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It’s winter – time to clean your chimney

With winter approaching and temperatures plummeting, people are increasingly lighting their wood or coal fires to keep warm in the evenings. 

But first, everyone should book a visit from a professional chimney sweep. Having your chimney cleaned is a requirement that should be done once or twice a year. But the cost of hiring a sweep can vary massively from one region to the next.

It is possible to clean the chimney yourself, but a professional chimney-sweep can provide a certificate proving the chimney has been cleaned, which is required for insurance purposes in case of a fire. It is advisable to choose an experienced, well-established chimney-sweep, such as those with ‘Qualibat’ certification.

Blocked chimneys are blamed for many fires and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning as a build-up of soot and tar – and sometimes even birds’ nests – can stop fires or boilers burning efficiently. This can, in turn, cause them to catch fire.

Most local authorities say chimneys should be swept twice a year for coal and wood fires or oil boilers; once at the beginning of the season and once in winter. Gas boilers only need the flue to be cleaned once.

The occupant of a property that has a chimney, whether tenant or home-owner, is responsible for having it cleaned. However, the price of this procedure can vary from €45 to €70, according to a website for professional sweeps, ramoneur.fr/; while in Paris it can cost between €5 and €20 more than outside the capital.

Anyone who does not have their chimney or flue regularly cleaned could face a €450 fine, according to the Fédération Française des Sociétés d'Assurances, and sanctions are even more serious if there is a fire in your home.

The number of times per year you must employ a sweep varies due to different departmental regulations: in Paris and Strasbourg, for example, it must be done twice annually, including once during the winter.

Where the hearth is closed-off, or there is a thick layer of tar inside the flue, the cost of cleaning will be higher. Many chimney sweeps also charge for working on the roof or inside the home, as well as travel costs.

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