Q: Why do I need to have my chimney/flue swept?
Chimneys need to allow free passage of dangerous combustion gasses. Regular cleaning removes soot and helps prevent dangerous chimney fires. Cleaning improves the efficiency of some appliances, saving you money on fuel. Creosote, cobwebs, nest material etc. will also be removed. Many insurance providers now also insist on a Certificate of Chimney Sweeping.
Q: How often does my chimney need sweeping?
The sweeping frequencies below are for guidance. The frequency will depend on a number of factors including: Type of fuel, appliance used, frequency and duration of use, moisture content of wood fuel, type of chimney. Your Guild sweep will be able to advise on what’s best for you during their visit.
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
Q: Why should I use a Guild Registered Chimney Sweep?
Guild sweeps undertake the most extensive training and assessment programme in the UK. The Guild requires member sweeps to be fully insured for Chimney sweeping and equipped to deal with all standard job situations. Members must undertake regular refresher training. Many members undertake additional professional training and are experts in their field. In the unlikely event your Guild sweep is unable to help, they should be able to recommend someone who can.
Q: My chimney has been relined, do I need it sweeping?
Yes, absolutely, and perhaps more often than before. Manufacturer’s warranties on the new flue will usually require proof of frequent sweeping. Your local Guild sweep will issue a Certificate of Chimney Sweeping and can advise on compliance and maintenance aspects of your system.
Q: What should I do to prepare for the sweep’s visit?
Ask your sweep this question when booking. In general, they will need a clear passage from your door to the fire and adequate space to work in. Clear any ornaments from the hearth and perhaps from the mantelpiece. In particular, clear the grate of any fuel / ash / rubbish. Pets should be kept secure during the visit. Please ensure your appliance is unlit and cold
Q: Do I need to have my gas/oil flues swept?
Yes. Although burning these fuels does not normally deposit soot there are other problems which can affect chimney function and sweeping can solve or identify these. It is often the case that customers employ their Guild sweep ahead of an annual service visit.
Q: Why do I need to see the brush out the top of the chimney?
To demonstrate to you that the flue has been swept throughout its length. Some customers also deem it as “Good luck” to see the brush.
Q: How much does it cost to have my chimney swept?
How long is a piece of string? Some jobs may take longer to complete so expect to pay more if extra time is necessary. If you are comparing prices of different sweeps try to make sure you are comparing like for like. There is no substitute for experience and professionalism. Cost may also vary in different parts of the country (including congestion charges, parking charges, toll fees etc.). Guild sweeps can often supply expert advice on fuels and how to get the best out of your stove or fire. This advice alone could save you more than the cost of a sweep over the course of a burning season.
Q: I have a problem with my fireplace/stove/chimney.
Guild sweeps are trained to high standards and are usually conversant with the complexities of solid fuel heating and venting systems and the associated building regulations. Many have undertaken extensive additional product knowledge training courses. If they don’t know the answer, they know where to find it.
Q: I’ve just moved house – do I need to have my chimney cleaned?
Yes! 100% and please do not be tempted to “try it out” before it’s swept. A chimney fire isn’t the kind of housewarming you want. Your Guild sweep can also help identify potential defects and dangers
Q: Why do I need to burn wood with less than 20% moisture?
There are a number of problems with using wood that is too wet. First, it’s a waste of money / time. Secondly, it can cause major fire risk problems inside the chimney. Thirdly, it dramatically increases air pollution.
Burning wet wood reduces the temperature of the fire, reducing the efficiency and heat output. Much more unburned fuel vapour goes up the chimney. The excess water also goes up the chimney. This lower burning temperature and increased fuel vapour and water mix easily causes “tar” or “creosote” to be deposited. It can build up to a thick “glaze” which can’t be easily removed and is a serious fire risk. If your sweep is genuinely worried about tar build up in your chimney, you need to take advice.
Q: Can I burn pine / conifer / willow / poplar / softwood on my woodburner?
Yes, of course, as long as they are dry. You may have heard that these types of wood cause “tar” or “sap” problems in chimneys but it’s just not true. They are less dense and so you’ll need to use around 25% more softwood to get the same heat output as hardwood. A kilo of softwood will give about the same heat energy as a kilo of hardwood. These woods are not so suitable for open fires as they tend to spit and spark.
