Looking after your fire & chimney

Save money by looking after your appliance

Keeping your fire as efficient as possible saves both money and fuel. Regular chimney sweeping, appliance maintenance and using fuels specifically designed for your appliance will help you to achieve higher temperatures and increase efficiency.

General fire and chimney safety

Here are some useful tips to follow to ensure your fire is as safe as possible:

  • Don’t store wood next to your fire or stove
  • Try to use wood that contains less than 20% moisture
  • Don’t leave open fires unattended
  • Use fireguards where appropriate
  • Burn the recommended fuels for that fire or appliance
  • Use smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
  • Have the chimney swept regularly by a Guild sweep. They provide a high quality service and will do much more than just clean the chimney.

Keep your chimney clean

To ensure maximum efficiency from your fuel and appliance it is important to sweep the chimney regularly. This helps to minimise the risk of chimney fire and protects against any damage or dangerous gasses.

For your solid fuel appliance make sure that you use a registered from an association such as the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. It is only through established trade organisations that you can be sure that the job you are paying for will be done correctly and all the required safety checks have been made. A registered chimney sweep will also issue an approved certificate. The use of an unregistered, untrained person can result in a false sense of security which may have fatal consequences.

Clean chimneys are much less likely to catch fire

UK fire statistics inform of thousands of houses which have chimney fires, mostly due to infrequent sweeping resulting in the build up of flammable soot and tar within the appliances flue.

The primary causes of chimney fires are:

  • Infrequent sweeping and cleaning
  • Burning unseasoned wet wood
  • Improper appliance sizing at the time of purchase
  • Overnight burning or smouldering wood for long periods in stoves

Many insurance companies will not pay out for fire damage if it is caused by an unswept chimney. A professional chimney sweep will also be able to provide a valid certificate of sweeping that is recognised by insurance companies. The guild sweeps will be able to clean, recommend repairs or maintenance and advice on the safe use of your fireplace or appliance.

To help prevent chimney fires

  • Implement a regular sweeping schedule
  • Comply with building regulations and ensure any new appliance is fitted by an accredited HETAS Installer. Your Guild Sweep will be able to tell you if your solid fuel installation complies with building regulations.
  • Use the appropriate fuel for your appliance and chimney
  • Ensure that you use the appliance as per manufacturer’s instructions

Sweeping frequency

The sweeping of chimneys by a properly trained person should be a clean, quick and modern process with very little disruption to you and your home. These frequencies are only a guide and are the minimum recommended. Your guild sweep may advise more regular cleaning depending on your particular situation.

Smokeless coals: At least once a year

Wood: Up to four times a year

Bituminous coal: Twice a year

Oil: Once a year

Gas: Once a year

Chimney care

Damaged chimneys- stacks, liners and flues

Two main reasons for damage to a chimney stack are:

  • A chimney fire
  • Weathering with age

A combination of external weathering and internal corrosion from soot means that your chimney will need regular maintenance. Your local guild sweep will make a number of checks prior to starting every job and visually inspecting the stack is just one of many. In the event of damage they will also be able to offer repair advice.

Damage to the chimney stack and flue can affect the performance of your chimney and reduce its ability to remove harmful gases. You can lower the risk of damage to your property by having your chimney regularly swept by a guild sweep and keeping on top of your repairs. In the event of a chimney fire I recommend that an integrity test and camera survey is carried out on the flue and installation before it is used again.

Chimney terminals

The top or your chimney, or the terminal, is a very important part of the system. If a terminal is wrong or fitted incorrectly then it may interfere with the passage of poisonous gases. A professional Guild Sweep will be able to advise on the correct material, design and fit of the terminal to ensure maximum safety at all times.

Landlord and tenant advice

Thousands of pounds worth of damage can be caused by a chimney fire and landlords also risk a claim form tenants. Current legislation states that the landlord has a duty of care towards the tenant to keep the property from unnecessary fire risks. This includes aspects such as blocked flues that could result in harm towards the tenant, in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. I therefore recommend that the landlord ensures the chimney is swept regularly and well maintained. The tenant remains responsible for using the appliance as instructed, burning the correct fuels and reporting any problems to the landlord.

Protect yourself against Carbon Monoxide poisoning

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas which is emitted when burning solid fuel or gas. Normally, CO gas passes harmlessly through the chimney. However, if the chimney is blocked or leaky, the appliance is faulty or the ventilation to the fire is inadequate, CO gas may enter your property. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but CO gas kills quickly and without warning. It is therefore important that CO gas may enter your property. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but CO gas kills quickly and without warning. It is therefore important that you take steps to remove any risk to yourself and your family.

I therefore recommend that you:

  • Ensure your chimney is swept regularly by a trained and registered Guild sweep.
  • Ensure that the fire has adequate ventilation at all times and no vents are blocked.
  • Use only HETAS registered installers for fitting solid fuel appliances.
  • Fit a Carbon Monoxide alarm in your property.

