chimney liner

Day 3: Chimney Fire Safety Week – Fuel!

At Wilkins Chimney Sweep, we often find ourselves having to guide customers in the safe use of their chimneys – and fuel is the key ingredient of that discussion. Burning the right fuel could save you money and prevent the build-up of creosote (tar) on your chimney lining. Ultimately it could prevent a chimney fire…

This blog would be about a mile long (and just a tad tedious!) if we gave you the full story about fuels so we’ve decided that it’s best to simply point you in the right direction of where you can find full details. The following are the best links we know that should guide you on fuel:


Whilst some appliances, such as open fires, can burn a variety of fuels, many are more limited.  Please check with a ‘qualified’ person or the instruction book of your particular appliance if in doubt.


The Solid Fuel Association – not just a cute logo – is the official body representing the solid fuel industry in the UK. Fuels include coal, smokeless fuels, Anthracite and wood (including pellets and chips). It’s a really good place to start.



For all oil-fired appliances, OFTEC are a good place to start. If you’re burning oil you will still need the services of a chimney sweep to keep your flue clear if your regular servicing engineer doesn’t do this work. 


Proprietary brands of manufactured logs are available made from either wax and wood bi-products or fully natural made from straw etc.  These produce similar or slightly more heat than burning logs.  They are easy to light and store, due to their uniform shape.  They also produce less soot and ash and can be more environmentally friendly depending on the type used.



Wood is, of course, covered in the ‘Solid Fuel’ category but is such a significant part of the burning ‘challenge’ that we think some pointers are valuable.

The ‘Ready to Burn’ campaign by WOODSURE is a great place to start – and the Ready to Burn logo is an excellent guide for those who buy wood in small quantities for almost immediate use.[/ezcol_4fifth_end]

For kindling, use small pieces of ‘hard or ‘soft’ wood to assist in starting the fire. Birch bark is extremely flammable even when wet; it makes an excellent fire starter if you have lots lying around.

For those who are able to buy wood in bulk  and have room to season it themselves we have put together the TOP 3 woods to burn…and 3 to avoid for burning – although we do recommend roasting the fruit of the chestnut tree: it’s what open fires were made for! Remember however: Always buy the best you can, or ensure that you ‘season’ (the drying process) the wood.

TOP 3:








And finally, there’s a great little poem to guide you:


Beech wood fires are bright and clear

If the logs are kept a year.

Chestnut’s only good, they say,

If for long it’s laid away.

Birch and fir logs burn too fast,

Blaze up bright and do not last.

It is by the Irish said,

Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.

Elm wood burns like a churchyard mould,

E’en the very flames are cold.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,

Fills your eyes and makes you choke.

Apple wood will scent your room

With an incense like perfume.

Oak and maple, if dry and old,

Keep away the winter cold.

But Ash wood wet or Ash wood dry,

A king shall warm his slippers by.

Safe burning to everyone!

Louise Harris

Franchise Director, Wilkins Chimney Sweep


Stove liner collapse – burning the wrong fuel

Woodburners and multi-fuel stoves are fantastic. They look good, they’re cleaner and their warmth output is greater than open fires. But…and you knew there was one coming…they can be trouble if you aren’t careful.

Simply put, there is typically a steel liner installed from your stove up your chimney to take away the smoke. And this often catches out new owners of stoves. The problem is that stainless steel doesn’t last forever – and is quickly corroded if you burn wood and coal or smokeless fuel together – even in a multi-fuel stove.

This liner was installed in 2011 and gave up after 5 years. Whilst there is definitely a warranty on most of these flues, there is also a protocol regarding what to burn. Multi-fuel stoves –designed to burn both coal and wood – should only burn one or the other. Combinations of fuel can lead to production of a mild acid that can destroy stainless steel.

Using a reputable HETAS installer, following the instructions regarding the stove use and having the flue regularly swept will help but burning the correct fuel and not mixing fuels is essential – and not something that is widely known.

Unfortunately this customer will have to have her flue replaced and will undoubtedly feel despondent at having to make a further investment. It is the second one this month that our team have been called to sweep and it doesn’t make for good news.

Keep safe this winter – book a sweep now so you’re ready for the cooler season and, if problems occur you have time to resolve them!

For more information on this HETAS is a good place to start…there are some excellent booklets available that are free to download: HETAS


Steel liner collapse

Steel liner collapse

Steel Liner corrosion


Chimney Fire’s on the increase…we can help!

It is frustrating for any chimney sweep to read that chimney fires are on the increase – but sadly we possibly could have predicted that there would be a similar headline sometime soon. And now it has happened. We can only report our direct experience but there are a number of customers who we have swept for a number of times in the past when they had an open fire. After having a woodburner fitted they have advised that they won’t need the chimney swept now because they have had a liner installed. Of course, there may be times when an installer fails to make things clear, but the truth of the matter is that some people appear to believe that this is a way to save money. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fire service recommend more frequent sweeping due to the narrowness of lined flues – and woodburners do need a little more attention in respect of the burning temperature. ‘Idling’ a woodburner can result in tar/creosote build up that is difficult to remove and can also damage the liner if it catches fire – prevention is best as there may be no cure.