Q: How long does it take to dry / season logs or wood?
You may hear different answers to this question. The right answer is, it depends. If left as tree trunks or large rings it will take some time, possibly years. If cut and split in to logs and properly stacked, it can take from a few months to about a year depending on local conditions and type of wood. Again, aim for less than 20 % moisture. Good ventilation is the key.
Please note that in areas of high average humidity e.g. Cornwall and Devon, it can be very difficult to achieve the desired 20%.
Q: How do I use a moisture meter?
Split the log with an axe and press the probes of the meter in to the split surface. Testing the outside surface of a log can give a false reading. You should only burn logs that are 20% moisture or less.
Q: How do I know if my wood / logs are dry?
Until you are experienced, use a moisture meter. Over time you will learn how dry logs look and feel. Generally they will have cracks in the ends (radial cracks) and they will feel lighter than you think. Only burn logs with less than 20% moisture.
Q: How should I store my logs?
A well ventilated log store is best. Stacking the logs will ensure they are well ventilated and it’s a good idea to keep some air below them so stacking on old pallets is ideal. A roof is nice to keep the rain off the top ones but it is not as important as good ventilation. Good ventilation will quickly dry off any surface moisture when the rain stops. If it rains a lot where you live then it’s best to use a good store
Q: What are kiln dried logs?
Kiln dried logs have been heated in an oven until the moisture is generally below 20%. They may be a good idea if you can’t trust other sources or if your own supply has run out or is not dry enough yet. With correct storage and a bit of time you can easily achieve this level of moisture with your home dried logs – see “How long does it take to dry / season logs or wood” above.
Q: Can I burn smokeless fuels?
You need to check with the manufacturer of the fire. Generally if it has a grate with an air space below, it should be fine. If your chimney/ flue is a steel system or liner you should avoid long slow burning or “slumbering” with smokeless fuels. Slumbering like this can damage a steel chimney due to cool flue gasses allowing very acidic conditions inside the chimney / flue. Always ensure there is an adequate air supply to the fire with a good glow. Ash must be riddled away and removed.
Q: Does sweeping the chimney make mess?
This is a very good question to ask when booking any sweep. The answer should be – No or very rarely. Guild sweeps have a number of best practice techniques for preventing dust escapes. A rare exception may be when the chimney is blocked with a bird’s nest or if the installation is sub standard. Ask them if you should take precautions.
Q: What is the best fuel to use?
For certain appliances, there are recommended fuels and these should use as per manufacturers guidance. As a general fuel the Guild recommends dry seasoned wood. It is clean, gives good heat and is carbon neutral. If you prefer solid fuels, find your local Approved Coal Merchant who will have the expert knowledge to guide you. There are some interesting new fuel mixes coming to the market and your local Guild sweep may well have some useful information for you.
Q: Why do I need to sweep a chimney before it is closed off?
If a chimney is closed off it can get a bit damp. This can turn soot in to an acidic slurry. In an old chimney this slurry can soak into the internal walls causing severe problems. If bad enough, it can penetrate through to the room where it will cause unsightly stains on the walls. Plaster may need to be removed and the brick treated before re-plastering and redecorating. An unused chimney should always be swept and given a little ventilation top and bottom. Ask your Guild sweep how best to do this for your situation.
Q: Why are there smoke marks just above the fireplace?
Smoke is leaking back into the room, and could be Immediately Dangerous. Don’t use the fire. Contact your local Guild Sweep immediately and seek their advice.
Q: A bird has come down / nested in my chimney, how do I stop this from happening again?
Seek the advice of your local Guild Sweep who will be able to clear any nest and suggest a suitable terminal / guard for your chimney.
Q: If I am already a Chimney Sweep, why would I want to join the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps?
Members can expect the Guild to offer the best services through innovative training programmes and initiatives. Regular newsletters, online forum, technical support, exhibitions, meetings and prominent advertising all serve to compliment the best ongoing training available and provide a great platform for members to run their business. We believe that well trained and well supported members provide the best services to their customers. See Benefits of Membership