All you need to know about chimney sweeping

What are the benefits of hiring a professional chimney sweep?

A good chimney sweep will have the necessary training and experience to notice problems which might lead to chimney fires or inefficient burning and will be able to bring these problems to your attention.

Most chimney sweeps will also inspect your chimney for potential problems from the roof. Even if you have an idea about what to look for, it might be problematic, or even dangerous, for you to attempt this yourself. It is also unlikely that your own untrained eye would notice more subtle problems, such as signs of freeze-thaw weathering. If a problem is noticed early, it will probably be easier, and cheaper, to fix.

It is also much more convenient to hire a professional to take what will inevitably be a time consuming, physically draining and messy job off your hands. Hiring a professional would also bring you the peace of mind of knowing that problems have not been overlooked and that your chimney is safe and well-maintained.

How often should I have my chimney cleaned?

At least once a year. Chimney sweeps usually advise that chimneys ought to be cleaned after a period of prolonged disuse (over the summer for example). Many also advise that chimneys should be cleaned before the end of the heating season to ensure that the chimney is clear of animal nests and prepared for the subsequent idle period.

If a chimney is used very often, it might be necessary to sweep it more often. A professional chimney sweep would be able to advise the optimum cleaning schedule for your chimney.

Do I need to have my chimney swept if I have a gas fire?

Yes, although less frequently. Blockages in chimneys connected to gas fires can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide and other harmful gases. A professional chimney sweep can advise how often your chimney ought to be swept.

Where can I find a good chimney sweep?

As with many things, word of mouth is the best means of securing a reliable chimney sweep. If you do not know anyone else who has a real coal or wood fire, chimney sweeps can be found via a quick internet search and most will be more than willing to provide you with a list of references. Do not be afraid to follow these up. It is also important to ask how much experience the chimney sweep has, and whether or not he or she is fully insured.

The National Association of Chimney Sweeps website also provides an excellent means of locating a reliable chimney sweep in your area. All members of the National Association of Chimney Sweeps are fully qualified and experienced, have full public liability insurance and issue certificates on completion of their work. For additional peace of mind, all members are also required to provide references on request. If you would prefer to contact the National Association of Chimney Sweeps by telephone, you can do so on +44 (0)1785 811 732.

You can also contact the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, the professional association of chimney sweeps in the UK. They train, assess and monitor their members to ensure that customers receive the best service. If you are looking for a chimney sweep in the UK, please check their database of chimney sweeps in your area.

Another accredited trade body that can help you find a qualified chimney sweep is the Association of Professional Independent Chimney Sweeps. Please see their website for more information and a list of members.