How Often Should You Clean Your Chimney?

Date: 8 June 2023

When it comes to fireplace maintenance, regular cleaning of the chimney can make the difference between an efficient fire and a potentially huge safety hazard.

Without regular cleaning, you could find your chimney blocked thanks to obstructions that may not first come to mind. A bird flying overhead may drop prey for example. It isn’t just obstructions though, the deposits left behind by the fire can also be just as problematic. Soot, tar, creosote, and much more can build up and result in a less effective fire. More concerning though, is that it results in a less efficient and less safe chimney. Unable to help draw the smoke out effectively enough, it instead fills the room putting occupants at risk.

Estimates indicate that there are approximately 7000 chimney fires a year in England alone with most being Preventable. Further enforcing the need for professional chimney cleaning.

How frequently you get it done though can vary on a few factors, namely which fuel you burn, how frequently you have been using the fire and the type of fire you have. The general rule though is that a chimney cleaning once or twice a year will be perfect to help keep your fire burning well, your room well-ventilated, and your household safe.

How often does a chimney need to be cleaned?

Ideally, your chimney should be cleaned by a professional chimney cleaner once to twice a year. This will prevent any excessive build-up but also ensure that each time a clean comes around, it is significantly easier to have done.

If you are having a new stove installed, a cleaning of the chimney should be done before you begin enjoying the new warmth it brings, likewise, if you are about to light the fire after a long time without using it, a cleaning of the chimney would be highly recommended before you start.

Typically the recommendations are that a wood-burning stove should have its chimney cleaned twice a year, however, if you use multi fuel stoves and choose not to burn wood in it,  you can have just one annual chimney sweeping. We must state that this does depend on how often you use it though.

How often should open fire chimneys be cleaned?

With open fires, the chimney cleaning regimen is a little different to that of wood-burning fires or stoves. If you use wood in your open fire, a once-a-year clean should be more than sufficient. If you choose to burn coal though, you will be looking at two services per year to keep the fire performing at its best.

Ultimately though, no matter whether it is an open fire or a stove, wood or coal, you should factor in how often you use it.  Regular 24/7 use will see a lot faster build-up of debris within the chimney and could result in the need for more frequent cleaning regardless of the fuel used. Sometimes though you may not be able to tell it is due a clean. Luckily there are some pointers that can indicate your chimney needs its next sweeping.

Do I need to clean the chimney of a gas fire?

You would be surprised that even though it is burning a different fuel source, there is still a degree of cleaning to gas fireplace chimneys. You should still look to book someone in to carry out the cleaning. Follow the guidance we show in the section below to give you an idea of if cleaning is necessary.

Any gas stove should have annual maintenance, and this should include checking that the flues are not blocked. A blocked flue could lead to carbon monoxide flowing into the house rather than out of it.

How do I know if my chimney needs cleaning?

By sticking to a regular schedule, you are unlikely to need additional cleaning carried out on your chimney but sometimes, increased use and other factors can mean you need to book an additional service. If you notice any of the following, it could mean you are due another chimney sweeping.

  • Smoke is blown back into the room
  • Your fire doesn’t burn the same as normal
  • Soot or debris regularly falls into the fire or stove
  • Tar appears around the flue or damper
  • An unpleasant smell is present even without the fire being lit
  • You can hear scratching within the chimney or birds are constantly above it

These are key indicators that a chimney sweeping is necessary but should you be unsure you can also check yourself for anything that may be untoward. Whilst a sweep should only be carried out by a professional, you can look up the chimney to see if any problems are evident. Apply goggles and a mask to your face, perhaps even wear some gloves and get a torch, shine it up the inside of the firebox.  There will likely be some build-up that you can scratch away. If it is almost an inch thick then it is best not to use your stove or fireplace until you have booked in a chimney cleaning.

What happens if you don’t get your chimney cleaned?

Earlier on we covered the potential risks a dirty chimney can bring but should you have missed them we will cover them again. If you don’t get your chimney cleaned, you are putting yourself and others in your household at significant risk. Carbon Monoxide poisoning is potentially life-threatening and can often go undetected.  Furthermore, the build-up of soot, creosote and tar can block the chimney and end up igniting from the heat expelled by the fire.

On top of these two issues, you could also see that a large maintenance bill could be forthcoming without regular cleaning of the chimney. Chimneys can crack if not looked after correctly which can then lead to a rapid spread of dampness through the property. Damp can be an invisible problem to start with but a very visible one once it is too late!

A clean chimney is just part of the way you can keep a fireplace safe. We have compiled a selection of wood burning stove safety tips that can also be extremely beneficial.

When should I get a chimney cleaned?

If your fire or stove is about to be installed, a chimney cleaning should take place before you use the fire. Likewise, if winter or the colder weather is approaching in autumn, book in a chimney sweeping before lighting the fire for the first time in a long time. Birds are known to use chimneys as a safe place for nesting and may have been using your chimney as a home for some time.

In short. Any time your fire is out of use for extended periods, book a chimney cleaning before you start using the fire again.

Our team at Ignition Fires have many years of experience in providing, delivering, installing, and servicing fires and stoves across the Southeast of England. Leading stove fireplace suppliers as well as experts with modern gas fireplaces, our team can help you find the exact fire that suits your needs. Why not visit us in our Cranleigh fireplace showroom to see our exciting collection or get in touch to see how we can get your next chimney clean booked and completed.