A chimney fire at a period thatched cottage in a local Suffolk village has recently highlighted the need for regular chimney maintenance and building regulations concerning thatched roofs to be rigorously pursued. Over the last few years the UK has seen a steady increase in the number of chimney related thatched roof fires. Could this fire and others have been prevented?

Chimney maintenance is essential

Many of us underestimate the severity of chimney fires and therefore often forget about cleaning the chimney. If you have a chimney, it is essential that it is cleaned and maintained properly.

Chimney fires can occur fairly frequently during the winter months, so think about employing a professional to clean and take care of your chimney. How often your chimney gets swept depends on a number of different factors:

  • the type of fuel you are burning
  • how often the fire or appliance gets used
  • how long it gets used for
  • how much moisture is in the wood
  • the type of chimney you have

Increased popularity of wood burners

Traditionally chimneys in older thatched properties have been used with open fires, which when in alight, generally had access to large amounts of cool air (from within the room the fireplace was situated in), which when mixed with the combustion fuel (logs, briquettes or coal), would result in a cooling of the overall flue gas temperature. 

With the need for greater energy efficiency, the use of wood burning stoves have become more common. While these stoves are more efficient and provide more heat than an open fire, they don’t have the benefit of cool air in the room mixing with the exhaust gases to help reduce the flue gas temperature. 

The result of this is that chimneys that worked reliably for many years with an open fire can experience problems of much higher temperatures when closed wood-burning stoves are fitted.

Rules and Regulations

The rules and regulations regarding solid-fuel appliances and open fires within thatch properties can appear to be vast and daunting. This can result in some home owners becoming uneasy as to the amount of work involved, the installation costs, and even property insurance issues.

Building regulations are in place to help install and build in a safe way, and to ensure that the best possible precautions have been taken to reduce the risk of a fire occurring. The key issues covered by building regulations in regard to thatched roofs include: chimney size and height, insulation materials, roof coverings, and proximity of external boundaries.

Take precautions and enjoy the ambience

 With simple precautions such as burning seasoned wood, regular chimney care and maintenance the risk of a fire occurring can be minimised. Owning a thatch property and having a large roaring open fire or a warm wood-burning stove can greatly enhance the ambience of a home.

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