The Future

The Future

No one know what the future holds but some of us try our best to make plans. One plan i will definitely put into action over this winter break is finishing the customer database i have started to build. If i were to look at my own strengths and weaknesses objectively; i would have to admit keeping track of everyone and especially when they are in need of my services whilst juggling them all so that i am not zig zagging across the county wasting precious time , fuel and money is definitely a weakness i have identified. Yes some may laugh and think this is a simple matter and perhaps maybe even think my own grey matter is not functioning correctly, hah i must admit i sometimes wonder myself?

Granted communication is a two way street but in my experience your average person’s mind is not very focused (or some not even aware of the need) on getting their chimney swept and the dangers of not doing so are not exactly of paramount importance. In some cases i have even had customers of other sweeps calling me up to ask why i haven’t turned up or asking other questions that i have obviously no idea about. Some don’t really care too much who sweeps their chimney to the point they forget who they have called or one partner begins dealing with the issue and the other ends up finishing it – which can lead to allsorts of funny situations.

In creating a database i will not have to remember every detail about each and every customer like my father used to be able to do (talk about London cabbies and their knowledge) mind you he did run the business for a very long time, started it from scratch and no doubts made some of his own mistakes along the way. His notation system shall we say was mostly in his mind and as such un teachable/decipherable. I guess we all have strengths and weaknesses and in exploring my own i am endeavoring to change my current situation much more to my advantage.

Working for yourself is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea; you have to wear so many hats and if you don’t make an organised system and keep it maintained it is very easy to get lost in a quagmire to the point where the business runs you and not the other way around , this is especially so in busy times like now in the run up to Xmas. Sometimes i just think it would be so much easier to go to a normal 9-5 job turn up each day do my duties and have at least some of your evening time to yourself. As for having a personal life …no comment as it is non existent in the normal sense of the term but then my life has never been what you could call orthodox.

In summary , big push for 2017 on organisation , self restraint and self discipline will be my mantras for this coming year. Assuming of course i get through this one alive. Merry Xmas and Happy New Years when it comes everyone, wish you all the best. Tom

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Wood Burning Properties

Wood Burning Properties

There are a many types of wood to choose from, all of which have their own burning qualities and properties. Although there are references to burning green wood here; to get the most efficient and effective ‘burn’ in your wood burning stove, only very dry (at least <20% moisture) wood should be used. Wood always burns best on a bed of its own ashes, the following is a small guide only and by no means comprehensive.

In addition there are also the compressed reclaimed ‘eco’ type of logs and briquettes which do tend to burn well and for a decent length of time because they are dense and very dry. However, you should try to choose a product that does not break apart too easily.

The table below shows the types of woods and their properties.

Alder Produces poor heat output and it does not last well. Poor
Apple A very good wood that bums slow and steady when dry, it has small flame size, and does not produce sparking or spitting. Good
Ash* Reckoned by many to be one of best woods for burning, it produces a steady flame and good heat output. It can be burnt when green but like all woods, it burns best when dry. Very good*
Beech* Burns very much like ash, but does not burn well when green. Very good*
Birch Produces good heat output but it does burn quickly. It can be burnt unseasoned, however the sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use. Good
Cedar Is a good burning wood that produces a consistent and long heat output. It burns with a small flame, but does tend to crackle and spit and the sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use. Good
Cherry Is a slow to burn wood that produces a good heat output. Cherry needs to be seasoned well. Good
Chestnut A poor burning wood that produces a small flame and poor heat output. Poor
Firs (Douglas etc) A poor burning wood that produces a small flame and poor heat output and the sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use. Poor
Elm Is a wood that can follow several burn patterns because of high moisture content, it needs to be dried for two years for best results. Elm is slow to get going and it may be necessary to use a better burning wood to start it off. Splitting of logs should be done early. Medium
Eucalyptus Is a fast burning wood. The sap can cause deposits to form in the flue and can increase the risk of a chimney fire if burned unseasoned. Poor
Hawthorn* Is a good traditional firewood that has a slow burn with good heat output. Very good*
Hazel Is a good but fast burning wood and produces best results when allowed to season. Good
Holly Is a fast burning wood that produces good flame but poor heat output. Holly will burn green, but best dried for a minimum of a year. Poor
Hornbeam A good burning wood that burns similar to beech, slow burn with a good heat output. Good
Horse Chestnut A good wood for burning in wood stoves but not for open fires as it does tend to spit a lot.  It does however produce a good flame and heat output. Good (For stoves only)
Laburnum A very smokey wood with a poor burn. Poor do NOT use
Larch Produces a reasonable heat output, but it needs to be well seasoned. The sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use. Medium
Laurel Burns with a good flame but only reasonable heat output. It needs to be well seasoned. Medium
Lilac Its smaller branches are good to use as kindling, the wood itself burns well with a good flame. Good
Maple Is a good burning wood that produces good flame and heat output. Good
Oak Because of its density, oak produces a small flame and very slow burn, it is best when seasoned for a minimum of two years as it is a wood that requires time to season well. Good
Pear Burns well with good heat output, however it does need to be well seasoned. Good
Pine (Including Leylandii) Burns with a good flame but the resin sap can cause deposits to form in the flue and can increase the risk of a chimney fire.MUST be well seasoned. Good (with caution)
Plum A good burning wood that produces good heat output. Good
Poplar A very smokey wood with a poor burn. Very poor
Rowan* Is a good burning wood that has a slow burn with good heat output. Very good*
Robinia (Acacia) Is a good burning wood that has a slow burn with good heat output. It does produce an acrid and dense smoke but this is of course not a problem in a stove. Good  (For Stoves only)
Spruce Produces a poor heat output and it does not last well. Poor
Sycamore Produces a good flame, but with only moderate heat output. Should only be used well-seasoned. Medium
Sweet Chestnut The wood burns ok when well-seasoned but it does tend to spit a lot. This is of course not a problem in a stove. Medium (For Stoves only)
Thorn* Is one of the best woods for burning. It produces a steady flame and very good heat output and produces very little smoke. Very good*
Willow A poor fire wood that does not burn well even when seasoned. Poor
Yew* A good burning wood as it has a slow burn and produces a very good heat output. Very good*

