Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Chimney…


When was the last time you had a professional look at your chimney or fireplace?

Blocked chimneys can cause chimney fires or carbon monoxide to build up in your home – so it’s not one of those maintenance tasks that you should put to the bottom of the to-do list and subsequently forget about.

The experts say that chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year but I’m willing to bet that for a lot of us it’s been a while since ours had a check-up – if ever, for others.

In our Autumn Home Maintenance Checklist we mentioned the importance of having a professional chimneysweep maintain your chimney and fireplace. Now that winter has reared it’s ugly head and our fireplaces are getting a good workout, let’s take a closer look at what needs to be done.

Chimney experts Complete Chimney Care answer our burning questions (sorry)…

Why do I need my chimney cleaned?

The chimney flue is essentially a household exhaust pipe – funneling away soot, hot ashes, smoke and gases from your home. An annual inspection and clean should be done at least once a year to check for cracks, holes or faults and to remove soot, creosote, birds nests and other blockages.

Will my house insurance cover chimney fires?

Most insurance companies won’t pay out on claims caused by chimney fires unless the chimney has been swept by a professional chimneysweep and been inspected on an annual basis.

My fire is not drawing properly…

This is usually the result of a cold or obstructed flue or insufficient height relative to the ridge of the roof or an adjacent building. Large unnecessary voids at the base of your chimney may also stop the fire drawing properly. Or if you have double glazing or very efficient draught excluders around doors, it may prevent an adequate flow of air for the fire to work correctly.

My fire creates excessive soot…

This can be the result of a lazy and inefficient flue. Your flue may not be the right diameter for the fire or stove, or it may not be properly insulated, meaning fumes do not rise fast enough and soot deposits are created. Excessive soot and tar can be a real fire hazard, particularly if the chimney structure has deteriorated.

I’ve got mortar falling into my fireplace…

Bits of brick or mortar falling down the flue indicate a serious deterioration in the chimney structure. This deterioration normally occurs from the inside of the flue but it might also indicate weakness on the outside of the chimney.

My chimney breast feels hot…

This means that the chimney has deteriorated and may be dangerous. If stains also appear on the chimney breast this is a sign that tar or acids have condensed and are eating into the chimney mortar and brickwork.

I want my chimney removed. Should I do it myself?

Removing chimneys is dangerous work, so the simple answer is no.  A small chimney can weigh around half a tonne, whilst bigger ones can weigh up to eight tonnes. Chimneys built before 1900 are made with lime mortar much of which has now degraded to dust.  Weight is the only thing holding them together. Brick structures are expected to last for 50 years so any buildings older than the 1960’s should be inspected by a professional to make sure they’re safe.

Have you had any problems with your chimney? Did you know the importance of annual checkups or the dangers of a blocked chimney?
Let us know in the comments below or on our NZ and AU Facebook pages.

So what’s the deal with our smoke alarm giveaway?

burning house

Hello there. Just thought we’d tell you a little bit about our fire safety promotion; specifically why we’re doing it and why we’ve chosen Cavius smoke detectors as prizes.

Didn’t know we were running a giveaway and you’d like to enter? If you’re reading this before 12 April and live in New Zealand, just head to the Open2view Facebook page, click on the ‘Win with Cavius’ app and follow the instructions. If you’re reading this afterwards, sorry – but check out our page anyway because it’s plenty interesting.

We enjoy giving away stuff to those who like us. But why, in this instance, have we chosen this particular prize?

Cavius smoke alarm in hand

Our primary business is real estate photography. This means we get to photograph and film thousands of homes up for sale every year. Home safety, therefore, is at the forefront of our collective mind.

Here’s some scary facts for you: every year the New Zealand Fire Service attends more than 3500 residential fires. Of these, over 80 percent of homes either had no smoke alarms fitted, or they weren’t working.

That? Is just staggering.

So over the next few weeks we’re going to do something about it – by sharing some fire safety tips, and by giving away some of these cool little smoke detectors.

Now, what’s so great about these particular ones?

First of all they just so happen to be the smallest in the world. They measure a tiny 41mm high and 49mm in diameter. They’re smaller than a field mouse and they only squeak when it’s really serious.

cavius dimensions

You design or arrange your room to be as attractive as possible, only to have to put up a large eyesore of a smoke alarm on the ceiling. Frustrating, right? Cavius smoke detectors are much more aesthetically pleasing than their standard larger counterparts so you can put one up and forget you even have an alarm for the next five years.

Oh yeah, that’s the other thing: these detectors’ batteries last five whole years before they need replacing. That’s far, far longer than your average alarm. When the batteries do start getting weak, they’ll alert you 30 days before dying.

Smoke alarms are the opposite of children: they should be heard but not seen. Like newborn babies, however, these alarms are tiny but very loud. At 85 decibels from a distance of three metres there’s no chance of sleeping through anything when one of these go off. Again, just like a newborn.

Finally, Cavius’ photoelectric detectors are much less likely to give off false alarms. If cooking dinner or having a shower causes your regular, ionisation smoke alarms to start beeping, you’re more likely to want to remove the batteries and leave them out. Not so great if the pan catches alight or the shower starts spraying fire.

Photoelectric alarms, like the ones we’re giving away, are activated by smoke entering the alarm’s sensing chamber and changing the electrical balance.  They are consistently better at detecting smoldering fires than their ionisation counterparts. These types of fires can kill before the flames even start flaming. In layman’s terms, they trigger fewer false alarms and are more responsive to real fires.

The New Zealand Fire Service recommends people install photoelectric fire alarms in every bedroom, living area and hallway in your house. Through our giveaway, we’re getting 40 of you started.

We already received some interesting messages via Facebook about the importance of fire safety. This one from Bex Dixon particularly stood out:

The last four rental properties we have lived in didn’t have smoke alarms so we have purchased some for each property and left them when moving out. A shame that landlords don’t seem to care enough to fit them!

A dreadful shame – and a great gesture from Bex that could potentially save lives.

We also received this comment from Trish Monk:

Our hall heater caught fire nearly 2 years ago mid winter. Turns out our then 18 month old posted a pen through the wide slots. Plastic melted… fire started slowly. Smoke alarm went off. Thankful as heater was in hallway on wall outside our son’s room.

We replaced it that day with a newer style panel heater. Old one was binned. Smoke alarms DO save lives.

They sure do – and we encourage you to not only enter our competition, but to install some Cavius smoke detectors in your homes – and check out our next few blogs for some fire safety tips.

Do you have a similar anecdote? Feel free to share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page. Or drop us a line if you’d wish to share but would rather remain anonymous.