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A Chimney is a vertical channel that directs smoke and other combustible gases up from a fire or furnace through the roof. It is made of clay, masonry, or metal. Most parts of the visible exterior of the chimney is brickwork while the interior is a flue which could be steel or a pipe. A flue is a channel or pipe for conveying waste gases from a fireplace, furnace, heater, or boiler to the outdoors.
For the chimney to work efficiently, the exterior brickwork and internal flue should be in good condition. A combination of regular inspections, cleaning, maintenance, and prompt repairs means you will maximise the benefits of your chimney and avoid hazards like structural damage or the transmission of poisonous gases.
Common components of a chimney include:
Chimney Cowl – sits right at the top of the chimney. Keeps birds and vermin out of the chimney and stops rain entering. They also increase the upward current of air and limit the downward current.
Flaunching – the base at the top of the chimney brickwork where the chimney pots sit.
Chimney Breast – the part of a chimney that projects from a wall to accommodate a fireplace.
Chimney Stack – the visible part of the chimney that is seen above the roof.
Chimney Pots – adds beauty and a sense of character and sits on top of the flaunching.
Why do we have Chimneys?
Chimneys were common in the Victorian times and during the industrial revolution to move smoke out of the building from fireplaces and stoves mainly. They were inefficient at the time and could lead to fire outbreaks. Changes in legislation meant chimneys were later built with clay and then brickwork. Today Chimneys are safer and more efficient and add style and character to a building.
Chimney repair is the collection of tasks carried out to keep the chimney in great working condition. Some notable tasks include chimney flashing (or re-flashing), chimney repointing, chimney flue lining amongst others. The main objective is to limit any structural issues which may lead to a rebuild of the entire chimney. These tasks will be explained in detail shortly.
Common problems with a chimney that would require repair are:
A key maintenance task that keeps your chimney efficient and in great shape is chimney sweeps. For an existing chimney, the major reason smoke will come into a room is a blocked flue. The flue can be unblocked through a chimney sweep. Chimney sweep means clearing ash and soot from the chimney so that it is efficient and operates safely.
Better to use a professional and experienced chimney specialist equipped with a chimney sweep kit that consists of a vacuum and cleaning tools. They should not create a mess and would sweep from bottom up. The objective is to clear the channel and limit hazards from smoke if its passage is blocked.
Chimney sweeps should be done at least once a year. For wood-burning chimneys, chimney sweeps should be at least two to four times in a year.
The average cost is between £50 to £100. £100 is the top end and mainly for properties in the Greater London area.
As your chimney is exposed to harsh weather elements including heavy rain, snowstorms and wind, overtime wear and tear kicks in and parts of the chimney start to fail. The mortar of the brickwork which keeps the structure in place could start letting water into the chimney. Also, joints can decay creating voids between chimney bricks.
Repointing involves renewing parts of the mortar joints to restore the appearance and structure of the chimney. This process also prevents further damage and moisture entering the bricks. If there is major structural damage, then repointing will not be an option it will need rebuilding.
The average cost ranges between £500 for a small chimney and £1000 for a big chimney. Advisable to hire a professional chimney specialist with experience for the job.
Flashing is the sheet of metal that holds the chimney and roof together. It prevents leaks and ensures the connection between the roof and chimney is watertight. Like other parts of the chimney, the flashing is exposed to weather elements and overtime the impact of wear and tear becomes visible. Aside wear and tear, If the flashing was not installed properly from the beginning then there will be leaks from the chimney.
The average cost of replacing flashing for a chimney ranges from £400 to £700 excluding scaffolding. With scaffolding costs added you will be looking at a total bill of £700 to £1000.
Chimney Flue Installation
The chimney flue liner is the flexible tube that lines the inside of the chimney and is connected to the stove pipe. It covers the entire length of the chimney carrying smoke up the flue liner instead of releasing them straight into the chimney cavity.
Chimney flue lining is used to repair a deteriorated chimney safely. It also reduces poisonous gases and improves energy efficiency.
Installation costs is between £400 and £800 depending on the size of the chimney and the age of the property.
Removing a Chimney
If you own property and do not need a chimney, it is possible to remove the internal chimney breast at the ground floor without removing the external stack. This means removing your chimney will not be as disruptive as you do not have to the change the external appearance or roof of the property.
You may need the services of a structural engineer as the chimney breast forms part of the structure of the building and may need additional reinforcements.
Hopefully with this information you have a better idea of what chimney’s do, their components, how they are repaired and maintained and what to do if you do not want your chimney.
The point to note here is that regular inspections are necessary to get the best out of your chimney and for it to last longer. Whatever you do, always seek the guidance of an experienced and professional chimney expert.