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Sooty and Sweep's FAQ's

Why does your chimney need sweeping?

It’s important that harmful flue gases given off by your fire are allowed to escape safely into the atmosphere. Any obstructions will prevent the fire from burning efficiently and Carbon Monoxide gases may leak into the room. Regular sweeping will ensure that the flue-ways remain clear. Your home insurance may also stipulate that Certificates of Sweeping for any working chimney must be provided. Failure to do so may render your policy invalid.


Is it true that Stainless steel liners do not need cleaning? No!!!

This is a popular misconception. Any solid fuel appliance must have the flue swept at least once, and sometimes twice a year whether it’s lined or not. The gases given off by burning wood contain corrosive substances which will cling to the liner, particularly at the top where it’s coolest. These substances will eventually rot the liner resulting in a costly replacement. Apart from making sure your liner is kept clear, sweeping the flue regularly will prolong the life of your liner.


How often does my chimney need sweeping?

This depends on what you’re burning and how often it’s used but it’s recommended to have a working chimney swept at least once a year. We can give you a more accurate assessment after your chimney has been swept.


How long does it take to sweep a chimney?

It can take anything between 30 - 60 minutes to sweep one chimney from start to finish. However, If we come across a problem which takes longer to clear, for example, a birds’ nest. A nest that takes an exceptionally long time to clear may incur a small extra charge.


What do I need to do to prepare for your visit?

All we need is clear passage and access to the fireplace and an area in front of the fireplace ideally about 6’ square which is an adequate space to work in, plus the use of an electric socket for the vacuum cleaner. We will provide all the necessary sheeting to cover the carpet in front of the fire and to contain the deposits from your chimney. It is suggested you clear any ornaments from the hearth and mantelpiece, and clear the grate of any fuel, ash or rubbish before we arrive, the fire also needs to be out for at least 12 hours before the visit.


When is the best time to have your chimney swept?

Spring and summer is the best time, after you’ve lit your last fire. Get it done then, and you’ll be ready for the cold weather when it arrives next winter. The busiest time is August to December.


Why do I need to use a National Association of Chimney Sweeps Member (NACS) and have a certificate of sweeping?

NACS is a professional trade association who promote high standards for sweeping, inspection and maintenance of chimneys. A Certificate of Sweeping is issued by every member of NACS after the sweep is complete. This is an important document as it proves that your chimney has been swept by a professional sweep who has swept your chimney to a strict code of practice. Your home insurance policy may be invalid if you can’t prove your chimney has been swept regularly. NACS Chimney Sweeps undertake a rigorous training course and have to successfully complete a full assessment prior to becoming a NACS Member. All NACS Members must hold valid insurance for Chimney Sweeping, of which they provide a copy to the Association on an annual basis. They must also have all the correct equipment to be able to undertake the job which is checked at the time of their assessment.


Will having my Chimney Swept make a mess?

We are very mindful and conscious of making as little mess as possible, Cleanliness is our priority and with No Mess, you don’t have any stress, in fact we are trained in the prevention of dust escaping during sweeping. However, there are exceptional circumstances e.g. if a chimney is blocked with a birds nest, which makes it difficult to guarantee that no mess will be made.


Group Bookings: Have you got four or more chimneys in need of sweeping, between your friends and neighbours, in the same street or neighbourhood? Then everyone's a winner. We have to travel less between chimneys, and your group gets a worthwhile discount. Call us to discuss!


How can I prevent birds nesting in my chimney?

Jackdaws are creatures of habit and the same pair invariably nest in the same chimney every Spring. So even if you have the nest cleared they’re likely to come back the next season. We can supply and fit bird guards which will prevent them from nesting but also allow you to use the fire as normal.


The guards we provide will also allow the chimney to be swept without pushing the guard off which, unfortunately, other types of guards or the stuffing of chicken wire into the pot, doesn’t allow. Also bird cowls stop water coming down the chimney causing damage over time, unfortunately height and access restrictions can apply to fitting the bird guards, so please phone to discuss.


Why does wood need to be seasoned?

When wood is first cut down it contains about 50% sap and resin which, when burnt, goes up the chimney as gas. When this gas reaches a cool part of the chimney it condenses, liquefies and then solidifies. This is known as creosote or tar which is highly flammable and can be very difficult to remove. Continual burning will increase the coating and progressively run down the flue.


Eventually a hot ember or flame may ignite the creosote resulting in a chimney fire. By seasoning the wood (ideally over 2 or 3 years) the moisture content will reduce to about 10% which in turn will reduce the risk of tarring. Avoid burning ‘fast growing’ trees like Pine and Leylandii as they contain an exceptional amount of sap and resin and takes significantly longer to season.


After sweeping I am still getting bits fall down my chimney?

Sweeping will clear the majority of soot or any other loose material in the chimney but, particularly in older chimneys, the act of sweeping will disturb more of the mortar lining. Wind and rain will cause these bits to fall down. This is quite common and nothing to worry about but serious lumps of debris constantly falling down should be investigated.


Why does smoke come back into the room when I light the fire?

There are various reasons and could be any of the following:


  • A blockage in the chimney can be either corrected or highlighted by sweeping. We can then advise once the chimney has been swept.
  • Cold air in a chimney that hasn’t been used for a while will draw down into the warmer room. Do you feel a draught when you put your hand in the fireplace? If so, before lighting, warm the flue up by using a blow torch or even a hair dryer.
  • Alternatively when you light the fire, hold a sheet of newspaper over the fireplace opening. This will encourage all the heat to rise into the flue. When the sheet starts to get sucked in, the fire is ready. From then on, the warm air from the fire will rise and take the smoke with it.

Downdraught is caused where the stack is too short or high trees or buildings are too close to the stack. The wind around the pot will be disrupted and will prevent the smoke from exiting properly causing a backup in the flue and puffs of smoke coming back into the room. Anti-downdraught cowls will generally solve this problem but we can give you a better assessment on site.


Perhaps the wrong cowl has been fitted which is not designed to be used on a live fire. We can assess that on site and advice on the best course of action.


The lack of ‘free air’ in the room is a common problem in modern houses which are well insulated. All fires need air to allow them to burn efficiently. If the fire is starved of oxygen then there is nothing to replace the air escaping up the flue, consequently the smoke has got nowhere to go but back into the room. Try cracking a window open or leaving the door slightly ajar. If this does not solves the problem then fitting an air vent on an outside wall close to the fire should do the trick.


The size of your fireplace opening may be too big in relation to the area of your flue. The bigger the opening, the quicker the fuel burns and the smoke can’t escape up the chimney quickly enough therefore it baulks and spills into the room. Try raising the grate on bricks or reducing the size of the opening.

We hope this helps but if not please give us a ring 01526 353164 / 01529 303921.