There can be a few things going on here. If you have an open fire it is most likely to be parging which is the old dry cement that used to line the chimney originally. This does not indicate anything is wrong structurally and happens a lot. The parging will land in your fireplace ready to swept away.
If your chimney flue is properly lined by a HETAS installer then any falling debris is safely contained within the flexible liner or clay liner blocks. It will be sooty/ crystalised tar and will be landing on the top of the throat plate of the stove, ready to be re-burnt. This is fairly normal and nothing to worry about unless it happens a lot, in which case could indicate that you are burning the fuels too low and not achieving full combustion. A stove thermometer would help with this (if you don’t already have one).
If there isn’t a liner there then the debris would fall on the register plate, along with other debris waiting for a spark to set it alight again. This could cause a chimney fire which could set fire to your house. This is why it is important to have your chimney sweep check that your woodburner or multifuel stove has a physical connection from the appliance to the top of the chimney. If it hasn’t then give us a call if you are local and we can quote for fixing the problem.
If the chimney isn’t swept often enough and the fuel being burnt isn’t seasoned properly the tar and soot can build up and completely block a liner as in the photo below. This could have caused serious harm to the owner but luckily we got there in time.
We sometimes get asked this question and there will always be another company who can do it cheaper than us. We take pride in our work and our existing customers will vouch for that. They are the ones that have recommended us to friends and family so we must be doing something right!
What we ask our customers to think about is how long the cheaper parts that they are purchasing will last. Yes, you may be able to save money now and not have to wait any longer for your lovely wood burning stove but if your liner degrades faster because it has not been tested at the correct temperatures, then you could find that you are having to replace it within 3 to 5 years.
You could save money on the cowling and buy mild steel instead of stainless but again, once open to the elements and soot, this kind of steel will soon need replacing. The cowl is usually how the liner is held securely in place, so once the cowl deteriorates the fixings could release the liner so that it drops and gets damaged along the way. A damaged cowl could allow birds and vermin to nest in your flue (they like it warm) and this could pose a serious health risk if the fumes can’t escape properly.
That’s why we use HETAS approved flexible liner and associated parts which come with a life expectancy of around 20 years.
You could save money by excavating the opening yourself and ordering and fitting the hearth before we come. When doing this remember to arrange for your free survey when your work is complete, otherwise we will need to revisit to check what you have done. If the opening is not large enough or is unsafe, we will then have to delay your installation possibly by weeks, as our calendar will only have allowed for the one visit, and more may be needed to correct the work, which will certainly incur more labour costs. The same goes for the hearth. If it is not the correct size, thickness or material as required by building regulations. we will not be able to continue until a new hearth is fitted and we will still have to charge for the wasted day.
Also, think about whether you want to use a company that is not registered with HETAS. If you do this you will have to liaise with building control to obtain planning permission beforehand and to have the installation checked when complete. You will be using people who have not been through the HETAS training and inspection process and have no guarantee that they will leave you with a safe installation. They also may not be around in a few months time to correct any teething troubles you may have or faults with the parts of appliance. The same is true of any installation company so choosing a firm registered at Companies House who are VAT registered with up to £2 million in public liability insurance, and who have over 20 years experience has got to put your mind at ease.
Do you have smoke coming down the chimney instead of up, does it refuse to go up the chimney when you light it or does the room always smell smokey whilst the fire is lit? This could be dangerous for your health so take a look at some causes and what you can do about it.
Nest in Chimney
If the top of the chimney is open to the elements and does not have a cowl then there is the possibility that birds or squirrels have nested in the chimney. A tell-tale sign of this would be twigs landing in the fireplace. Arrange for the chimney sweep to visit and remove the nest
The animals fill the chimney with sticks and other material to build their nest. This will stop the airflow through the chimney and can be very dangerous.
This nest removed from an upstairs bedroom filled 7 bin bags and took over an hour to clean out.
There was lots of kindling for future fires however!
Fire not hot
enough / large enough
If you have set
a small fire you might find that your fireplace wants to burn at a faster rate.
