Your guide to chimney repair

It might seem straightforward to arrange the repair or building of a chimney but there are many questions that you might not have realised the importance of asking. Here’s a beginner’s guide to finding the best person to carry out your chimney maintenance – for price and quality. Even if you do not think your chimney needs maintenance right now, it could be helpful to think about who you should call on when the time arises.

You should also think about having a regular inspection, especially when you move into a new property as you will not necessarily know when it has last been swept. A chimney that has not been swept recently could cause a chimney fire or cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 12,200 UK homes have chimney fires every year. During the summertime debris such as leaves, paper, and birds nests build up in chimney flues. This, on top of existing soot, can have potential lethal effects. It is imperative you clean chimneys before their first use and employ a professional specialist chimney sweep. You should never consider cleaning your chimneys with a domestic vacuum cleaner.

This guide shows you where to go for more specialist information; there you will be given tailored advice that meets your chimney needs more specifically.

Do I need an inspection?

A chimney should be inspected twice yearly. Costs vary depending on the situation. It is advisable to use The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS) registered chimney sweep. Rogue traders do exist, but HETAS and NACS both have directories of the qualified businesses who should be used for work on chimneys. Call NACS on 01785 336555 or visit nacs.org.uk

The following guidelines come from NACS and are supported by most in the industry.

Official NACS guidelines recommend:

  • At least once a year if you are burning smokeless fuels.
  • At least twice a year if you are burning bituminous coal.
  • At least quarterly if you are burning wood.
  • At least once a year if you are burning oil or gas.

If you don’t follow the above advice you could face the horrors of a chimney fire caused by a blocked, choked sooty chimney and blocked chimneys can cause carbon monoxide poisoning caused by incomplete combustion.

Insurers also warn to clean your chimney regularly. Recently Halifax General Insurance reminded home-owners about the importance of sweeping out chimneys before lighting up fires this winter to protect both their properties and their lives. Although you should have a home insurance policy that covers you for fire, you may find it is invalid if you have not had a recent chimney clean.

If in doubt about any chimney problem, always consult your NACS registered, approved Chimney Sweep who will be more than happy to assist you. Call NACS on 01785 336555 or refer to their website

A NACS professional Chimney Sweep will also issue an A4 size Certificate of Chimney Sweeping which is officially recognised by local authorities, the government and insurance companies, so you know you and your home are in safe hands.

A variety of scenarios could lead to you needing to call out a chimney repairer; visit the sites given on the links in order to identify common problems.

Installing a new chimney

Building a new chimneys depends very much upon the appliance desired, but here are a few basic guidelines.

You will be living with your chimney for a long time; it is important to get the right chimney installed properly. It is easy to make mistakes in selecting and locating a chimney so take care in order to get optimum performance from your chimney and wood-burning appliance. Your new chimney must meet safety codes as outlined by NACS. If you use a specialist fitter they will ensure they work within these.

Alternatively for wood burning stoves, you can use a twin wall insulated chimney system like MD Plus. New chimneys for open fires are constructed using terracotta liner blocks. Fluesystems Ltd provide excellent online advice on building chimneys, although they do not deal with terracotta products. Instead, try a trusted company such as Hepworth Building Products for informative online terracotta advice.

What’s out there?

  • Hepworth Building Products are manufacturers of Terracotta chimney products i.e. flue liners, chimneys firebricks. They supply all the products that go into a traditional fireplace system. While their main bases are in Doncaster and Hazlehead, they supply UK wide and their website gives clear definitions and explanation of terracotta fire products.
  • Fluesytems provide online advice support and comprehensive descriptions of their services. As an online supplier, they deliver anywhere in the UK.
  • NACS - a very comprehensive website, phone support and expert opinion. Use them as your main contact when seeking chimney advice.

What should I watch out for?

Make sure you use qualified craftsmen. The chimney is a highly regulated part of the building regulations. Chimneys have their own section in the regulations known as Document J, which explains exactly how any chimney should be installed. If a chimney is installed incorrectly building regulators may consider the house dangerous and unsuitable for occupation.

Many problems can arise from old brick built masonry chimneys. For example, the brickwork or mid-feathers can collapse between flue walls in old Victorian and Georgian properties, which can cause deadly fumes to enter other rooms within the property. Or vermin can enter into chimneys where they have not been protected by fitting a suitable vermin guard. Use the correct components. As mentioned above, if you use the wrong or out of date components the chimney will be condemned.

Costs

Costs vary dramatically depending on the job. The price depends upon a wide range of different issues: the type of chimney installed; the type of fuel that is to be used; the condition of the existing chimney, or if it is a new chimney. It is worth contacting a variety of chimney suppliers or sweeps to get alternative quotes and advice. Take the time at this stage to compare services.

What questions should I ask chimney companies?

  • Are you NACS registered?
  • Can I have a quote before work is started?
  • What type of chimney is best for my home?
  • What are the pros and cons of different types of chimneys?
  • Are there any implications that I haven’t considered?
  • How long is the work likely to take?

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