All the things you need to do before you light your open fire this coming autumn

  • 05/09/2018
All the things you need to do before you light your open fire this coming autumn
There is nothing more welcoming on a cold winter's day than the warmth of an open fire.

Dancing flames, whether in an open grate or behind glass, are a sure-fire way of bringing atmosphere into any room in your home.

As we head into Autumn and the nights begin to draw in, perhaps your thoughts have already turned to lighting the fire.

But have you stopped to consider what you should do to make sure you and your family stay safe this winter?

The latest figures from the National Association of Chimney Sweeps show there are around 30,000 chimney fires every year in the UK.

Most of these were due to an unswept flue and while the majority were extinguished quickly by rapid responses from fire brigades, homeowners ignoring their chimneys run the risk of invalidating their house insurance.

In 2012, Axa Insurance surveyed homeowners to find out how many of them understood exactly what their homes were covered for.

A worrying number believed they were able to make a claim for property damage even if the cause was due to a lack of maintenance.

And 58% of homeowners thought they could claim for fire damage if the cause was an unswept chimney.

But this is not true, with many insurance providers not paying out if it is proven that the chimney was not sufficiently maintained.

Even so, open fires and wood burners are a great way to keep your house warm this winter .

It is easy to forget about arranging an annual chimney sweep when you only light the fire for a few weeks in the year.

But neglecting to have the chimney cleaned can leave you open to some serious risks.

Chimney fires start due to deposits of tar or soot igniting due to high temperatures or flames extending up into the flue. They are one of the most dangerous types of house fires, because temperatures inside the chimney can reach up to 1,100 degrees Celsius in a very short time.

At such high temperatures, heat can radiate out from the chimney through all the floors of your house and can cause combustion to roof joints, furniture, and beams.

Fire can also extend due to flames leaping out from the top of the chimney or through cracks in a flue that has not been inspected and maintained regularly.

If you do have an open fire or log burner in your home, make sure you have informed your insurer.

Some will insist on an annual chimney sweep by a professional. Following a chimney fire some insurers will ask for the certificate of annual cleaning to be produced.

Unless this can be produced, loss or damage by fire arising from the chimney could be excluded.

Insurance company Legal & General states in its policy documents: "If you have an open fire, you will need to have your chimney swept once a year so soot does not build up and cause a fire or brickwork damage".

Equally, councils have been known to charge residents of a property if it is proven that a fire was caused by an unswept chimney. The fee for this might be as much as 2,000.

You can reduce the risk of a chimney fire by burning the correct type of fuel.

Freshly-cut wood may contain as much as 100% moisture, which means the water in the wood weighs more than the wood.

Firewood should have 17% moisture or less.

Wet wood produces more smoke than dry wood, which releases more pollutants and small particles into the air. Burning unseasoned wood also increases the risk of fire as it can lead to creosote build-up in the chimney, which may create a fire hazard.

You should also choose the correct size appliance for your room. One which is too large will never burn all of the fuel contained in the wood. This unburned fuel will pass up the chimney as smoke and condense as extremely flammable creosote.

If you have a wood burner, always follow the manufacturer's recommendations on fuel loading and air flow.

The frequency of chimney sweeping will depend on a number of factors which include the type of fuel used, appliance, duration of use, moisture content of wood fuel, and the type of chimney you have.

The National Association of Chimney Sweeps recommends the following sweeping frequencies:

Before you settle down in front of your fire for a cosy night in, you should also make sure your fire has a fireguard.

Sparks can easily fly from your fireplace and quickly result in a fire or at the very least damage to your carpets or flooring.

And always make sure the fire has died down before you head to bed.
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