Guild Of Master Sweeps Certified
07587 134589
info@jamesthesweep.co.uk
Guild Of Master Sweeps Certified

5 interesting facts about James – your chimney sweep!

James the Sweep – the Master Chimney Sweep for Tunbridge Wells and nearby areas such as Tonbridge and Southborough. You’ve heard about him often enough and he is a well-known friendly face for many people across towns and villages in the county of Kent (and nearby East Sussex, for that matter).

James has been sweeping chimneys for Kentish homes and local business premises for more than 20 years. He’s had a very colourful life too and below you will find 5 very interesting facts that you didn’t know about James Hughes aka James the Sweep.

Prison Officer: James previously worked – many, many years ago – as a prisoner officer. He spent time inside (as an officer, not a prisoner!) HMP Rochester as well as HMP Blantyre House near Goudhurst, which has closed for works. James especially enjoyed the football matches between officers and jailbirds, which were very noisy and fun affairs!

Scuba Diver: James is a qualified scuba diver and he has particularly spent a lot of time diving on the island of Malta. He was also once called upon by police to help search the River Thames for a missing person!

Hairdresser: If you are wondering why James is so skillful with a chimney brush it may be because he once worked as a hairdresser. He gained a City & Guilds qualification at the London College of Fashion in Oxford Street and then worked for various salons in the area of Tunbridge Wells.  

Mugged by police: An interesting but sad fact. James was once mugged by police at gunpoint in Ukraine. It happened in 2014 when James visited Chernobyl. He was pulled into an alleyway, had a gun held against him and the corrupt policemen stole a new iphone, £1,000 sterling and 200 Hryvnia (the Ukrainian currency).

Tsunami: James was once helping to protect a sheikh in Dubai as part of security work. The year was 2004 – when the famous Tsunami caused mayhem in Thailand. James was asked to search the island of Ko Phi Phi Le (where ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed). His task was to find a secretary working for Pirelli Tyres, who had tragically gone missing. For three weeks, James and colleagues painstakingly looked and eventually found the luggage of the missing lady and her husband – but that was all.  James found the experience in Thailand extremely gruelling and poignant.

 

What to do if a bird’s nest is in your chimney

NO DOUBT you will be out-and-about enjoying the sunshine now that the summer months are here.

That’s also when you start notice things needing to be fixed in the garden or to the outside of your house: cutting the hedge, weeding out the flower beds, repointing the cement in the wall, putting tiles back in place….and what about that chimney?

If you notice any issues with your chimney such as damaged brickwork or the chimney pot or cowl looks odd – just ask James the Sweep for an opinion.

Yet there’s another issue which tends to come along this time of year and it does require an expert hand to deal with the problem: a bird’s nest in your chimney. At the top, to be precise.

Birds tend to like to feather their nest at the top of chimneys, especially jackdaws. But the problem is that this can damage your building structure. The last thing you want is bits of brickwork tumbling down the flue and into the fireplace.

And if you have a cowl or pot fitted, you won’t want a bird to damage it because that runs the risk of letting damp getting into your building.

What can you do then? Simply ask James the Sweep to deal with the problem.

There are special laws surrounding the removal of birds’ nests, which a qualified and experienced master sweep – such as James – is informed about. The removal of the nest itself also requires a head for heights and a delicate hand so that no damage will be caused. The chimney will also need to be reviewed and swept after the removal of any debris.

In summary, it’s a job for a true professional! Take the worry out of your day if you notice a bird’s nest at the top of your chimney. Phone 07587 134589 for a quotation. Standard charges for removing a bird’s nest cost only £100 for the first hour and then £60 per hour thereafter if the work is complex. Please also note that the bird’s nest is to be disposed by the customer.

Maidstone Zoo: a recap on history

MAIDSTONE and its surrounding area is rich in history and if there’s a place proving the fact – it has to be Cobtree Manor Park, which is the site of the former Maidstone Zoo, the largest private zoo of its time.

