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Properties most at risk:
Old properties with deep thatch, particularly those constructed pre-1960, are incompatible with the installation of modern wood burning stoves particularly in traditional chimney breasts. In some at risk properties there is no safe way to use a wood burning stove; choose an alternative, open fire, oil gas or electric enclosed fire. A thatch fire, once alight, is almost impossible to control. Chimney fires are high risk for properties with a thatched roof, but for all wood burning stove users there are common sense preventative actions that can be taken.
- Modern multi fuel stoves fitted into old fire places and inglenooks can compromise chimney safety and cause a fire in the thatch.
- Action: Get the installation and chimney construction checked.
- Sweep the chimney twice a year.
- Action: Sweep in October sweep again in February – March
- Birds love to nest in open chimney pots and can fill a chimney with flammable sticks in a very few days.
- Action: Fit a bird guard.
Using a log burner safely:
The only safe fuel is properly seasoned wood, wood should ideally be cut in year one stored in year two and used in year three. An alternative is to buy kiln dried wood from a reputable supplier.
Action: Check wood moisture content is below 20%, using a probe (obtainable from any builders merchant) Or buy professionally kiln dried wood. Store in a dry airy place.
Use a chimney thermometer to optimise burn conditions. Too hot will compromise the temperature gradient between chimney bricks and flue gases even with a liner. Too cold will allow a build-up of tar, which if left can cause chimney fires.
Look for the warning signs:
- Stoves are not incinerators; do not burn any waste materials.
- Chemically treated timbers and building waste will produce tar.
- A properly managed fire, using the correct fuel will not blacken the glass.
- Look at bird guards and spark arrestors, if they are black there will be tar build up in the chimney which could ignite (This is the most common cause of chimney fires and is completely avoidable).
- Soot is a powder; any lumps indicate tar formation in the flue.
- Be aware a fire can burn unseen in a deep thatch for several days before it is detected.