It was designed to keep you warm, not look pretty. Because it doesn’t have
enough fuel to burn well, it smoulders and the smoke lingers in the room.
If the width of
the chimney is dis-proportionate to the size of fire you are using the fire
will not draw well. Wide fireplaces were
built for big fires. Build a bigger fire, use small logs to start as these burn faster. Check you have set the fire correctly if you are new to it.
Some cheaper fuels burn inefficiently and are smokey as is unseasoned or ‘green’ wood. Obviously burning anything other that solid fuels on your fire is a bad idea and can cause problems. Check your wood has a moisture content of under 20% by using a moisture meter or ask for fuel to checked upon delivery – look for the ‘Ready To Burn’ logo.
Burning your fire at a low heat, produces more soot and creosote that burning at the optimum temperature. It also is one of the causes of air-pollution so is best avoided. Soot, tar and creosote can line your chimney flue slowly blocking it and decreasing the draw and pull of the chimney. Burn open fires and wood-burners hot and fast never low. Get chimney swept at least once a year. Consider installing a wood/ multi-fuel stove.
Wrong location of fire basket
Your open fireplace will need a fire-basket or grate if you are trying to burn coal. Wood does not a grate to burn but does need to be high enough to feel the pull of the airflow in the chimney. Thus a grate is usually used and will help stop the smoke coming back into the room. If the grate or fire-basket is too far from back wall it may protrude into your room and the smoke will no longer want to travel up the chimney. Purchase a fire-basket. Try raising an existing one on bricks to improve the draw and move further back towards the rear wall of the fireplace. Buy a taller basket.
Some fireplaces have an inbuilt damper so that you can control air flow and thus the size of the fire. This is a small metal plate built into the chimney. These can be closed when the fire is not in use to stop drafts and if it is closed the smoke won’t be able to escape. Open the damper. Call the sweep if it is stuck and do not use.
If you are new to the house, it’s worth checking whether the top of the chimney has been capped. This could be with a removable cowl or even slate and cement. The previous occupants may have not wanted to use the fireplace or found that the draft it caused was a nuisance. Visually check the top of the chimney pot for a flat capping cowl and if present do not use and arrange for the chimney sweep to remove it
If the previous occupants did not want to use the chimney or fireplace they may have blocked off the inside of the chimney from the bottom with a board or plate. They may even have removed part of it to enlarge a room upstairs or to create a loft conversion. Do not use. Get a quote to reinstate chimney.
If chimney pots
are not terminated at different heights then potentially the smoke from one pot
can be pulled in to the pot next to it, if this flue is cold. Arrange for a taller pot fitted if both fireplaces are in use, or have the disused chimney pot capped / blocked off.
Stack not tall
The chimney stack should be at least as high as the ridge tiles at the top of your roof. If this is not the case then you are very likely to have problems with airflow and the chimney could go into reverse. Arrange for the chimney to be built higher (as per building regulations) or a taller pot fitted.
Lack of Air
New build houses or houses that have had newly installed double glazing may find that there is not enough additional air flow to fuel the fire. It can’t burn without oxygen so if your rooms are air-tight the fire is going to struggle. Open a window a little or vent.
Open windows and doors, extractor fans, bathroom vents and air conditioning units are examples of items that may affect the air flow in the chimney. Switch off other appliances, close doors and windows to the connecting rooms
Exposed Areas /
If you are new to the house, you may discover that there has always been a problem because of the way the land around the property directs the wind and the way the air is channelled around the property.
This could also be affected by new houses recently built in the area or a neighbours extension. Warm the chimney flue by burning paper to start with.Arrange for the chimney sweep to visit and advise
If it’s suddenly colder than previous days; the small amount of heat given off when starting the fire is not enough to shift the cold air already in the chimney and so it comes back into the room.