We know, too, that a number of people believe that chimney sweeping must be on the wane – a dying craft – when nothing could be further from the truth. The need for our services is more relevant than ever (and from a business established in 1895 we think we might know a think or too about that…) and we pride ourselves on helping new and experienced users of fires, multifuel and woodburning stoves, as well as AGA, Rayburn and the more recent biomass boilers, to follow best practice.

We believe that having your woodburner chimney swept mid-burning season will help you to check that what you’re burning and the temperature you’re burning at is not causing problems. A good chimney sweep will advise you on the use of your stove, guide you on what to burn and the quality of your wood supply plus tell you if the mid-season sweep is critical or you seem to be handling things well…this will give you peace of mind!

It’s been a mild winter so far and many people have used their fires to take the chill off and not use their heating. The annual sweep (minimum advised by the fire service and many home insurance companies) is still important and can help to keep you safe by preventing or limiting the chances of a chimney fire.

So give your chimney sweep a call – we can help!

(P.S. Chimney fire statistics are poorly reported and it’s difficult to gain an accurate picture – the most current figures available are 2013/14 when 7,700 chimney fires were reported. To add to the problem of these statistic, if a house is burned down as a result of a chimney fire, the figure is not recorded as a chimney fire but as a house fire – it is possible that there is more data missing.)


Compelling reason to use a professional chimney sweep!

We all know that cheap isn’t always best – but sometimes cheap becomes the most expensive – and this is one reason why…

John Baldacchino of Wilkins Chimney Sweep (West Cheshire) recently attended a customer’s property at their request to retrieve sweeping equipment that a ‘competitor’ sweep had got stuck in the flue. After an initially CCTV survey – see here CCTV Footage  – it was evident that the sweep had damaged the connection between the flue liner and the log burner’s flue pipe. The sweep claimed it was an illegal installation which resulted in his brush getting stuck. John was able to remove the brush and rod and provided the owners with the CCTV footage to enable the customer to take matters further with the original sweep. The brush and rod had both seen better days – the brush was DIY quality.

We like to share our professional qualifications with everyone – we shout about them whenever we can. We feel they are hard won and well earned. Everyone in the Wilkins Chimney Sweep team has been extensively trained and we are proud of our achievements.Our training means we know what we’re doing! Our professional association (APICS) provides a list of kit that is required and specifies standards where required. Wilkins Chimney Sweeps are assessed annually by head office and are checked on their kit standards which have to be maintained to a high level of quality. We’re proud of that.

It does mean we may not be the cheapest sweeps in town – but we do the right thing by our customers to help prevent incidents like this…

Chimney Lining Horror Story

Many householders living in older properties who are having a woodburner installed sensibly have their chimney’s lined. However, there are people who do not install these correctly! All new installations must be signed off by the local council building control officer or installed by a HETAS Approved Installer. Sadly there are some real rogues out there when it comes to people lining chimneys and one of our customer’s this week has been a victim of this. We swept a chimney with a liner and whilst doing so the customer advised us that she had had a bird down the chimney. On inspecting the pot from the ground a rusted piece of chicken wire was seen and we were asked to replace this with a stainless steel mesh birdguard.

Working with Ben Hughes of Ben Hughes Chimneys, from the ladder, he looked into the pot and observed that the birds had built a nest between the liner and the brick chimney. This space should have either been filled with insulation material or sealed to prevent this from happening. (Apologies for the photograph quality but we hope it gives you an idea.)

We are now obliged to wait until early July when Ben can remove the liner because there is a live Jackdaw chick at home. We will then sweep and remove the nest debris and the customer will have the liner reinstalled (assuming there was no damage to the liner when it was installed) and we will make sure it is secured correctly to prevent this happening again. 

Gap between the chimney and the liner where the nest has been built.

Gap between the chimney and the liner where the nest has been built.

Jackdaw chick in nest between pot and liner.

Jackdaw chick in nest between pot and liner.

Sadly, of course, the ‘victim’ of this scam is an elderly lady, living alone, who can’t find the paperwork from the original installer and, in any case, is nervous to take any action primarily as she doesn’t wish to have him back in the house.

Our plea to the British public – please think carefully before you have this type of work done. We recommend that you use a HETAS Approved Installer who will issue you with a certificate of installation. Keep all your receipts just in case there is a problem. HETAS want to hear of any HETAS Approved Installers who don’t come up to standard and will help you resolve these issues. Please be safe!

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Wilkins Chimney Sweep