Having a chimney fire can be a really frightening experience.
In some instances, people have lost their entire homes. Thankfully, many chimney fires are just confined to the chimney itself without any loss of life or property.
But even after the heat and flames have disappeared, there are certain things you must do before you even think about wanting to use the flue again.
I get many people contacting me after having had a chimney fire who think it ‘only needs a sweep’ before it is ready to be used again.
This is not the case.
The main consideration now is how much damage the fire has done to your chimney.
Remember, chimney fires can reach up to 2,100F – much more heat than a flue would normally have to endure, or was indeed built for, during the course of normal usage.
Once it reaches those sorts of temperatures, there is a high chance that the heat has caused some sort of damage to your chimney.
Chimney Fires – Lined Chimneys
If your chimney is lined, it’s pretty much almost certain you’ll have to get a new liner.
All solid fuel liners are temperature rated up to a certain point, but none of them can keep their integrity after a roaring chimney fire. One of the tell-tale signs of excessive temperatures is discolouration on the outside of the liner.
If the chimney is clay-lined or is a block system then these can crack under the intense heat.
Chimney Fires – Brick Chimneys
If your chimney isn’t lined, then it will be at least over 50 years old.
Even without a chimney fire, flues of that age are susceptible to failure. Subjected to a chimney fire, it needs To undergo a flue integrity test to check whether it is still safe to use. Heat damage and thermal shock can render a flue dangerous to use.
If it fails an integrity test, it would need to be lined if it is to be used for burning anything – even if you decide to change to gas or oil.
Change of Mindset
Even once everything is in place for you to start using your chimney again, chances are you will need to change your mindset unless you want a repeat occurrence.
Chimney fires aren’t ‘normal’ – they are largely down to poor service and maintenance. And the person responsible for ensuring that service and maintenance is you.
The longer your chimney remains unswept, the more likely it is that you will have a chimney fire. This applies to lined chimneys and as well unlined chimneys.
You may also need to change your mindset out your burning practices. Burning wood and too low a temperature can cause tar and creosote to build up in a flue. These deposits are flammable.
A good chimney sweep should be able to give you feedback on your burning habits, and how you can improve. They will be able to advise when you should next get it swept. This can be anytime from once a quarter to annually, depending on what they find.
Key Things To Remember
The most important point to note is that chimney fires are completely avoidable – just follow these simple steps:
⁃ Make sure you fire is installed properly
⁃ Burn the right fuels in the right way
⁃ Get your chimney swept regularly
⁃ Listen to your chimney sweep’s advice – they are there to help keep you safe
However, if you don’t follow this advice and end up with a chimney fire, please use it as a valuable learning experience, and make the right choices going forward.
Next time, you may not be so lucky…
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 0800 0541154.