Chimneys, liners and their problems - The arrival of the modern chimney!

Chimneys, liners and their problems – Part 6

Part 6.  The arrival of the modern chimney, and no, it isn’t all good news. This is a continuation of the article dealing with the chimneys and liners of previous eras.  Starting with the inglenook and the Georgian chimney we have dealt at length with the problems of the Victorian chimneys, because they are many and serious.  As always, should you be concerned that your chimney may be displaying any of these anti-social habits, the best person to discuss it with is your certified chimney sweep.  He will have a good grounding in the subject and is best placed to advise you. The 60s.  Peace, love, flowers and a legacy of bad design.  The concept of the modern house, disconnected from the old fashioned fire meant that they forgot the important lessons of chimney design bequeathed to them by the Victorians. All kidding aside, there was a gap after the banning of the Victorian-style chimneys in 1965 in which the concept of the open fire burning solid fuel was relegated to the past while electricity, gas and oil would provide a modern, sophisticated way of heating the house. Of course it didn’t work out like that and before too long … Continue reading

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Chimney liners and their problems – Acid Attack!

Part 5.  The internal consequences of acid attack. This is a continuation of the article on chimney liners and their problems, stretching from the inglenook to the modern chimneys and the retrofit liners we have at our disposal today. This part focusses on the internal damages from acid attack to the cement mortar.  Remember, if you think your chimney may be suffering from these problems, and you wish to discuss it with someone, your certified chimney sweep is the best person to advise you, as his entire business life revolves around chimneys, their problems and their cures. As explained earlier, the acid in the flue gases attacks the cement.  This causes the individual cement grains to puff up and expand, which disrupts the texture of the cement causing it to lose all strength and expand.  This causes the original mortar to expand and fall off, sometimes in quite large lumps exposing the mortar between the bricks which then crumbles and expands.  This can get so bad that breaches are made between two flues, allowing flue gases to flow through into unused flues where they can fall down into the living space. Also, when the acids attack the cement they cause … Continue reading

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Common problems with Victorian chimneys

Part 4.  The consequences of the Victorian chimneys. In the previous parts of this article we dealt with the older types of chimneys and their liners and the problems they caused.  While the inglenooks and the Georgian styles of construction are still remarkably trouble free, even today, the same cannot be said for the Victorian chimneys.  This was down to their use of cement instead of the lime putty favoured by the Georgians, and its vulnerability to acid attack.  Having explained the chemistry behind the problem we would now like to show how this has devastated so many chimneys. One point.  Many people on reading this will recognise that their chimneys do suffer from one or more of the problems listed in these articles, and will want to know just how badly their chimney is affected and what they should do about it.  The best thing to do is to call in a certified chimney sweep.  Get him to sweep the flue and ask him to advise you.  Certified chimney sweeps aren’t just good chimney sweeps, they also have an excellent knowledge base, so make sure you tap into that. At first glance, acid attack seems no biggie.  So the … Continue reading

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Chimneys and their liners – The Victorian Era

Part 3.  Chimneys and their liners – The Victorian catastrophe This is the third episode in our article on chimneys and their liners.  The first and second dealt with the older inglenooks and the Georgian style chimneys, and we touched on the Victorians and their basic points.  In this article (and possibly the next) we will look at what it was that the Victorians did that caused so many problems for the modern day owner of their houses in terms of their chimneys and their liners.  Remember that in the context of chimneys, Victorian refers to the method of construction which was finally outlawed in 1965, which shows just how long it took for a bad idea to die. The other point I always make is that you should always use a certified chimney sweep.  Such a chimney sweep will not just be good at his job, he will also have an excellent knowledge base, so if you are heir to any of the problems we illustrate here you can discuss it with him. So, enough waiting.  What was it that the Victorians did with the chimneys and their liners that really set the rot into all the chimneys they … Continue reading

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The chimney starts to evolve – Georgian chimneys

Chimney Lining – A seven part look into the history of chimney lining Part 2.  The chimney starts to evolve – Georgian chimneys and Victorian Chimneys This is a series of articles on chimneys, with specific reference to the chimney lining and liners.  In the first we dealt with the older style chimneys, usually referred to as inglenooks.  In this one we move onto the next major step, the Georgian chimney. One piece of advice we gave that bears repeating is to make sure you use a certified chimney sweep.  Such chimney sweeps have had to demonstrate competence to a nationally recognised standard, they issue certificates, (which is important for insurance purposes) and most relevant to these articles they have the sort of knowledge base that allows them to give you good advice should you recognise any of the problems we highlight. The Georgian chimney represents a move away from the older claybat constructions, where the bulk of the chimney was constructed from clay blocks held together with a clay mortar. Instead, these Georgian chimneys are entirely constructed in brick, with a lime putty mortar that is remarkably acid resistant.  Flue gasses are incredibly acidic, and more modern chimneys were … Continue reading

