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October 10, 2019

When and how to clean your chimney – our five top tips

Lighting a fire on a cold, wintry night is one of the greatest pleasures a home can offer. But you should be aware that with this luxury comes certain responsibilities, including regular maintenance of your chimney.

The risks of fire are real, as is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Chimney fires occur when creosote (a highly combustible residue) ignites. The resulting flames are hotter than those in your fireplace and sparks fly out of the chimney. This brings a huge risk of fire…

Follow our advice for peace of mind while you enjoy your winter blaze.

1. Clean the inside of the fireplace

Not all house fires and chimney fires are caused by poor chimney maintenance. Maintaining the fireplace or the wood-burner is also important, since a large amount of dust, ash and creosote can build up there. 

Regular cleaning from inside your home will not only make it look tidier, but above all will ensure more efficient combustion. When cleaning, beware of fine particles and protect your lungs with a dust mask.

2. Watch out for smoke

Smoke in the fireplace is a sign of poor combustion. And smoke in the chimney is a major warning sign. You should arrange to have your chimney cleaned as soon as possible.

The smoke may be due to damp wood, but it can also be caused by the accumulation of soot and creosote in the chimney or even by presence of objects preventing evacuation (debris or a bird’s nest). Pay attention to your chimney if you notice smoke and do not hesitate to have it checked by a chimney sweep.

3. Watch out for creosote

Creosote is a dark, hard, crusty, flammable substance that forms after incomplete combustion of wood. Wood which has not completely dried and/or is improperly stored usually produces more creosote that dry wood. Weaker fires will also produce more creosote. 

Excessive creosote deposits can cause a chimney fire. So if you notice a build-up in the entrance to the flue, quickly call a professional chimney sweep for a thorough cleaning.

4. Watch out for soot

Soot is another by-product of combustion that can be dangerous if not managed correctly. Unlike creosote, soot is more airborne and can spread over a larger area, making it more difficult to clean. 

We recommend cleaning soot deposits regularly, especially if they are more than three millimetres deep. A good cleaning once a year should suffice.

5. Is sweeping mandatory in Luxembourg?

In Luxembourg, owners and tenants of houses are required to have their chimneys checked and cleaned at regular intervals. 

However, there is no legally binding obligation as in Germany, where individuals must have a certificate issued by an approved chimney sweep. In Luxembourg, sweeping and its frequency depend are firstly down to the user’s sense of responsibility and, secondly, on the conditions imposed by the insurer for validation of home insurance. 

Failure to have your chimney swept can have negative consequences on the environment (loss of heat, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions) as well as increasing the risk of chimney fires and house fires. 

For the insurer, failure to clean a chimney that results in a fire may be grounds for not compensating the damage caused. 

Note to home owners, especially DIYers

Installing a wood-burner is a serious matter and you should hire a professional installer or a heating engineer. The professional will be sure to comply with the manufacturer’s instructions and follow safety instructions in Luxembourg, allowing you to enjoy a warm, efficient and safe home.

And don’t forget to place a carbon monoxide detector near the fireplace.

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