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Chimney sweeping

What equipment would I use to sweep a wood burner chimney, how do I do it, how often? Also, I'm jus in the process of buying the boat. When I inspected the chimney I noticed that the top is covered with an upside down tin! Is this standard practice (obviously remembering to remove it when it's lit) or should there be some sort of metal umbrella arrangement, that's missing?

Asked by: Carl Young  | 10.48am, Monday 14 May

WW says:

Firstly, the tin lid (often a paint kettle!) is used to stop rainwater coming down the flue and is fairly common practice. A coolie hat (a type of raised-cover) for a chimeny can prevent heavy rain going down the chimney when the fire is in use.
You can buy commerial flue covers, but they tend to be more expensive (and no more longer lasting) than the paint kettle approach!
Sweeping the flue should be at least a yearly event- and more often if you live aboard and/or burn damp wood, or certain types of solid fuel.
Best done with a proper chimney brush- which some chandlers will sell, though I have seen people do it quite succesfully with a modified toilet brush (on a mop handle) or even with splayed copper cabling on a broom handle! Anything that shifts the carbon build-up is good. if you have a bend in your flue pope, then the proper kit might be more appropriate- and its easier to do from outside the boat!
Within the stove, it is worth removing the draught diverter- the peice of metal, depending on the fire, that is below the flue, often resting on top of the firebricks. Take this out before you start sweeping, making it easier to remove the soot as it falls.
If you line the (already emptied) firebox with a plastic bag, it make catching the dust easier
It is also worth inspecting the firebricks for damage while you do this, and also the seals on the door and ash pan, plus the seals around any alternative flue outlet blanks- for instance, if you have a top flue, there is likely to be a blank on the back, which is removeable and should have sealant to stop leaks. If anything is damaged, get it fixed while the stove is quite clean at this point!
The joint between the stove and flue, and flue and chimney collar should also be inspected for damage, as well as the draught control/damper for the stove.
One final thing- make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector on your boat, as well as a smoke alarm. This will help alert you if something goes wrong- solid fuel stoves can, sometimes, leak into the cabin and a CO detector will give you time to react if it happens. This is also why it is important to check that all seals are in good condition- and sweeping the chimney regularly also reduces the risk of combustion gases entering the cabin.
Hope that helps.

Mark Langley  | 12.00PM, Monday 14 May

Our boat has a straight flue from the roof collar to the stove below. I have made up a simple but effective cleaning device using a length of timber and and off-cut of 3 or 4mm steel.
The timber is about 1.5in square and long enough to reach to the bottom of the flue and still leave about 2 feet sticking out at the roof end. The off-cut is circular and about half an inch to an inch less in diameter than the inside diameter of the flue. It is fixed into the end of the timber using a screw through a hole at the centre.
Starting at the top, I can run the edge of the disc up and down the inside face of the flue. The sharp edge is very good at knocking off any hard, sooty deposits and sending them down to the stove to be collected as Mark describes.

Graham Booth  | 11.21AM, Tuesday 15 May

I really like Graham's cleaning device- think I will be making one for my flue; sounds far more effective!

Mark Langley  | 11.51AM, Tuesday 15 May

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