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Chimneys in thatch

There are approximately 60,000 thatched properties in the UK, of which 50-80 suffer a serious fire each year, most of which are completely destroyed. 90% of the homes struck by thatch fire have a combination of a wood burning stove either a flexible chimney liner or no liner at all.

Condition
Chimneys should be checked to ensure the brick or stonework is in good condition. Old or poorly maintained chimneys with loose or missing bricks & mortar and not lined, could allow hot gases and smoke to escape into upper rooms, the loft space or directly onto the thatch. If re-thatching works are taking place and the thatch around the chimney stack is removed, the thatcher will be able to advise on its condition.

Maintenance
Ensure chimneys are regularly swept by an experienced and qualified chimney sweep. This normally needs to be done at least twice a year, however if the chimney is used frequently during the winter period then additional sweeping may be required. Your sweep will be able to offer you further advice. Many chimney engineers and other specialist companies offer a CCTV survey, this is recommended to check the internal condition of the flue.  Again check with your property insurer because some of them have a list of approved companies.

Liner
A number of thatch fires occur as a result of old or inappropriate flue liners, therefore chimneys serving either an open fire  or multi-fuel appliance should be suitably lined. Contact an appropriate professional body such as HETAS so a registered  chimney engineer can review the liner (if already installed) to ensure it is fit for purpose for the type of appliance or fire in  use.

An engineer will also be able to advise on the condition of the liner and recommend on how often it should be  checked. If you are considering installing a wood-burner or similar, again contact HETAS who will advise on the most  suitable appliance and liner for the property.

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