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How often should I clean my chimney?

There are specific recommendations for minimum intervals between cleaning chimneys. These will vary depending on the amount of use and the type of fuel used, but generally they are:

  • Smokeless Fuels – At least once a year
  • Coal – At least twice a year
  • Wood – Quarterly during use
  • Oil – Once a year
  • Gas – Once a year

How can I recognise problems with my chimney?

Symptom Possible Cause
Fireplace with large opening smokes all the time
  • Opening too large for flue size.
  • Incorrect terminal.
  • Partially blocked flue.
  • Flue too large.
Fireplace with standard (small) fire opening smokes all the time
  • Flue to large.
  • Flue to small.
  • Badly formed throat.
  • Incorrect terminal.
  • Partially blocked flue.
Fire only smokes with doors and windows closed
  • Lack of room ventilation
Fire smokes continuously in certain wind directions
Fire puffs occasionally in certain wind directions
  • Chimney in downdraught situation.
  • Anti down draught cowl required.
Fire (woodstove) worked well for a time, smoking gradually got worse.
  • Flue partially blocked with soot/tar build up.
  • Sweep required.
Fire suddenly started smoking (after the chimney was swept)
  • Flue partially blocked by mortar/mid-feather brick collapse.
Smoking Chimneys (Down Draught and Pressure Zone) problems



  • In this position, the wind is blowing over a tall tree, or it could be a hill, or say, a block of flats, it descends onto the chimney top, causing smoke or fumes to puff into the room from time to time. For downdraught problems, certain types of chimney cowls and pots can help reduce the problem.

Pressure Zone

Pressure area

  • In this situation the chimney is sited in the line of the prevailing wind, with the house roof, or it could be a tall building, behind the chimney terminal. This can cause puffing or even a continuous smoke spillage when the wind is blowing.
  • Pressure zone problems can be more difficult to solve. The simplest way would be to raise the chimney until it is above the pressure zone (though not always practical) This can be done with a tall chimney pot. (Chimney pots are made up to (5′) tall).
  • On the other hand, if the chimney is much too low, you could raise the stack by 2 to 3 feet and add a tall pot.
  • You could try opening a small window on the windward side of the house, if this helps then fit a permanent air vent. Doing this helps to equalize the pressure at the top and bottom of the chimney.
  • If all else fails, then an electric chimney fan may be the only solution.

What advice do you have for fire safety?

Always seek expert advice before reactivating or using an open fire. Visit our fire safety guidelines for a brief overview and tips for enjoying your open fire.

What is the best way to light my fire?

Before lighting your first roaring fire of the year you may need to pre-warm the chimney so that it will work properly. Follow this quick guide on making a fire.


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