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Chimney Lining – A seven part look into the history of chimney lining

Chimney Lining Chimney lining. Now there’s a subject to thrill you to the core. Who has not wondered at the mysteries and excitement lurking in the heart of their chimneys? Well wonder no more as we bring you a glittering exposé of all things to do with chimney liners and chimney lining. Persons of a nervous disposition, or small children should be accompanied by a responsible adult as we step back through time, as a chronological approach makes sense. Kidding aside, if this article causes concerns in your mind, and you recognise some of the problems mentioned, get a chimney sweep in, and do make sure he is a certified chimney sweep. He will be best placed to advise you. Part one. The good old days… First up are the large old chimneys, often known as inglenooks. They are often made with claybat an East Anglian expression for mud. Or clay. This was made into large blocks, with the odd inclusion, and held together with more clay as mortar. Least you mock and deride this, I would point out that I had the job once of demolishing a small building made of this, and it was a very difficult job … Continue reading

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Why it is that Santa comes down the chimney?

Why it is that Santa comes down the chimney?   So, as you sit there at Christmas, have you ever wondered why it is that Santa comes down the chimney?  After all, the roof is hardly the best place to park a sleigh and assorted reindeer, and the narrow flues we have these days are hardly what you would call good access, when you think about it.  Let’s not even think about the issues brought up by Health and Safety! Santa himself is a complex character, the result of the fusion of many myths.  He can be seen all the way back in Tudor times as the spirit or embodiment of Christmas cheer.  It is said that Christmas used to be the time at the middle of winter when you were able to look at your food supplies, and tell if you had enough to see you through, and if so a celebration was in order.  There are Germanic and Norse elements too, where the image of Odin, bearded and distributing gifts contributes much to our modern perception. He wasn’t always dressed in red.  The image was often in green, an homage to the old gods, to the spirits of the … Continue reading

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Christmas Chimney Superstitions and Chimney Traditions

Christmas Chimney Superstitions and Chimney Traditions Christmas is awash with Christmas Chimney superstitions and chimney traditions, which is hardly surprising, as it stands at a pivotal point of the year and when the shortest day of the year arrives. Traditions change.  What was the Yule log, that huge log which was kindled with the remnants of the previous Yule log, and was laid across the floor with the thick end in the fire, to be pushed further in as it burned over the 12 days, is now a piece of confectionary still shaped like the log, but now chocolate based.  Maybe not a chimney tradition, but it is a lot tastier, The tree is a more modern invention and is culled from the Germans.  It was supposedly brought to this country by Prince Albert, and was greeted with open arms, clearly, as it is popular to this day.  The type of tree is slowly changing as people like to have more than a couple of needles left on it after Christmas day.  I remember in my youth, if anyone so much as sneezed near the tree, it would shed needles like a mad thing.  Nowadays, the flat needle trees are preferred … Continue reading

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What to burn at Christmas – avoiding a chimney fire!

What and what not to burn at Christmas – avoiding a chimney fire! OK, so Christmas is nearly here.  Soon it will be time to close down for midwinter and put your feet up in front of the fire.  So, in the interest of making good and sure that your Christmas will be as safe and sound as possible, here’s a couple of tips and hints to ensure that it is as free from problems as possible. First and foremost, is your chimney ready for Christmas?  Is it clean and safe?  Not such a silly question.  If you haven’t had the chimney swept yet, then get it done as soon as possible as the Fire and Rescue Service do recommend you get it swept at least once a year.  The last thing you want is a Christmas Eve chimney fire with all the sweeps gone home for their Christmas break.  Do make sure that you get a certified chimney sweep.  He will issue you a certificate, and be sure and keep it with your insurance documents. So there you go.  Your chimney is spick and span, your fuel is properly stored (see our article on the subject) and you are … Continue reading

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How to store your fuel. What to do, what not to do and why

How to store your fuel… Fuel storage.  To all those who ask how to store your fuel, the basic answer is, keep your fuel dry and well ventilated.  Fuel storage is vital.  The last thing you want is to pay good money, or work hard to build up a nice wood store, and then not know how to store your fuel.  It is very important to keep your fuel dry.  Damp fuel and wet wood represent a waste of money, a waste of energy and a threat to your chimney, so make sure you keep your fuel dry. Burning damp fuel is bad for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, when you are burning damp wood, you have to boil off all the water in that log, and that is energy intensive work.  Here’s how you can get a taste of just how much energy is wasted in burning damp fuel.  Take a log that you know to be damp, brush all the loose debris off it and weigh it.  Make a note of the weight, and then put it near the fireplace to dry.  Do PLEASE remember, don’t put it where it will be so overheated that it … Continue reading

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