‘Reading’ soot to check the health of your chimney

Soot with parging

Have you ever seen a fortune teller read tea leaves?

Well, us sweeps have our own version – reading the soot from your chimney!

Many people think we just stick a brush up the chimney, get the soot out, clear it away, and that’s it.

But I always take the opportunity to examine the soot carefully before setting my high powered vacuum cleaner on it… because it gives some vital information about the state of your flue.

Over time, every chimney will degrade. The rate will depend on a number of things; but you can be certain that if it isn’t swept regularly, that process will definitely speed up.

So when I sweep a flue, there’s a few things I look for.

For instance, I recently had a customer with a lined chimney but, when swept, little flecks of stainless steel appeared in the soot. This indicates that the liner is degrading, and further inspection is required.

Soot with stainless steel

Small flecks of stainless steel liner can be seen in this freshly-dropped soot

When I’m sweeping a traditional, open brick chimney, it’s not uncommon to get pieces of parging in the soot. Parging is mortar which most pre-mid 1960s chimneys were skimmed with. Over the years, the parging fails, and exposes the brick underneath.

This piece of parging was from a house constructed in the 1950s. It’s perfectly normal, and just a sign that the chimney is deteriorating with age.

Parging from a chimey

A piece of parging from a 1950s chimney

Also, the type of soot which falls down a chimney is important.

Big, coal-like clumps may indicate that the users need to change their burning habits, as it is a sign of excessive slumbering (refuelling a stove and then turning down the air vents to make the burn last longer) or perhaps even evidence that wood with an inappropriate moisture content is being used.

Again, every chimney is different and it very much depends on a number of factors, including age of the flue, position/type of house and the type of fuel used. The main thing is that regular sweeping can often flag up any issues early on.

So next time you see your sweep poring over a pile of ‘black gold’, why not ask them what state your chimney is in? While they may not be able to assure you of untold riches, the advice may just save you a good few pounds in the long run!

Mr Soot Chimney Sweep offers a professional and friendly chimney sweep service in Wigan, Stockport, Southport, Ormskirk, Chorley, Warrington, South Preston and surrounding areas. Book Mr Soot online or call 0800 0541154.

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