Chimneys and open fires
By having your chimney and flue swept and inspected regularly, you can help to prevent a chimney fire and structural damage to your property.
Chimneys need to be regularly swept because when wood or coal is burnt, gasses are given off. These can turn into soot as well as tar (creosote) which builds up and sticks to the inside of the chimney. When this happens chimneys can catch fire. Sometimes birds’ nests, loose bricks and other debris can also fall into a chimney, acting as extra fuel.
Did you know? Your home (building/contents) insurance may be invalidated if you have a chimney fire and your chimney has not been regularly swept.
How often should I have my chimneys swept and checked?
- if you burn logs, you should have this done at least twice a year.
- if you burn coal, you should have this done at least once a year
Receive our free ‘clean sweep’ reminder
Sign up now for our free Clean Sweep email alert for home or business ... it’s safe and only takes a few seconds. Look forward to receiving your personal email reminder each summer, giving you plenty of time to have your chimney swept and inspected, ready for the winter months when most chimney fires occur.
Real fires and wood burning stoves
As well as having your chimney regularly swept, don’t forget wood burning stoves need an annual service too. When using real fires or wood burning stoves:
- have wood burning stoves serviced every year
- avoid overloading the grate or building fires too high.
- dispose of ash safely and appropriately.
- have a carbon monoxide alarm in the area and be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning
- never leave an open fire unattended and ensure the door of a wood burning stove is closed if you wish to temporarily leave the room.
- always ensure ash is cold before disposing of it.
This invisible gas with no smell or taste can be a killer. Faulty appliances that burn solid fuels such as coal and wood (as well as those that use gas or oil) can produce it. Make sure you are aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and have a carbon monoxide alarm in your home to alert you to its presence. Learn more on our carbon monoxide page
Things you can do
Between having your chimney regularly swept and inspected by your chimney professional, there are quick chimney checks you can do yourself.
Stand outside your property and look at your chimney. If you see any of the following, call your chimney professional.
- check for moss or grass growing out of your chimney – it’s a sign it needs repair and if you had a chimney fire, could lead to smoke spread in your property.
- does your chimney lean to one side? Or is the top of it missing? Some damage may not be noticeable because it is located inside the chimney. However that damage could allow a chimney fire to spread into the roof or other parts of your home
- if there are missing or cracked mortar joints or bricks, this is a sign your chimney needs repair. Look out for crumbling mortar falling onto your fireplace or stove.
Having your chimney attended to quickly can help to stop smoke and fire spreading if there were a fire.
When indoors, be chimney safe by:
- only burning suitable fuels and not overloading the grate, or building the fire too high
- always keep or store your log basket, wood, paper and other flammable items away from the chimney. Too close and they can catch fire!
- check for soot marks around the top of the fireplace/ mantelpiece which indicate that smoke is not being drawn efficiently up the chimney
- always use a fire guard - if you have children or pets, use a safety fireguard
- making sure the fire is out before going to bed or leaving the house.
- not drying or airing clothes on a fireguard or close to the fire.
Don’t forget to check in the loft ...
- regularly check for smoke from defective brickwork in the loft when the fire is alight and avoid storing items too close to the chimney stack.
- make sure no sparks or fumes can escape through cracks or broken bricks.
- never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks.
- avoid too much clutter being stored in your loft as this will make it much easier for a chimney fire to spread.
If you spot any problems with your chimney, do not use it and call a professional as soon as possible.
- have working smoke alarms fitted on every floor of your home and test them regularly.
- be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.
How will I know if my chimney is on fire?
- a roaring sound that grows louder as the fire’s intensity increases.
- loud cracking, popping or a low rumbling noise coming from your chimney.
- embers falling back into the hearth.
- black smoke, sparks and flames seen coming from the top of the chimney.
- in severe chimney fires flames can extend several feet above a chimney.
- the walls of the chimney breast or adjacent walls becoming hot to touch.
If you think your chimney is on fire call the fire service on 999
- leave the room, close the door and make sure everyone in in the property knows there is a fire.
- if it’s a log burner or stove close the vents and flue dampers if possible, to restrict the oxygen feeding the fire.
- get outside through the quickest and easiest escape route.
- stay out until the fire and rescue service arrive.
- if you can’t get out of the building, stay low to the ground and near a window. Calling out for help will firefighters know where you are.