Prevention is the key
15th June 2011
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The following information will help you understand the issues and dangers involved in something that is easy to overlook in the busy lives that we all lead. Now is the time to consider what you are about to read very carefully.

The author: Andy Pattullo of Chim – Chiminey is an experienced and well respected Professional Chimney Sweep with a Fire Service background, a man well worth listening to:  

So over to you Andy:

So it’s officially summertime and whilst were all enjoying the fabulous weather, don’t forget about having you heating appliances and chimneys serviced and swept in readiness for the next cold spell. Do it while you remember and be safe in the knowledge that (and it always happens) when the autumn suddenly arrives that you don’t have to find a sweep in a hurry because that is the sweeps busiest time of year, sorting out chimney problems and blocked flues and you could wait several weeks for an appointment.  

  Don't be part of the next UK fire statistics. Get your chimney swept at least once a year.

Statistics show that each year on average more 30 thousands houses suffer chimney fires.

This will be largely due to not getting the chimney swept often enough or burning fuel that is inappropriate for the appliance and causing tar to build up in the chimney.

Most insurance companies will no longer pay out for claims resulting chimney fires unless the chimney has been swept by a professional chimney sweep and a valid certificate of sweeping issued that is recognized by insurance companies.

Also if the fire brigade is called out due to a chimney fire and it is proven that the chimney has not been maintained the local council can bill you for the call out, and this can cost you up to £2000 per fire crew.


  To help prevent chimney fires


Chimney fires wreck the homes and lives of homeowners throughout the UK, make sure you get your chimney swept and appliance serviced annually.

Chimney fires can burn explosively - noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying aircraft.

However, those are only the chimney fires you know about. Slow-burning chimney fires don't get enough air or have enough fuel to be as dramatic or visible as their more spectacular cousins. But, the temperatures they reach are very high and can cause damage to the chimney structure and nearby combustible parts of the house especially in older properties where timbers are supported in the chimney breast. Both types of chimney fire can lead to a serious house fire and even total destruction of the property. I unfortunately witnessed such sad events during 17 years of full time service in the Fire Brigade. 

Chimney fires don't have to happen. Here are a few tips to help you avoid them.

* Use seasoned woods only (dryness is more important than hard wood versus soft wood considerations)

* Build smaller, hotter fires that burn more completely and produce less smoke

* Never burn cardboard boxes, waste paper, or Christmas trees.

*Burn Recommended fuels only and never use your fire as a waste paper bin.

* Use only recommended fuels for your appliance and flue type (If you are unsure check your manufactures instruction or ask your stove supplier)

* Comply with building regulations and make sure that the person undertaking any work on the chimney, flue or appliance is competent and qualified.

*Make sure that you have a regular sweeping program in place.

*Make sure you are aware of the frequency that your chimney must be swept in order to comply with your insurance policy.

  General safety

Clean chimneys don't catch fire. Make sure a Guild Certified Chimney Sweep inspects your solid fuel appliance, and cleans the chimney and recommends repairs whenever needed.

Your sweep may have other maintenance recommendations depending on how you use your fireplace or appliance.

Guild of Master Sweeps recommends that you call a certified guild sweep, since they have passed their training and assessment and their understanding of the complexities of chimney and venting systems is vast.  

Sweeping frequency:

 Smokeless coals: At least once a year 

 Wood: at least Once a season 

 Bitumous coal: Twice a year 

 Oil: Once a year

 Gas: Once a year


What is carbon monoxide- why is it a problem?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by                      

incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon-based

fuels are safe to use. It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO isproduced which is poisonous. 

When CO enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs.

You can’t see it, taste it or smell it but CO can kill quickly without warning. According to the

HSE statistics around 20 people die each year from CO poisoning caused by gas appliances and flues that have not been properly installed, maintained or that are simply poorly ventilated. Levels that don’t

 kill can still cause serious harm to your health if breathed in over a long period. In extreme cases

paralysis and brain damage can be caused as a result of prolonged exposure to CO.

  Carbon Monoxide and solid fuel

Many people think that carbon monoxide only comes from gas appliances but the truth is that ANY fuel that burns creates carbon monoxide. Audible Carbon Monoxide alarms must now, by law, be fitted to all new solid fuel installations according to section “J” of the Building Regulations.

The symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning are so easily mistaken for those of the common cold, flu or exhaustion that proper diagnosis can be delayed. Because of this, be sure to see your doctor about persistent, flu-like symptoms, chronic fatigue or generalized depression. So please fit an audible CO alarm.

For more information or guidance don’t hesitate to contact Andy on the below number:


Andy Pattullo

 01594 824 066

Read my testimonials at,

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About the Author

Martin F

Member since: 22nd December 2011

I have recently purchased the best of the Forest of Dean and Chepstow from the previous owners Paul and Sharon James. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the coming months and assure...

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