Why this smoke test DOESN’T prove your chimney is safe – yet people still fall for it

‘They said we didn’t need a liner. They just lit a smoke pellet and it draws no problem at all.”

If I had a pound for every time I heard that I would be writing this from my mansion on a sun-kissed Caribbean island.

Although it’s a regular response, simply throwing a smoke pellet up a chimney actually proves NOTHING about that state of your flue and whether it needs lining or not. All it demonstrates is that the flue has adequate ‘draw’.

Here’s the kicker – even a chimney which draws well can leak like a sieve. In fact, a leaking chimney can even end up having a BETTER draw because there are more holes for the smoke to escape!

Why is this happening? Put simply, because customers haven’t accessed the correct professional advice, flues which should have been lined are put back into use.

This happens more with open fires, but even so there are still a few stove installers who do this as well as those who swap between gas and solid fuel.

And it’s wrong. Very wrong.

The ONLY way to check a chimney isn’t leaking is to undertake a Flue Integrity/Pressure Test. This is done by putting the chimney under sufficient pressure and then checking the leakage rate.

For many properties, one of the most efficient ways of doing this is using specialist equipment which measures the flow and leakage rates. However, every chimney sweep is different and sometimes a combination of traditional and more modern methods are used to come to a conclusion.

Regardless of how the test is conducted, it is important that it is done properly. Leaking flues can be absolutely fatal not only to yourself, but to your neighbours.

Fumes can spread into upstairs living spaces and even loftspaces. Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer. You can’t smell, see or taste it. But it is lethal.

And gaps in chimneys can also set your home on fire. By sheer coincidence, in the week I was writing this a report came in of a roof catching fire because of a leaking chimney in Staffordshire.

Scary stuff. Don’t take that risk – get it checked by someone who knows what they are doing.

Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a HETAS Approved Sweep, and member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, offering a professional and friendly chimney sweep and stove service. Book Mr Soot online or call 07724 311 992.

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