The wind direction could be adversely affecting your chimney or local high pressure could cause your chimney to go into reverse. Warm the chimney flue by burning paper to start with / Wait for weather conditions to improve. Speak to chimney sweep if problem persists
Weather too hot
In hot weather you may find that the chimney stays cool and cold air is trapped there. Cold air doesn’t rise until it’s warmed up again. Warm the chimney flue by burning paper to start with.
It’s a very complicated market out there at the moment with companies phasing out current models to replace them with Eco-design ready ones.
There is no legal requirement at the moment to purchase the Eco-design ready models but obviously its better for the environment. We currently don’t foresee fines for people with non-compliant stoves but it will become illegal to install a non-compliant stove after 2022, and who knows what will happen in the next decade?
This will put an end to the second-hand market for a while, but customers will still be able to use their existing installed appliances.
There are very small differences between DEFRA approved stoves and the new Eco-design ready ones, that’s why GTD Installations have been recommending DEFRA approved ones for the last couple of years but we now are offering the Eco-design ready stoves in our quotations.
This Hamlet Solution 5 Widescreen is what I have in my own house but it was installed before the Eco-design ready model was released. We can thoroughly vouch for its good looks and amazing heat output and at a reasonable price too! We won’t be looking for a new stove for a long time!
Customers are starting to ask for surveys for woodburners and multi-fuel stoves in their homes. It can be a little tricky to maintain safe distancing when we visit, but it can still be done. Providing that your internal chimney breast is intact and has not been removed at other levels; the only room that we will need to survey will be the room with the fireplace in it, or the room that the intended new appliance will be installed.
Everything else that we need to look at is external to the property, so once we have taken a look inside we can discuss your requirements at a safe social distance or, if you prefer, over the phone.
One free survey per customer can be arranged by email or telephone, providing that you are within 22 miles of Hitchin centre. If you prefer to keep isolating we can attempt to quote from photo’s that you send but this will only be a rough figure until we can take a proper look.
Things are a little quiet at the moment so staffing levels are still low which means fewer installation appointments are currently available. But as things get busier we will be able to open this up little by little.
We currently are offering a 5% discount to all installs booked in (to be completed) before the 31st July 2020. We have room for 6 more installs before the Summer discount ends, so if you are thinking of having a log burner installed before the Winter months approach, get in touch to arrange your free quotation.
The best way to contact us is through our contact page or you can email our HETAS installer directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
The answer to this is easy; NO. If there was such a thing it would be going off all the time! If you are referring to a Carbon Monoxide Alarm (CO) then YES burning fuel inside your home can give off this deadly gas and for a small squeeze on your wallet, you could save your life.
If you have a woodburner or multi-fuel stove it is a legal requirement and your chimney sweep may condemn your installation without one. Consequently all our quotes include a FireAngel CO9D. Visit our shop to purchase one.
If you have an open fire; it is not yet a legal requirement but is advisable.
Positioning is also important. Some customers ask for us to fix the alarm in a place out of site, but unfortunately for these people, there are strict guidelines as to where the equipment should be. Please see the diagram below if you are unsure if your alarm is installed properly.
You’ve invested in a lovely new multi-fuel stove and you are wondering now what fuels to use. Multi-fuel stoves, unlike woodburners, have a grate that allows air to flow under the fuel allowing you to burn coal as well as wood.
Your flexible liner will have been designed to withstand the heat and to hold the soot caused by burning these fuels, providing you burn seasoned wood only, and get your chimney swept regularly. This may mean every 3 months if you use your appliance a lot! If you are wanting to burn smokeless coal you should check the thickness of the liner that you have had installed. You will find this information on your data plate and reciept form the installer. Smokeless fuel is more acidic and is quick to corrode the steel liner, so if you have a 316/316 liner installed, keep away from smokeless! Also keep an eye on your stove thermometer so that you keep out of the ‘soot zone’ by burning cleanly above 300 degrees.
Make sure that when you burn wood that you don’t burn items straight from the garden. It takes around 2 years for the water content to fall to levels that are acceptable for burning. This drying process is called ‘seasoning’.
