What does the chimney sweep do?

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Sometimes we get questions regarding sweeping of the chimney and in this connection we asked Fred Ekeberg at the fire and rescue service, fire preventing department in Oslo, for a chat. The chimney sweep sweeps and cleans chimneys, smoke ducts, flue pipes and fireplaces in order to prevent soot fires and gas emissions. The chimney sweep also has special skills regarding fire prevention work and they work closely with the fire department. In addition, the chimney sweep informs about the correct burning techniques.

Fred Ekeberg

Why is it so important to clean the chimney?
The most important reason why you need to clean the chimney, is in order to check that you are burning in the correct way and avoid soot fires. The more soot you find in the fireplace, the more gases are released and the less environmentally concious the burning is.

How often should you get the chimney swept?
According to the regulations, you should sweep the chimney every four years, but this depends on different things. If the chimney sweep comes to a home where he finds a lot of soot, this chimney might need to be swept more often. The amount of soot that accumulates in a chimney depends on how much you use your fireplace, the type of fireplace you have and the burning pattern.

What do you actually do, and how long does it usually take?
In Oslo, we do the sweeping and inspection at the same time, while in other places, they might do the sweeping one year and the inspection the other. The sweeing operation can take from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on whether the home owner has mede the proper arrangements for the chimney sweep and whether you have many questions regarding fire safety in your home. The weeping job itself usually takes max. 10 minutes, but also depends on the length and condition of the chimney flue.

Does it create a lot of soot when sweeping the chimney?
If the chimney, fireplace and heating system has been installed and followed up correctly, you should not find that there is a lot of soot coming from the fireplace. If you have to sweep from inside the house, through a sweeping hatch, there could be more soot, but definately not much.

What should you do before the chimeny weep arrives? Do you need to do anything during and/or after the sweeping was performed?
The home owner should make arrangements for the chimney sweep by making a ladder, the soot hatch and the sweeping hatch easily accessible. During and after the sweeping operation, it is a good idea to ask questions about general fire safety. Afterwards you will recieve an audit regarding the chimney and the general fire safety. If the sweeping operation and inspection uncovered errors and defects, these will have to be rectified within 30 days, whereupon a report is sent to the fire and rescue service.

Why is soot produced?
Soot is produced at combustion when there is a surplus of carbon. Soot consists of 80–90% carbon and the rest is hydrogen. Often, you will find that soot is a result of burning wood that is moist, it is produced when using the incorrect burning technique or when burning in an old wood stove where the supply of oxygen is insufficient. If you want more heating for your money, you should get a cleanburning wood stove and burn dry wood. (In Oslo the Klima og Energifondet run a sudsidising scheme for people who want to trade in their old fireplace in one that is better for the environment and their wallet.)