Moisture Meters

The single worst predisposing cause of chimney fires today is wet wood. The recommended level of moisture is less than 20% to avoid chimney fires. You can read more about moisture meters here >(Moisture Meters)

This guide was originally taken and adapted from

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Gone but never forgotten 5 long years

October the 28th this year marked 5 years since my father passed away. Since then i have always tried to make a short post here on the site each year to mark his remembrance and reflect on the passing years.
I can’t believe it’s been 5 very quick years since you left us and the pain of your loss doesn’t get any less , if anything it gets worse as i realise more and more all the sacrifices you made for us; to give us the many things and lifestyle we enjoyed .
All those many hours of work you used to put in, out in all the harsh weather Scotland could throw at you (often coming home late, soaked to the bone and filthy black from the wet soot).
Everyday more often than not you would risk your life on numerous occasions, free climbing buildings (many of which should probably have been condemned).

Also at home too in the evenings; endlessly calling customers (or going to their doors when most people didn’t have a home phone).Doing the book work to organise the many customers you had built up over the 46 years you spent as the local chimney sweep.
One can only truly appreciate a person once you have had the chance to walk a mile in their shoes and over the last 5 years i have come to realise i am lucky if i am half the man you were. Modern technology has made things a lot easier now than in your time and i only wish you could have stayed around to see some of the developments in the field.

You dealt with the many trials and tribulations that come with being your own boss in a business that demands its’ owner wear so many hats because delegation was impossible.
Now each passing year brings more memories of the many things i realise i took for granted because you never once complained or grumbled about all the things you had to do to keep the ship afloat; just gracefully accepting your duties as a husband , father and business man, taking it all in your stride.
I feel i can never do you justice in these few words i write here , only that you lived your life to the full and as each year passes i can only hope to try my best to emulate the high standards of the determination and integrity examples you set for me.

I love and miss you so very very much dad, i really hope you are in a better place being payed back as generously as you were with us.

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Two types of birds are most common in chimney problems, starlings but more often jackdaws (small crow with silver streak on its ears). From April till July (although problems often occur beyond these months, as jackdaws are very territorial and can hang about all year) it is the jackdaw nesting season.  You should never underestimate these birds as they are surprisingly intelligent and some of the most determined when it comes to procreation & nest building.
It is surprising how many cases of birds nests i see just driving around , all too often a fireplace bricked up hides a multitude of sins and takes the owner’s mind off the flue completely. Unfortunately in the 80’s many gas fire fitters ran amok fitting fires without ensuring the flues had been swept (and often without a proper GC1 or GC2 fitted on top of your chimney) so if you have a nest above your gas fire it is often the case a few bags of soot will come out too and you may still need the correct gas cap fitted.

