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We were chimney sweeping in Brockley this week. This included some lovely houses with beautiful fireplaces. One house in particular had some original, early victorian cast iron, hooped inserts with very grand marble surrounds and mantle pieces.
This reminded me of a sealed up fireplace I opened not long ago in Dunstans Road SE22, which when opened up, revealed the smashed up remains of the original marble surround and mantle. Of course this must have been done in the 1960’/70’s when the fashion was for was for smooth, clean lines and original Victorian features were considered very old fashioned.
Looking back, we can only be shocked that this was done. But I wonder what it is that we are doing now, that we will be looking back on with equal horror in 40 years time?
Well, the Christmas rush was absolutely manic! The phone was ringing off the hook with people desperate to have their chimneys swept in time for Christmas – of course we worked to the max to try and fit everyone in. We were whizzing around much of South and East London, sweeping chimneys in some amazing homes!
January is also a fairly busy month, of course it starts with all those whose chimneys couldn’t be fitted in before Christmas, but also those who are prompted by the cold weather and the exorbitant cost of gas and electricity to fire up their open fires and stoves.
One question we get asked time and time again is ‘how often should I get my chimney swept?’. The quick answer to this is at least once a year. Most insurance companies stipulate this as a condition of paying out in the case of a chimney fire. This is from the Legal and General Policy Booklet:
This would also apply to both lined and unlined stoves.
One issue that we see time and time again and causes us the most worry in terms of potential danger is that inset or free standing gas fires are often connected to flues that haven’t been swept for years. Often the reason we are called out is because the amount of debris that has fallen down the chimney has resulted in the fire stopping working or being condemned by a gas engineer.
It seems to be a common misconception that gas fires do not produce any smoke or soot and therefore the chimney never needs cleaning. In fact, gas fires dry out the flue and this results in the lining slowly degrading and producing a substantial amount of cement dust. We would recommend that gas fires are also included in the ‘sweep once a year’ rule.
This seems to be the season for the unlikely phenomenon of birds falling down chimneys! In the last week we have had 2 occurrences of this happening. Two very large and very cross crows had managed to get all the way down the chimney and then sat on the ledge behind the fireplace. These we managed to get out and release relatively unscathed – the birds that is! The poor residents had quite some cleaning up to do, birds coming down chimneys certainly make quite a cloud of soot!
Traditionally, the summer is a quiet time for chimney sweeps. But this summer has certainly seen a steady stream of business heading our way as more and more people decide to open up their fireplaces – either as part of general renovations, to give their homes more character or to install a wood burning stove. We have worked in some amazing places too – we swept 7 chimneys in a house once lived in by Admiral Nelson. This was right on the river front in Poplar, E14, with fantastic views across the river to Greenwich. We also swept a couple of chimneys in this converted old school house in Battersea SW11, again great views across South London! Of course most work is still in our base area around Nunhead, Dulwich, Herne Hill, Peckham and West Norwood, but we have been happy to go further afield when we are able.