The land near Aylesford was used for farming in the 17th and 18th centuries and it was eventually bought by Hugh William Tyrwhitt-Drake who bought the main house (containing some wonderful chimneys!) and 300 acres of land. The site was considerable in size and included 15 cottages and a riverside wharf amongst other features. The house was given the name ‘Cobtree Manor House’ and it was from here that Sir Garrard, son of Hugh William (who died in 1908) began to formulate his dream of creating a zoo in the heart of Kent.

Sir Garrard [pictured above with a bear] was the mayor of Maidstone 12 times and the High Sheriff of Kent from 1956 to 1957. He was a well-known public figure not just in the town of Maidstone but across the county.

He opened the zoo to the public in 1934 and it soon became popular not only with the public but celebrities of the day: Gracie Fields, Jessie Matthews – even the Queen when she was a princess. Hundreds, if not thousands over the years, enjoyed the array of creatures that included lions, elephants, bears, wolves, zebra. In fact, there were 36 types of animal recorded at the site in 1939.

The zoo survived the war years and flourished with an impressive 120 paddocks and cages recorded in 1949. Facilities included a pets corner for kids, a miniature railway, and pony and elephant rides. The Elephant House is all that remains from the original zoo, which closed in 1959 due to costs and Sir Garrard’s health (he died in 1964). The animals were taken to other zoos.

However, Cobham Manor Park was rebranded as an exciting visitor attraction after the manor park was created in the period of the 1970s, thanks to the hard work of Cobtree Manor Trust and partners. An impressive 600 tree and shrub species were planted, creating a beautiful arboretum and the site today also boasts fantastic play areas for youngsters. Find out more here:  Cobham Manor Park.

If you live in the Maidstone area – book an appointment with the town’s Master Chimney Sweep: James the Sweep!

The dinosaur found near Southborough – some facts

Southborough is the sort of place where there’s always something interesting happening and that’s been a fact about the town for many years.

James the Sweep has been sweeping chimneys in Southborough for 20 years – and he’s firmly  established as the town’s master sweep. If residents need a chimney swept, it’s always James who is called because he is reliable, professional and affordable. He’s known as the ‘Southborough chimney sweep’ and it’s as simple as that.

And over the years James has picked up some interesting facts about the town, which are known by the locals but could raise an eyebrow or two, if you’ve a visitor.

For example – the dinosaur. Most people know about the iguanodon, which was splashing around in High Brooms some 135 million years ago (date depending on how accurate the carbon dating was/is). And splashing about is correct because High Brooms was a marshy area back then. The High Brooms Society has written an excellent account of the geology at the time when the dinosaur was alive.

Anyway… here’s the interesting fact known by residents and probably unknown by visitors to Southborough.

The dinosaur, whose bones are under the care of Tunbridge Wells museum, was discovered in the High Brooms brickworks pits in 1933. What some people don’t know is that the big beast’s footprints were also found in the Wadhurst clay, and moulds were created by brainy archeologists, which are also housed by the museum.

An article in the Kent & Sussex Courier [see image above], dated Friday 27 October 1933, gave the specific details of the discovery of the bones and also mentions the foot prints.

The Natural History Museum calls the Iguanodon ‘one of the most successful dinosaurs’ and species of the dinosaur have been ‘found in many parts of the world’.

The museum notes: “Iguanodon could probably walk on all fours or on two legs. It had a large thumb spike, probably to fend off predators. Muscle attachment areas inside its head suggest that it may have had a long tongue.”

Digging up our past is a fascinating subject and that includes not just dinosaurs but human society. Chimney sweeping has been a major part of that for hundreds of years and especially since Victorian times.

Chimney sweeps are needed so that households can use indoor fires safely without any risk of chimney fires or carbon monoxide poisoning.

How to use your wood burning stove

CUSTOMERS will often ask James the Sweep for sound advice about how to get the best use out of the wood burning stove.

It’s a typical question that James encounters whenever he is sweeping chimneys in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Southborough, Maidstone and the like.

If you would like some simple ABC pointers, do take time to read the info below. Remember too the basic rule that burning wood with a moisture content of 20 per cent or less (test it to see) and at a higher temperature will ensure you maximise the use of your fuel, save you money and also have a better effect on the environment.