What you need to consider when you have this problem

Firstly, so what exactly are you up against ?
The crows nests that are seen in trees are in this case; built on top of a structure akin to a beavers dam (which is often at least 6-10 ft deep or more) used to provide a support for the nest.  The worst case that i remember was an old big building in Barassie that had multiple generations of jackdaw nests on top of each other. The runs in the chimneys were convoluted hindering removal of the nest material and so the only course of action was to open up the wall above in the loft space. We eventually removed 13 bin-bags of nesting material over a 9 hour period with little to no time for resting, removal is ALWAYS hard physical work. To try to put a time figure on nest removal is kind of like asking how long is a piece of string, but on average with a wee bit of luck a nest takes between an hour to two hours to remove and will likely yield at least two or three bin bags full of stuff.

If left unaddressed the worst case scenario for your house, is that it can and will eventually cause dampness problems that when severe enough will threaten your house. Nests act as sponges for the rain which will eventually soak through into your inner and sometimes outer walls. Oftentimes, i will see the signs of dampness above the affected chimney fireplace where the walls meet the ceiling and this may be in the room directly above too, depending on the height of the nest and run of the flues. If your building was built prior to the mid 1950’s then the mortar between your bricks/stones is made from sand and lime not concrete. This is very susceptible to the sulphurous acid made when the sulphur from coal soot is dissolved in rain coming into your chimney. If your flue gets damaged enough you will eventually need to get a liner fitted to be able to use it again, that’s rubble allowing of course.

What we can do for you

Firstly, we remind you that as long as there are eggs or chicks in the nest it is illegal to remove them unless you have a special license, so after April onwards you will need to wait till the birds have left (as you can read here RSPB Nest removal regulations.)  The most relevant parts are as follows, “The breeding season for Jackdaw’s is April – July. Therefore, if you are unsure there is a nesting Jackdaw, then the best advice is to wait until the end of August – September. Outwith this period or if it is an old abandoned nest we will able to remove the nest completely for you.

We guarantee the nest will be removed completely and your chimney swept efficiently.

Please remember that this work can be messy because we need open access to the fireplace to create the forces necessary to remove the blockage, we cannot always close it to the same degree as when we are doing a normal sweeping job. So, you should consider covering your floors and perhaps removing things from the room in advance.

  We charge minimum one hour inclusive and afterwards by the quarter hour so you pay only for exactly how long the job takes, no more no less. We will remove all soot and nest materials efficiently and If we can do it in an hour or less it will be done. We also normally make supplying and fitting a bird cage mandatory too because it is for your benefit and we simply don’t want to have to do the same job twice. Please get in touch for up to date rates.

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Using stove thermometers to ensure optimum efficiency

Using stove thermometers to ensure optimum efficiency

Using your newly acquired wood/multifuel stove , will give months of long , easy  & warm cosy days , where you can lounge around just enjoying yourself. However, as with all things that are subject to temperature variations, maintenance checks are essential giving you peace of mind and satisfaction everything is running to optimum conditions.

Often times these, “checks” may seem as if they might drag you out of your comfort zone but the good news is, in using a stove thermometer, it’s as simple as making regular readings once you’ve attached it to the stove top or flue pipe arising from the stove. They come in a few varieties and can be wire , hose clipped or magnetically attached.

ChimGard Stove Pipe ThermometerFigure:1 Typical stove thermometer (with orange goldielocks zone)

They are used primarily to avoid over firing, the resulting extreme temperatures created and bad fuel efficiency. Operated by having a eye gauge in both °Celsius and Fahrenheit. Keeping your stove burning in the Correct range of 115°C – 245°C or  (240°F – 475°F) will ensure the safest operation , whilst simultaneously giving maximum fuel economy.

Running Too Cool

Allowing your stove to reach burning temperatures below 115°C or (240°F) will lead to incomplete combustion creating carbon monoxide, tar, soot and creosote.

Creosote , itself is a condensation residue of coal and/or wood particles, hydrocarbons, gases and other airborne debris. It is formed as gases cool , for example when air in a chimney is not hot enough to push the particles out. Its appearance is of a thick hard black shiny goo which reduces the bore of the flue by sticking to the inner bore.

Running Too Hot

When you allow your stove apparatus to run above burning temperatures of 245°C or (475°F) you risk damage; warping your grate and also to your flue/liner/cowl too.  A significant increase of the risk of chimney fires is created, especially if there has been creosote build up.

Read our other articles under ‘stoves’ or burning ‘wood’ to get all the knowledge you need to use your appliances to maximum efficiency and safety. Also Please remember to get your solid fuel heating appliances swept at least once a year by your chimney sweep.

You can buy thermometers and wood moisture meters here Here

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