When did you last have the flue swept?

Has it been tested for smoke integrity to ensure that no cracks or faults have developed?

Are dangerous gases able to escape?

‘If you have a gas-flame effect fire or an occasional solid-fuel fire, you should have your chimney swept once a year. If it’s in daily use, you should have it swept twice a year.

As a chimney is essentially a household exhaust pipe — funnelling away soot, smoke, gases, hot ashes and sparks — sweeping should be an essential part of home maintenance. It is no longer a job that ushers forth black clouds of soot ready for Victorian housemaids to clean up.

A modern, sealed sweep ensures that your flue is safe and unclogged by bird nests, soot build-ups  and any other debris that might have dropped down from the chimney pot. Just as a roof tile may dislodge, so a chimney lining can deteriorate, exposing mortar joints and brickwork to corrosion and, ultimately, collapse. The older the house, the greater the risk.

People rarely book an annual sweep. It’s more common that to be called out to a chimney that hasn’t been swept for years, and then only because someone is putting in a new appliance. We find a significant problem in 20 per cent of all the chimneys we look at.

Sometimes an owner who didn’t use the fireplace has put a metal cap over the chimney top to prevent things falling down.

A new owner arrives and uses the fire, but is nearly stifled because there’s no escape for the smoke and fumes. Walk down most streets and you’ll see a huge variety of clay pots or metal caps on chimney tops.

A common misperception is that only chimneys servicing solid-fuel fires require sweeping, but even with a gas-flame effect fire, if a new appliance is being installed in a chimney previously used for solid fuel, it should be swept beforehand. Gas Safe Register (GFE) recommends that any gas appliance is safety checked at least once a year.

A sweep costs between £45 to £90, depending on where you live. Prices increase according to the number of floors in the building. A smoke integrity test will double the cost.

If your chimney fails this test, a chimney lining specialist will need to install a new flue lining (by a Gas Safe approved installer or, for solid fuel, by a HETAS qualified expert).

If you have any questions about your chimney you can contact Alfred Poppins chimney services and stove installations