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Keeping your chimney safe

This article discusses what chimney safety entails and the best practices needed to maintain its structural integrity.

a guide to chimney maintenance


Chimney safety is an often overlooked aspect of home maintenance. Yet, its importance cannot be overstated. A well-maintained chimney ensures not only the efficient functioning of your heating system but also the safety of your household. This article looks into what chimney safety involves, its significance, and how you can ensure it.

What is Chimney Safety?

Chimney safety entails practices to maintain the structural integrity and functionality of chimneys. This includes regular inspections, cleaning, and necessary repairs. Safe chimneys must be obstruction-free, structurally sound, and have proper lining for safe smoke and toxic gas evacuation. Neglecting these practices can lead to chimney fires and gas leakages, making it crucial for homeowners to understand the basics of chimney anatomy and maintenance.

Why is Chimney Safety Important?

Neglecting chimney safety poses significant risks like chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Fires can escalate rapidly, causing property damage and endangering lives, while carbon monoxide poses serious health risks. Regular maintenance and safety checks minimise these risks, ensuring a safe and efficient heating environment.

National Statistics on Chimney Safety in the UK

Approximately 7,000 chimney fires occur annually in England, as per the National Fire Chiefs Council. These incidents, largely preventable, underline the urgent need for awareness and action in chimney maintenance. Pre-winter inspections and cleanings are crucial to prevent these occurrences.

How to Keep Your Chimney Safe

To ensure chimney safety, follow these steps:

Regular Inspections and Cleanings:

Have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year by a professional, especially before winter.
Cleaning frequency varies with fuel type:

  • Oil, Gas: Once a year
  • Wood: Up to four times a year
  • Smokeless Coals: At least once a year
  • Bituminous Coal: Twice a year

Identifying Common Causes of Chimney Fires:

Be aware of causes like infrequent sweeping, burning unseasoned wet wood, overnight burning, and improper appliance sizing.

Use of Seasoned Firewood:

Burn wood with a moisture content between 15 and 20 percent. Both overly dry and overly moist wood can cause issues, like uncontrollable fires or creosote buildup. Avoid resinous wood, like pinewood.

Safe Extinguishing Practices:

Properly extinguish fires before bedtime or leaving home. For open fires, spread out wood and embers, cover them with ash, and sprinkle sodium bicarbonate. For wood burners, shut off air vents, spread embers, and lightly spray water or sodium bicarbonate.

Correct Appliance Sizing:

Ensure your appliance size matches your room to prevent incomplete fuel burning and creosote accumulation.

Professional Services:

Use services certified by The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS) or other recognised bodies like HETAS for installations and maintenance, or The Association of Professional and Independent Chimney Sweeps (APICS).


Chimney safety is crucial for every household with a fireplace. By understanding the risks, acknowledging national statistics, and following these safety measures, homeowners can greatly reduce the potential dangers associated with chimneys.

Keeping your chimney clean is just one of the ways to prepare your home for winter. For information on other ways to get your home winter ready, read our article: Is your home ready for winter?

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