies have shown that burning wet wood increases the emission of harmful particulates into the atmosphere dramatically.
If you reduce the amount of air going into a stove this will reduce the temperature of the products of combustion entering the chimney. This is turn will reduce the amount of combustion products escaping from the chimney stack and tar will form in the flue. A stove thermometer can help you avoid this problem i like the one made by Stovax . Try to avoid burning overnight to stop the temperature dropping in the chimney. It is usually best when purchasing a stove to buy one with a slightly smaller KW than you might think as you will tend to run it a higher temperature thus raising the temperature in the chimney and so the chance of tar formation. Sometimes when the chimney is swept a kind of crispy material comes down the chimney. This is the material that is left if the tar has burnt off in the flue, in effect you have had a chimney fire and not even known it. Do not try to set fire to the chimney to try and clear it of tar it can burn at very high temperatures (1200 deg C) and so can cause serious damage.
WHAT IS THE QUALITY OF SOME WOOD LIKE FROM FORECOURTS AND SIMILAR OUTLETS?
Studies have been conducted and they show most of the wood is of high moisture content and the price varied considerably. Nets also varied in size dramatically making it hard to gauge value especially when you consider the moisture content.
I HAVE WOOD TAR IN MY CHIMNEY LINER, WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
You could try burning HOTSPOT FLUE FREE powder. It helps break down the creosote and tar in the chimney. It helps maintain a clean chimney together with regular sweeping. It also reduces the risk of a chimney fire. IT CAN BE USED IN MASONARY AND STAINLESS STEEL CHIMNEYS. More information can be found on the Hotspot website, just click on the picture. It works quicker in small cross section chimneys. I tend to find it is better to buy it in the tub rather than sachets.
WHAT DO I DO IF I FIND A DISTRESSED BIRD IN MY CHIMNEY?
You could try Caerphilly bird rescue a really great charity, click on the link for their facebook page. The contact number is 07807944182. I have been called out to distressed birds in chimneys and trapped behind fires and they have always helped out if necessary once the bird has been removed. I carry their number on my phone just in case. Of course working on a chimney with an active nest is totally wrong!
CAN I USE MY FIRE THE NIGHT BEFORE THE CHIMNEY SWEEP?
The simple answer is no. If you do then you need to ensure that the fire is out early in the evening. If the chimney is still hot when due to be swept then the sweeping equipment is very likely to be damaged. If the chimney is a stainless steel one then serious problems could be caused in the chimney by attempting to sweep it as well as damage to the sweeping equipment. On very rare occasion's a hot ember could be sucked up into the vacuum and cause a fire in the drum of the machine. I have not experienced this myself but know of chimney sweeps who have. All these are reasons to get the chimney swept outside the season when you want to use the fire.
I HAVE FITTED NY OWN STOVE OR A BUILDER FITTED IT FOR ME CAN A HETAS ENGINEER SIGN OFF THE FIT?
I am a HETAS engineer so I can sign off my own fits and will provide you with an installation certificate and chimney data plate. But I cannot sign off work completed by somebody else, for that you would have to go to your local building control department who will charge you a fee. How much they charge depends on the council and it varies considerably. When a fitter signs off a job he is taking responsibility for the fitting work and quality of materials used. If you have moved into a house and have no paperwork on the fit the you could try contacting HETAS and they may be able to provide you with a copy of the installation certificate (for a nominal fee) if the stove fitter was a HETAS engineer and he actually signed off the fit. Alternatively building control may have a copy of a sign off document.
HOW DO I DEAL WITH HONEY BEES IN CHIMNEYS?
From time to time this issue crops up, so I am giving you a few pointers. It is really not a good idea to let the bees stay in your chimney, a blockage of honey and wax will grow. I am told the smell of old honey and wax may attract bees for many years. As far as I know bee keepers will not be able to get them out of the chimney so although no one wants to kill bees they will have to be killed, pest control companies should be able to help. You could ask a bee keeper first. It is unlikely that it will be possible to sweep out the honey and wax so it will probably be a case of opening up the chimney which is usually straight forward unless it is masonry lined. Ask my advice about what can be done cowl wise once as much residue from the bees has been removed as possible. I have had success in this area.