Open fires and wood-burning stoves are desirable features and will even increase the value of your property. But whatever type of fuel burner you have, it needs to be regularly cleaned and maintained to prevent a fire in the chimney. Over time, coal soot and wood tar deposits build up and produces creosote, a highly flammable substance. There are over 30,000 chimney fires in the UK each year that could be prevented. Not only is a chimney fire extremely dangerous but it can also cause structural damage to your property.

Causes

If your chimney is dirty, it’s more likely to catch fire. The following can also increase the risk of fire:

  • Blocked flues caused by dead birds or nesting debris
  • Cardboard, Christmas tree branches, rubbish, even sweet wrappers
  • Unseasoned, wet wood
  • Poor air supply
  • Using the wrong type of fuel
  • Using flammable liquids to ignite the fire
  • Leaving the fire to burn overnight

So how can you tell if your chimney’s on fire? You’ll hear a loud roaring noise coming from inside the flue and sparks and flames emitting from the chimney pot. This can be especially hazardous on thatched and wooden roofs.

A slow burning fire is less obvious but the extreme temperatures can damage the chimney structure. Signs of a slow burning fire include:

  • Damaged flue tiles
  • Flakes of creosote residue on the floor
  • Smoke escaping from cracks in the mortar
  • Distorted chimney pot

Prevention

  • Your chimney should be swept at least once a year. Wood burners may need sweeping up to four times a year
  • Don’t leave a fire burning overnight
  • Don’t use wood with more than 20% moisture content
  • Keep wood and coal stored in a dry area

A dirty chimney is just not worth the risk. Sooty and Sweeps offer chimney sweeping in London and Kent.