Every time your chimney is swept by a guild sweep, they will make a number of checks to your chimney and appliance including checking for adequate ventilation and can offer advice on CO alarms. For further information on Carbon Monoxide speak to Tony Preston or visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk which has an excellent section explaining Carbon Monoxide poisoning in more detail.

Ventilation requirements

It’s very important to let your solid fuel appliance breath properly with adequate ventilation from an outside source. A lack of ventilation is not only dangerous but can also lead to poor burning, low heat production and reduced efficiency.

  • OPEN FIRES: An open fire, with or without a boiler, should include an ari opening of at least 50% of the throat opening area, the narrowest part of the fire place- Ask Tony Preston for further advice. This is typically 5 inches in diameter and provides ventilation to the room from outside the building.
  • STOVES and ROOM HEATERS: If the house was built before 2008 then a vent is usually only required if the appliance is larger than 5kW. The vent would need to be 550mm² per Kw over 5Kw. This means that an 8Kw stove would require a vent of 1650mm². If the stove was built after 2008 then a 550mm² per kW vent needs to be fitted. E.g an 8kW stove would need a vent of 4400mm². In an older property, it is sometimes necessary to fit a vent in an older property with a 5kW stove if there is not sufficient air flow.  Ask Tony Preston for advice on your ventilation requirements.

Correct fuel, correct use

Burning the correct fuel for your solid fuel appliance will help you achieve the highest efficiency. Similarly it is important to check that your chimney/liner is suitable for the type of fuel you’re using. Using the wrong type of fuel for a liner increases corrosion and will reduce its life considerably.

Using the correct fuel for your appliance will also dramatically reduce the amount of soot or tar that builds up and will decrease the risk of a chimney fire.

It is vitally important that coal and smokeless fuels are not used on dedicated wood burners as this will lead to a greater build up of soot and damage to the appliance. Suitable kiln dried wood can be used in multi-fuel stoves and I recommend that you look for a product with a moisture content of less than 20%. With wood fuels it is important to store it correctly to improve aeration and keep moisture levels low. If storing logs outside, use a purpose built log store or at the very least the logs are raised off the ground on pallets and simply cover the top (but not the sides) of the pile to protect from rainfall.

Benefits of using smokeless fuel

Enhanced performance and fire life

Smokeless fuels produce a consistently higher heat and can last as much as 40% longer than ordinary house coal. Even though house coal may initially appear cheaper, choosing smokeless fuel will save you money in the long term due to its superior performance.

Buying the cheapest coal is often a false economy. Premium products are more efficient due to their longer burning time and higher heat production.

Reducing our Carbon footprint

Smokeless fuels produce up to 80% less smoke and 40% less CO₂ when burnt and are therefore much more environmentally friendly. Switching to smokeless fuels, which are manufactured to contain natural binders and materials, can dramatically reduce the carbon footprint left by burning solid fuels.

Compliance with the Clean Air Act

Smokeless fuels comply with the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968, which were introduced to deal with the widespread burning of ordinary house coal which produced smog. Smoke control areas have been introduced to combat this pollution in the majority of large towns and cities in the UK with selected smokeless fuels approved as authorised for use in these areas.

Better for your health

Solid fuels, according to medical research, can also be beneficial for your health. Using solid fuel in a household appliance reduces cases of hay fever, asthma and eczema because of the use of a chimney which draws fresh air through the house and removes polluted air.

Quality assurance

Smokeless fuels are carefully manufactured to the highest standards. The content of each smokeless fuel briquette is monitored for consistency of quality and performance.


Smokeless fuels can be used in a wide range of open fires and closed appliances and are extremely versatile, such as multi-fuel stoves, room heaters and cookers. Traditional coal may damage your multi-fuel stove, whereas smokeless fuel is actually more efficient when burnt in this type of appliance.

Wood fuels  

Why use kiln dried logs?

Due to their moisture levels being less than 20% they are able to burn hotter and more efficiently than other types of wood fuel. Since less energy is used to burn off residual moisture then more energy is converted to heat and higher temperatures can be reached.

Having a greater efficiency means kiln dried logs are more economical to burn, as you use less fuel to achieve the same heat output and fire performance. The superior wood fuel is also better for your appliance; the higher temperatures keep the inside of your stove free from tar build up – prolonging appliance life.

Carbon neutral fuels

Kiln dried logs are much more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels (e.g coal, oil or gas). Whilst burning, logs release the same amount of CO₂ into the atmosphere as is absorbed by the tree during its life cycle. Burning logs or other wood products is therefore said to be a carbon neutral process.

The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps

The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps was established to improve the standards and professionalism of the UK chimney sweeping industry, whilst safeguarding the public from the risk of chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Members of the guild undergo extensive training to ensure high levels of knowledge and service. Guild sweeps ensure that jobs are completed safely and competently at all times, whilst also providing valuable advice on all things chimney related.

For a chimney sweep to Guild member they must adhere and meet strict criteria whilst also achieve the highest minimum standards in the industry. Customers of a Guild Chimney Sweep enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that they will be receiving an excellent standard of service and knowledge from a professionally registered person.