Burning unseasoned wood is one of the reasons woodburners are getting bad press at the moment, because of the air pollution it causes. The Government has started up a certification scheme for wood and log suppliers so that the sale of unseasoned wood can be brought to an end. Look for the ‘WoodSure’ Logo when finding a supplier.
Burning unseasoned wood and / or household items that are no longer needed such as packaging, furniture, clothing is all damaging for both the environment and your appliance. It will cause creosote and sticky tar to form in the stove and also the liner. When it dries it is solid and incredibly difficult and costly to remove. In the image below it is so thick that it has blocked the flue and severely reduced the airflow, making the stove impossible to use.
It’s also very flammable, and can cause your chimney to set on fire. All in all, it’s best to keep rubbish in the bin and seasoned wood and coal in your beautiful woodburner.
We are often asked how to light a fire in a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove and so decided to share with you how it is done in our house. If you think that your way is better, we would love to hear from you!
After cleaning out the grate and the ash pan, I screw up lots of pieces of paper from the recycling bin. Paper is great for warming the flue in Winter and helps to reduce any down-draft by warming the cold air trapped in flue in the chimney.
Then I add some lint from the tumble dryer. It’s surprisingly flammable and free!
Next, lots of small twigs or chopped up wood as kindling, leaving the lint showing. Try to leave space so that there’s lots of air to help the fire ‘breathe’.
Light the paper in a few places and quickly close the door. Make sure that the air holes are fully open on the stove and wait. Find a light log from your seasoned wood pile ready to place on in a few minutes. Remember to use a heat resistant glove as it will be hot in there.
All done. Check that you have filled your log basket and relax. Keep your eye on your stove thermometer and make sure that you keep the fire burning at the optimum temperatures, to avoid sooting up the flue. Remember to check that your Carbon Monoxide Detector is working regularly and enjoy!
No smoke should come back into the room when the door is closed, if it does pay careful attention to how and where it is coming out of and then close down the air control to starve the fire of air to make it go out.
Do not open the door and do not throw water on it. Arrange for a chimney sweep to visit and check over the stove.
Our number is 01462 671555 or book a sweep online at our website www.chimneysweep.info/diary
If you would like to purchase a stove pipe thermometer or carbon monoxide detector visit our online shop here: https://gtdstore.ecwid.com/
Unlike other companies we will sweep your chimney on installation day so you won’t need to ring around to find a chimney sweep with an available appointment at the last minute.
We will also quote you for geniune parts made from stainless steel and not mild steel that only lasts half as long. We will advise you as to the best fuels to use and how to get the most from your burner.
We also will book clear dates into our diary when we will arrive. Unlike other companies who will take your deposit and then tell you installation will take place in the next three weeks, and may not be able to arrive on a convenient day for you and make you wait longer.
It’s hard to tell how long an installation is going to take. It’s not always straight forward, especially when it’s raining, snowy or icy. Unlike some companies we won’t charge you extra labour if we have to return to complete the work quoted for.
Many people appreciate the way that we work, all of the testimonials on our website and all of our reviews on yell.com are genuine.
Cowls are very useful items that fix to the chimney pot and either stop rain or vermin or both from entering your chimney. If you have a wood burning or solid fuel stove installed and you don’t have a cowl protecting your flue from water damage and bird / squirrel nesting you could be putting your home at risk.
It is not actually a legal requirement yet, but it seems obvious that a barrier between the natural world and your expensive wood-burner installation is needed. The delay in making it part of building regulations seems to be because users of wood-burning stoves forget to get their chimneys cleaned regularly and in the past have burnt unseasoned wood and household rubbish. This causes tar and creosote to form in the chimney flue which just like the bird or squirrel nest can cause a chimney fire or block the chimney causing carbon monoxide to silently fill the house.
At GTD Installations Ltd we like to make sure that our customers have a cowl with mesh attached and remind them them yearly that they should arrange a chimney sweep and have the stove checked over. To book your chimney sweep online visit: chimneysweep.info/diary
Answers to your woodburner and chimney sweeping questions. Contact us if you have a different question.