Chimney sweeping: A safety necessity or a legal obligation?

A cozy fireplace can be the heart of a home, providing warmth and ambiance. However, regular maintenance is crucial to ensure safety and efficiency. With statistics showing that one-third of house fires are caused by chimney fires, the importance of regular chimney sweeping cannot be overstated. But is it just a safety measure, or is it a legal obligation?

Chimney sweep cleaning

Why is chimney sweeping essential?

Regardless of whether you heat your home with oil, wood, or coal, the combustion of these fuels results in the accumulation of soot or tar deposits. Over time, these deposits build up in the chimney flue and pose a significant fire risk. These inflammable residues can ignite, leading to dangerous chimney fires. The only way to effectively remove these deposits and ensure a safe fireplace is through regular chimney sweeping.

Methods of chimney sweeping

There are two primary techniques for chimney sweeping:

1. Interior sweeping:

This method involves cleaning the chimney from the inside, starting from the bottom. A metal or synthetic brush attached to a rod is used to scrub the interior walls of the chimney, removing any accumulated soot and debris.

2. Exterior sweeping:

In this method, the chimney is cleaned from the outside, starting from the top. A specialized brush, attached to a cable with a weight at the end, is used. The weight helps in moving the brush up and down, ensuring thorough cleaning.

In both methods, the sweeping action helps in dislodging the deposits on the chimney walls. Once the sweeping is done, the professional will vacuum and clean the base of the chimney. This process also helps in checking for any obstructions like bird nests or detached roofing elements that might be blocking the chimney.

What does the law say?

The legal requirements for chimney sweeping depend on the type of heating system you have. For wood-burning stoves or open fireplaces, the law mandates an annual chimney sweep. However, if you use your wood-burning fireplace throughout the year, it’s advisable to have it cleaned more frequently for safety reasons.

For conventional boilers, the chimney should be inspected during the periodic PEB (Energy Performance of Buildings) control, which is now mandatory. This control includes maintenance of the boiler, exhaust system, burner adjustment, and verification of certain requirements related to boiler emissions. The frequency of this control varies based on the fuel type: biennially for gas boilers and annually for oil boilers.

Who is responsible: Tenant or Landlord?

The responsibility for chimney maintenance often raises questions, especially in rental properties. As per the law, the tenant is responsible for the general upkeep of the property, including the chimney and boiler. Therefore, it falls upon the tenant to ensure that the chimney is regularly swept.

On the other hand, the landlord is responsible for any repairs, such as fixing loose bricks in the chimney. These responsibilities and obligations are typically outlined in the rental agreement to avoid any confusion.


Chimney sweeping is not just a safety measure but also a legal obligation in many cases. Regular maintenance ensures that your fireplace operates efficiently and safely, protecting your home and loved ones from potential hazards. Whether you’re a homeowner or a tenant, understanding the importance of chimney maintenance and the associated legal requirements is crucial.