Whether you're hanging up your stockings or gathering round it to thaw out after a wintery walk, there's a good chance your fireplace will be at the heart of your family's Christmas celebrations. However, what many of us don't realise is that without some TLC, the chimney of your fire, stove or log burner can become an unexpected hazard.
Old fireplaces in bedrooms and other rooms around the house are an attractive feature, but you should resist the temptation to light the fire without checking the chimney first. Blockages, smoke leaks, poor ventilation, inadequate draw, down-draught and tar build-up are some of the main problems that can arise if you don't take care to regularly check that your chimney is fit-for-purpose, so by ensuring that it's working properly, you'll be looking after the safely of your family as well as keeping everything spic and span for Santa!
Chimneys act a bit like your home's exhaust pipe, funnelling harmful substances such as soot, smoke, ashes and sparks out of the building. If you have a solid fuel fire which is only occasionally used, it should still be swept at least once a year, while fires that are in daily use should be swept twice a year. This will ensure that your flue remains safe and unclogged by soot, birds' nests and other debris that may have dropped down the chimney pot. To ensure work is undertaken safely and to a high standard, be sure to use a NACS (National Association of Chimney Sweeps) registered sweep. The cost can vary between £45-90, depending on where you live in the country and the number of floors in your property.
Smoke integrity tests and chimney lining
Requesting a smoke integrity test when you get your chimney swept will approximately double the cost, however, there are a number of factors making them a very worthwhile investment.
Flues that have lost integrity can leak smoke and deadly carbon monoxide into rooms or other parts of the building, as well as causing other issues such as staining from tar leaks on the outside of the building and poor updraught. Mortar joints and brickwork exposed by deteriorated linings are also prone to corrosion, leaving them eventually vulnerable to collapse! If your chimney fails a smoke integrity test, an installer belonging to a Competent Persons Scheme will have to install a new flue lining. You can find an installer who specialises in Solid Fuel by searching on www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk. Lining your chimney also has the added benefits of improving the operation of the appliance.
Finally, when talking about chimneys and flues it's important to mention the issue of ventilation in the room. NEVER light a solid fuel fire, stove or appliance in a room with the air brick or ventilation covered up to stop draughts in the room. Natural ventilation through air bricks ensures that there is enough fresh air in the room to allow the fire, stove or appliance to burn correctly and making sure that all the poisonous gases including carbon monoxide go straight up the chimney. This also increases efficiency, helping to keep you and your family nice and toasty whilst passing round the chocolates and watching your favourite Christmas film for the umpteenth time!
So before the time comes for Santa to get stuck up the chimney this Christmas, make sure it's properly maintained and in a good state to keep your family warm and safe throughout the whole of 2016.