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Watch the birdie – even in Hertfordshire!

The upper reaches of chimneys make very attractive homes for some species of birds and much as we love them, a nest in a chimney can be dangerous – either by catching fire once it’s vacated, or with young birds falling out of the nest and down the chimney.

Fortunately, chimney pots in many homes now have protective bird cowls fitted. If yours hasn’t got this, here at Hertfordshire Fireplace Gallery we normally recommend a Colt Top “ High Guard / UFO / AntiDowndraught Cowl from suppliers such as the ones shown below.

Get your fireplace ready for those cosy autumn nights in

Even here in sunny Hertfordshire, those nights will soon be drawing in. So now’s the time to make sure your fireplace is safe and sound, ready for you to enjoy as soon as you feel that crisp autumn nip in the air.

After the warm summer we’ve had, our fireplaces are unlikely to have been used for some months. They will almost certainly need to be cleaned and tidied, and it’s possible that you’ll need to check a number of elements not only from the safety point of view, but also to ensure your fireplace operates as efficiently as possible – whatever type of fuel it uses.

Start with your chimney

Especially if you use solid fuel, your chimney’s safety and efficiency are particularly important. Here at Hertfordshire Fireplace Gallery we recommend you have your chimney swept as follows:

 Smokeless fuel

 Once a year or more


 Every six months when it’s being used regularly


 Every six months when it’s being used regularly


 Once a year


 Once a year

This is to clean the flue and check it is clear, and also to check integrity of the fire. (Don’t wait until you have a chimney fire before getting it swept!)

Where to find a chimney sweep 

Needless to say you need expert help to carry this out. Unlike with many other trades, anyone can set up in business as a chimney sweep; and the last thing you need is one who doesn’t do the job professionally and makes a mess.

If you live in Hertfordshire and/or within easy reach of London, one firm of qualified chimney sweeps we can recommend are Jordan Brothers on 0208 360 1515. Alternatively, choose your nearest qualified sweeps from the membership of The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps.

When the day for the sweeping arrives, make sure you remove all ornaments from the immediate area and leave a good working space. And don’t forget to put old sheets over the furniture to protect from accidental soot fall.

Your chimney sweep will be able to check for birds’ nests in your chimney, and give you more information about fitting a cowl if you need to.

Solid fuel: stock up in plenty of time

It’s a very good idea to get your solid fuel stove or other fireplace checked by a qualified technician after not being used during the warmer months. Your chimney sweep may well be able to help here. Otherwise you can find your nearest local installer who does servicing and maintenance via HETAS, the official body that approves solid fuel domestic heating appliances – including the registration of competent installers and servicing businesses.

Don’t wait until the last minute to order in your supply of solid fuel. Google to find your nearest supplier who delivers. There may be an additional amount to pay for this but it certainly is more convenient for most families than transporting it yourselves.

As with most things these days, you can buy solid fuel online. Two such resources are Buy Firewood Direct and Firewood and Logs. Both deliver to most UK postcodes within a few days.

Before you place your order, it’s a good idea to check the storage area you’ll use to make sure it’s clear of clutter and is good and dry. If you’re setting up a new storage area, try to put it as close as possible to an entrance to your home – bringing logs in when it’s cold and wet outside is not a pleasant experience!

Gas fires

You should carefully dust and clean your gas fire before firing it up. If you use a remote control unit, check that the batteries are still functioning.

If you have a CO detector, test it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Your gas fire should be serviced every year, and the pilot assembly plus any batteries should be replaced.  To find the best professionals to do this well and safely, go to the Gas Safe Register and find the engineers nearest your home. 

Oil fires

As with gas fires, you should dust and clean your appliance carefully, and it should be serviced at least once a year. You’ll find a list of registered technicians on the OFTEC website.

Other safety precautions

Ensure that you have smoke alarms installed in your home, and test them at least every 6 months. If you have CO detectors, you can make a diary date to test all on the same day. If you’re not sure on what alarms and detectors to buy and/or where to install them, most Fire Brigades in England offer a free consultation service where they survey your home and advise you on the best way to protect it.

Especially if you have children, elderly people and/or pets in your home, it’s essential that you have a robust fireguard in place, and that your hearth or fender is raised to provide a physical barrier. Before using your fireplace make sure that all the bolts are secure; and if applicable, that the wall fittings are secure, too.


Above all, enjoy your Hertfordshire Fireplace this autumn!

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