Volatile fuel gases produced by fire need a safe passage out of the chimney, which is an issue if you don’t have the chimney swept because there will be a dangerous build-up of soot and other residue. These volatile vapours are more likely to form into sticky tar in the flue if the fire is not hot enough.

That’s a situation which can be avoided. Firstly though, make sure that your woodburner is a good condition (if you’re not sure, call back your installer and ask for a review) and that the chimney has been given a thumbs-up by James the Sweep – Master Sweep for towns and villages throughout Kent.

To light a fire, get some small burning material such as firelighters or kindling. Make sure the air controls are opened to get the heat level increased as quickly as possible. Gently put some larger logs on the flames as it burns and then shut the stove door when the fire is looking strong.

Don’t let the temperature of the stove go down! Keep laying big logs of wood and shut one of the air controls to encourage the air to the flames an open the stove door slightly if needed. A flue pipe thermometer is pretty handy to let you know if the appliance has hit the correct temperature.

The air flow can be decreased slowly using the secondary control but always ensure the flames are looking cheerful. You don’t want to waste fuel by turning down the controls before the fire is established. And never slumber a fire overnight – it’s a waste of time, a waste of heat, a waste of money (uses fuel and causes soot) and a waste of air.

If you notice smoke at the top of the chimney after a quarter of an hour, make sure the controls are at the correct setting. If so, open the controls again until there’s no smoke at the top.

If you’re not sure how to use your woodburner – just ask James the Sweep when he next visits to sweep your chimney.

You can contact James to book a chimney sweep on 07587 134 589.

For further tips on using your wood burning stove, have a look at the BurnRight website.

Tunbridge Wells is a properly ‘Royal’ place!

IT HAPPENS often that James the Sweep gets called ‘Sir’ when he pops into his favourite newsagent in Royal Tunbridge Wells to buy his favourite chocolate bar (milk choc with a caramel centre, in case you’re wondering).

Nothing unusual about that, on the face of it. But it makes James twirl his brush for two very good reasons: [1] Everyone is polite in T Wells and that’s wonderful and [2] T Wells is so closely associated with Royalty… Lords… Ladies… ‘Sirs’… that James is never sure if the newsagent believes the town’s master sweep is, in fact, one of the landed gentry.

James is used to sweeping chimneys in stately homes and castles all over the county of Kent, alongside terraced, bungalow, semi detached and detached homes. That’s a simple fact – Hever Castle, the Knole estate, for example. Yet the relationship between royalty and Tunbridge Wells continues to fascinate him. For a start, Royal T Wells has a unique standing with the Royal prefix. Not many towns in Britain can claim to be royal.

Yet the ‘royal’ part wasn’t added by the townsfolk – they’re much too humble for that. It was King Edward VII who decided that Tunbridge Wells deserved wider recognition. He also wanted to honour his late mother, Queen Victoria who loved the place and would often visit to enjoy the bathing waters and other leisurely pursuits. That’s why the king gave T Wells the new name of ‘Royal Tunbridge Wells’. More than a hundred years later, the title still stands and it is completely relevant for the settlement pioneering the highest living standards, which hits the right notes when it comes to balancing the positives in hearth and home, work and education, hospitality and service.

Of course, the prefix is not the only royal connection with T Wells. Apart from the fact that our present Queen’s favourite chocs were made in the town (probably not the same caramel type which James the Sweep likes to chomp) – the connections go much further back in history.

The popularity of the Chalybeate Spring in 1606 invited interest from the aristocracy and saw the town boom in popularity as the ‘Must Visit’ location for top-end holiday breaks.

Fashionable society brought with it the development in T Wells of facilities for balls and dances, games and coffee houses, theatre and the like. To say nothing of the accommodation such as lodging houses in the northern tip of the Pantiles, provided by Margaret, widow of the Viscount Purbeck in the 1680s.

Royal Tunbridge Wells is definitely ‘Royal’ – a special place. James the Sweep is privileged to be the town’s master chimney sweep, making sure residents are free to enjoy indoor fires without the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or chimney fires.

Is your woodburner polluting?

WOODBURNERS have been given a very bad press in the media since Defra’s Clean Air Strategy was published in January.

