Essential Tips For Safely Maintaining Your Brick Chimney
Updated: Oct 17
Brick chimneys and fireplaces make a timeless addition to any home, keeping you warm whilst creating a stylish and social focal point in your room. But chimneys do require a certain degree of maintenance to ensure they are functional and safe to use at all times.
Lighting a fire regularly can cause build-up in your chimney that needs to be cleaned. Conversely, a long period of disuse may mean that faults in your chimney and its lining go unnoticed, which can be equally hazardous.
Whether you’re installing a new fireplace into your home, or are looking to maintain your current hearth system, it is vital to stay up to date with the latest safety and care advice. Read on for a comprehensive guide to chimney care and maintenance.
Types Of Chimney
It is necessary to understand what kind of chimney system you have so you know what type of care it needs. This will also help you to be more specific when enlisting a professional cleaner or pricing for repairs.
The main chimney types include:
Single-Walled Metal - this chimney type consists of a thin metal pipe, often found in older homes
Masonry - this is the regular brick chimney type, available in a variety of designs and usually fitted with a lining
Prefabricated Metal - this chimney variation provides an alternative to brick and is typically fitted alongside a prefabricated fireplace system
Types Of Brick Bonding
If you have a masonry style chimney built from brick, then it will consist of one of the major brick bonding types used for this kind of construction. Understanding your brick bonding will help you to anticipate breakages and accurately cost repairs.
Common brick bonding patterns used for fireplaces include a running bond, Flemish bond, English bond or stack bond. The English bond is generally considered to be the strongest, consisting of alternating layers of different brick sizes.
Top Chimney Maintenance Methods
There are a number of checks and methods you can carry out to ensure your chimney stays safe and fully functional. All of these checks can be completed by a qualified chimney sweep, who will be trained in fire and chimney maintenance.
Peruse this list to understand everything you can do as a chimney owner.
1. Carry Out A Flue Check
A flue is the passage which conveys gases, smoke and other debris from your fire appliance to the outdoors. This can be in the form of a pipe, vent or chimney.
If you find your room is filling with excess smoke, or your fire is not lighting properly, then it may be time to get your flue checked.
A professional chimney sweep will conduct a Chimney Integrity Pressure Test to ensure that your flue has sufficient integrity to work safely. This method puts pressure on the area and measures the leakage output.
2. Install A Chimney Liner
Chimney liners prevent the heat rising from the fire too quickly, and so maintain a safe fire size and intensity. Different liner materials are suitable for different kinds of chimney, where you can choose from clay, metal or cement units.
It is also important to consider the size of your liner, where a properly fitting product will ensure you are fully protected and that potentially dangerous materials can exit your home swiftly.
3. Book An Annual Check
Prevention methods are vital when it comes to fire safety. As such, you should book an annual inspection with your chimney sweep to ensure everything is working properly. It is always best to book a check before the winter starts, or before you begin regular usage of your fireplace.
It is also important to look out for signs that there is an issue with your chimney, meaning you should bring forward your annual inspection. Unfamiliar smells, excess soot or excessive smoke are all signs that you need to check your chimney immediately.
4. Clean Your Hearth
The hearth is the base or floor of your fireplace where ash and debris collect after you light a fire. Ash, soot and unburned materials collect in a hearth over time, creating a serious hazard if left unattended.
A neglected hearth also creates an eyesore in your home, where ash and smoke can stain a granite or stone fireplace, making it hard to clean after a long period of time. This debris can also spread in the air throughout your home, reducing air quality and potentially resulting in health concerns.
5. Install A Chimney Cap
A chimney cap fits at the top exterior of your chimney, and they are available in a range of materials and designs. They work in a variety of ways to improve your fire and chimney efficiency and safety.
A cap will reduce heating costs by preventing downdrafts and gusts that may enter your home through the chimney. They help prevent fires by stopping sparks escaping from the top of the chimney. Caps are also essential in rainy weather to prevent water damage to your chimney interior.
6. Build Your Fire Correctly
Knowing how to correctly build a fire will protect your chimney in the long run, reducing excess smoke and ash deposits which may damage the lining. The key to correctly building a fire in a wood-burning fireplace is to layer materials. Start with firewood at the base and add a layer of crumpled newspaper as tinder between the logs. Small pieces of kindling should be added on top of this.
It is important to allow room for air to circulate around the logs so that the fire can receive enough oxygen to burn. Only add more materials when the fire shows signs of reducing. Adding too many heavy or damp materials will quickly extinguish a flame.
Additional Safety Precautions
Having an indoor fireplace naturally increases your exposure to a variety of dangers. Keep track of these by fitting a reliable fire alarm system throughout your home, completing regular tests to keep track of battery life.
It is also necessary to fit a carbon monoxide detector if you have an indoor fire system, where the incomplete burning of wood or coal can release this harmful gas into your room.
Never leave your lit fireplace unattended. Additionally, if your home is shared with young children or animals, then investing in a secure fire gate will add an extra layer of protection to your fireplace area.
Ensure you are using dry, well-aged and chemical-free burning materials when building your fire to prevent the release of harmful fumes or excess smoke.
Keeping a fire extinguisher or blanket to hand in your home is a further way to guarantee your fire safety.
Shropshire Brick & Stone Ltd
At Shropshire Brick & Stone, we can meet all your brick chimney needs and so much more. We specialise in providing architectural cast stone products and other high quality construction materials.
Cast stone is a refined building concrete utilised in masonry projects, where its texture and durability emulates natural cut stone, whilst providing a more durable and cost efficient option.
Our products and services are suitable for large scale construction projects or more focussed domestic needs.
Across all of our projects we pride ourselves on delivering excellent and bespoke customer service, where we listen to your needs and meet them with professionalism. Our original designs and architectural plans are consistent and high quality, always made from the best materials and finished to an unbeatable standard.
We supply locally, throughout the UK and internationally.
Brick Cutting & Bonding Services
Our team of brick cutting and bonding experts are here to meet your needs, where we are equipped to handle a wide variety of projects and architectural challenges. We can supply and fit prefabricated brick arches and panels, or build premium masonry chimneys for your home.
Cast Stone Products
We also supply and deliver a range of premium cast stone products. These include window cills and heads, copings, pier caps, porticos and post stone. Depending on your needs we can also offer a variety of colour options, as well as additional decorative detailing for your fireplace.
If you would like more information about what we offer, then contact us today and we’ll be happy to advise.