Santa’s coming so clean your chimney
Blocked chimneys can cause fires so put cleaning – DIY or professional – on the list
Blocked or poorly-maintained chimneys can also be a cause of carbon monoxide poisoning. Photograph: iStock
With Santa’s imminent arrival and cosy days by the fire looming, it’s a good time to check on your chimney. According to the National Safety Council (NSC) almost one in five house fires in Ireland begin in chimneys and it suggests annual chimney cleaning if using oil, gas or smokeless fuels; or at least twice a year if using coal. Blocked or poorly-maintained chimneys can also be a cause of carbon monoxide poisoning so it’s not a task to put on the long finger.
If you are attempting to DIY this messy chore, be sure to mask off the area surrounding the chimney with plastic sheeting and throw protective sheets over furniture to prevent soot damage. Likewise, wear a dust mask, gloves and appropriate clothing.
Traditionally the chimney flue needed to be cleaned from the rooftop downwards but there are kits available which allow for less treacherous cleaning from the bottom up.
The likes of Soot Eater (€84), Smart Sweep (€124.50) or the Tornado kit (€165) may be a good investment if you have a few chimneys to clean on a regular basis. They all work on a similar premise to mechanically remove deposits of soot and creosote from the flue. The kits contain various lengths of interconnecting, flexible rods, and different sized brush heads, which you attach to a domestic power drill, by way of an adaptor. Simply push the rods up the flue and the power of the drill will rotate the sweeping kit and clean the flue. Expect a lot of soot and residue to fall down during the process, possibly even a bird’s nest and leaves, so have bin bags and a pan and brush to hand. Alternatively, you can buy a non-mechanical kit such as the De Vielle Chimney Cleaning Kit for about €40 from hardware stores.
If this is not a job for you, call in the professionals. Each chimney takes about 30 minutes to fully clean and the task is typically done through just a small slit in a sheet that covers the fireplace, minimising mess and soot spreading. As well as removing blockages and built-up creosote from your chimney liner, firebox, smoke chamber and damper, most professionals can check if there are any other issues that need addressing such as loose bricks in the breast, old pointing, cracks to the flue, or repairs needed to the hearth. They can also refresh the black elements of the heart and fireplace so it looks extra welcoming for Santa.