It’s become a misleading notion that wood stoves will be banned by the Government in the future. That is NOT true. Defra is certainly concerned about air pollution but the Government has been so – so – clear that householders will still be allowed to have woodburners.

The Government believes that 38% of harmful particulate matter comes from ‘burning wood and coal in open fires and stoves’. However, following a consultation with experts, including chimney sweep trade associations, it was discovered that the situation is more complex. It’s the way that indoor fires are used, which affects the air quality.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey has said: “Everyone has a role to play in improving the air we breathe, and reducing pollution from burning at home is a key area where we can all take action.

“While we will never be able to eliminate all particulate matter, by switching to cleaner fuels, householders can reduce the amount of harmful pollution to which they unwittingly expose themselves, their families and the environment, while still enjoying the warmth and pleasure of a fire.”

Steps to be taken include banning the sale of the most polluting fuels, such as coal; and only allowing the cleanest stoves to be for sale by 2022. You will still be free to use your woodburner but air quality will be improved if you only burn wood with moisture content of 20 per cent or less, and also burn at a high heat. Look at the BurnRight website (burnright.co.uk) for more tips.

In summary, we can all still enjoy woodburners but pay them more care and attention. That’s a good thing because it means we will use the appliance more efficiently. That’s better for the pocket and better for the environment! If you’re not already doing so, and you live in Kent, you can start that efficiency drive now. First thing to do – book a chimney risk assessment and chimney sweep with James the Sweep. James covers the wider region from Tunbridge Wells, to Southborough, to Tonbridge, to Maidstone, to Pembury and Paddock Wood, and even as far as Crowborough. Give James a call right now and receive free, impartial advice about your indoor fire. Phone James on 07587 134589 or email: info@jamesthesweep.co.uk

James the Sweep is ridiculously affordable!

EVERYONE loves a good bargain and especially when it comes to fixing things around the home.

That’s why James the Sweep offers to sweep chimneys at a very reasonable rate indeed. In fact, we get enquiries all the time asking about the costs. People can’t always believe it and we’ve even had customers telling James that it’s about time he raised his fee. That sounds like absolute nonsensical marketing spin – but it’s true! Don’t forget that many of James the Sweep’s customers have been calling upon him to sweep chimneys for many years. They know him and he knows them.

So… down to business. The standard rate for sweeping chimneys in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Southborough, Maidstone, Orpington, Pembury, Paddock Wood, Crowborough and Hadlow is just £60. In some parts of the country, you could easily get charged double that price. Kent is quite an expensive place to earn a living and yet James likes to keep his fees fair and reasonable.

What does that price include? For woodburners and open fires, it includes the risk assessment for your chimney set-up, a professional smoke test and then a full sweep using industry standard sweeping equipment. You will also receive free advice on any remedial works needed. And a certificate produced by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps will be presented at the end of the sweep, which can be useful for household insurance. James the Sweep uses fresh dust sheets every time and there’s no mess left behind. It’s a clean, tidy and very affordable job!

  • Don’t forget that if you arrange it with your neighbours, large discounts apply for sweeping chimneys in the same location!

Removing birds’ nests is a difficult task and James charges just £100 for the first hour and then £60 per hour if it’s a complicated removal. Customers must dispose of the nest afterwards.

Don’t forget that soot makes for a good fertiliser for your garden. Ask James about that when he arrives on your doorstep.

There you go – £60 for a standard chimney sweep in Kent and East Sussex. That’s a hard-to-beat price. Book a chimney sweep with James the Sweep today! 07587 134589 – call now to make an appointment!

 

The Chimney Sweep to call upon

James the Sweep is the Master Sweep to call upon if your chimney needs sweeping and you live in the wider Kent and East Sussex area. Chimney sweeps have their own geographical locations in which they look after customers. James sweeps chimneys in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Pembury, Paddock Wood, Crowborough, Hadlow, Orpington, Southborough and the nearby areas.

