Contrary to what some people think, sweeping a flue involves a lot more than simply ‘shoving a brush up the chimney’.
Yet year after year, many men (and it’s usually the men!) think they know best and plough on regardless. But here’s just a few reasons why you really should consider getting in a professional…
#1 – Sweeping Your Own Chimney May Void Your Home Insurance
More home insurance companies now are insisting on proof that your chimney has been swept by a suitably qualified or accredited professional. This usually involves them requiring a Certificate of Sweeping or paperwork to that effect. Always check your sweep will issue paperwork before you book.
#2 – You Could Damage The Chimney
Every chimney is, to some degree, is in a state of decay. Whether it’s a Victorian flue, or even a chimney liner which has been in for a couple of years, they can and do fail. But due to the concealed nature of chimneys, any damage you cause may not be noticeable until you start using the fire. This could lead a carbon monoxide leak or even potentially a chimney fire. Scary stuff…
#3 – You May Not Know How to ‘Read’ The Sootfall
Soot and debris comes in all shapes and sizes. Would you really know what you’re looking at and what is ‘normal’? Sweeping a flue and examining the sootfall gives me a lot of information about how the customer is burning. This in turn allows me to give them some valuable advice going forward, which could save them lots of money. A bit like a doctor looking at a scan, the professional knows what to look for and how to interpret the results. A layperson wouldn’t.
#4 – You’re Unlikely to Have the Right Equipment
Although there are several DIY sweep kits available on the market, some of them may be completely inappropriate for your installation. I wince at some of this kit, especially when it’s coupled with a ‘how to’ video on You Tube. A modern sweep will have a range of rods, heads and brushes in their armoury and this will mostly be chosen having initially inspected the flue. Nobody, not even a qualified sweep, can tell you what equipment you precisely need without inspecting your installation first. If that’s the case, they may as well go the whole hog and sweep the flue!
#5 – You May Not Clear Blockages Sufficiently
Some blockages can be stubborn. I know from my own experience with bird nests how you can easily think you’ve cleared a blockage, but when you double check there is still a lot of debris blocking the flue. This is particularly a risk if you try to use drill-powered chimney rods, not to mention potentially causing issues with the flue at the same time. Blockages are serious, as they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and chimney fires. Removal of nests and blockages must be left to a professional – your life and property could depend on it.
#6 – The Untrained Eye Can’t Spot Warning Signs
A liner that has been installed incorrectly. A masonry flue which is on its last legs. Burning habits which can seriously limit the lifespan of your stove. All these are issues which many professional sweeps see day in, day out. How many chimneys does a DIY enthusiast sweep? Err… maybe one or two perhaps? Certainly not as many as a professional sweep. And the experience of a pro sweep is something you, as a customer, can take advantage of, as they can save you time and money later on.
#7 – Advice on Burning Can Vary
As I’ve said in the past, telling someone what to burn without inspecting their installation is a bit like me giving advice to a person who has been a couch potato for five years on how to train for a marathon. You have to look at what is already in place and go from there. Burning practices can vary depending on the appliance, the flue, the geographical position of the flue in the property and also whether the property itself is in a Smoke Control Area. The Burnright campaign, which I co-founded, has some great general tips, but for bespoke advice you really need to book a professional.
#8 – It’s Potentially Messy Work
Some flues are filthy, to the point where even seasoned sweeps find them a struggle. Quite a few things go into determining whether you’ll make a mess, such as type of fuel used, how long ago it was last swept, design of flue, whether it has been swept recently, weather conditions, room ventilation and so on. It’s not a job for the faint hearted!
#9 – You May Get Your Brush and Rods Stuck
This is a reasonably common issue and goes back to whether you have the correct equipment AND use it in the most appropriate way. Trying to retrieve equipment from a flue is a whole world of pain and it’s not one you want to enter. Do you really want to have to make that embarrassing phone call to a sweep to ask them to retrieve your brush, when you know you should have just left it to them in the first place?
#10 – Hiring a Professional Costs Less than You Think!
It seems crazy to me that some people will spend hundreds on luxury items, but then balk at the idea of paying for something which will help keep them and their family safe. Prices vary around the UK but generally the cost of getting a professional sweep in once a year will cost you less than the price of a cup of coffee a WEEK. Even if you wanted the chimney swept, CCTV’d and tested for leaks, it would still cost less per month than a satellite TV subscription package.
So as you can see, there are a whole bunch of reasons why service and maintenance of your multi fuel stove, woodburner or open fire is best left to the professionals.
As a sweep, I know my own limits and pay for plumbers, electricians etc.
Because, even though I may be able to ‘have a go’ the old saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ rings very true…
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.