If you are a resident or local businessman living in one of these towns or villages – and your chimney needs sweeping – just give James a call on 07587 134589. That, of course, depends on whether your chimney does need sweeping. How can you tell? There can be telltale signs such a bits of soot residue found in the fireplace/woodburner. Or you may notice an odd smell near the indoor fire. You may also see that any smoke emitted when you ignite the fire doesn’t seem to go up the chimney as well as it is meant to.

Even so, your chimney may need sweeping and you don’t realise it. It’s not always obvious. This is a danger to you and your family because if the chimney is blocked with soot – it means there is nowhere for carbon monoxide to escape. CO is a lethal, invisible and odourless gas, which has a record for killing people in no time at all. Chimney fires are another known hazard, as a result of chimneys not being swept on a regular basis.

Fortunately regular chimney sweeping deters such risks. So, how you tell when your chimney needs sweeping? As a general rule, it should be two or three times per year. But every household situation is different and there can be other influencing factors such as the type of fuel used, the time period since the last sweep, etc. Best Advice: simpyl ask James the Sweep. James can discuss a seasonal chimney sweeping schedule with you.

That will give you peace of mind that the chimney is being given appropriate care. James is trustworthy (plenty of customers testify to that) and he won’t suggest more chimney sweeping episodes than is necessary. However, it is definitely important that your chimney is swept consistently. A clean chimney = a safe household!   

 

5 reasons to employ the chimney sweeping services of James the Sweep

James the Sweep is the top rated chimney sweep in Kent and East Sussex. He’s been sweeping chimneys in the local area for at least 20 years and built up a solid reputation as a reliable, professional chimney technician. James is a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps.

Here are five reasons why it makes sense to employ the services of James the Sweep:-

  1. James the Sweep is officially the Master Sweep for Tunbridge Wells.

James is the highest rated chimney sweep in Tunbridge Wells in terms of quantitative top Google reviews. When residents need a chimney swept, it’s James the Sweep who receives the call. As a Guild sweep, he knows his customers well and pays meticulous care and attention to chimney care. That’s why he’s been sweeping chimneys for some customers for years and years – he’s known to be reliable. James also sweeps chimneys in Tonbridge, Southborough, Maidstone, Hildenborough, Paddock Wood, Pembury, Hadlow, Crowborough and Sevenoaks.

  1. James the Sweep understands chimney structures.

James’ training as a Guild sweep, alongside numerous other chimney trade courses over the years, means he has acquired an indepth technical knowledge, which he is able to employ. That’s useful because each chimney structure is different: in terms of time period of construction, materials used, height, condition, fuel used, situation at the top of the chimney and type of woodburner or open fire. James can use his many years of experience and deal with any chimney accordingly, carrying out a risk assessment and sweeping it – advising the owner as to the condition of the chimney.

  1. James the Sweep is a proven professional.

Chimney sweeping is an unregulated profession. Even so, James has joined other chimney sweeps in following industry guidelines for chimney sweeping practice, as recommended by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. He is also a HETAS-approved chimney sweep and has earnt a respectable reputation amongst other sweeps and companies in the chimney sweeping trade.

  1. James the Sweep is affordable.

It’s not unknown for some chimney sweeps to charge up to £120 per sweep, depending on the chimney structure involved. James the Sweep only charges £60 for a standard sweep. That includes a full sweep, a smoke test to check chimney functionality and a certificate approved by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps – which can be useful for some household insurances. A bird’s nest can be removed for £100 for the first hour and £60 per hour thereafter if more work is required (the customer disposes of the nest). James also offers massive discounts for multiple sweeps in the same location – and don’t forget that fresh dust sheets are used each time.

  1. James the Sweep gives free advice

‘Nothing in life is free’ – well, that’s not true. James sometimes gives advice to consumers from as far afield as the USA on social media. He’s always happy to point people in the right direction and especially for his customers in the wider Kent and East Sussex area. James will give impartial advice about your chimney situation and if any repair work is needed, he is likely to suggestion options.

These are five reasons – but that’s not exhaustive. There are a lot more reasons why it makes sense to employ the services of James the Sweep. Why don’t you contact James and see for yourself? Prevent any risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or uncontrolled fires related to your chimney simply by getting in touch with James today.  

Air pollution and woodburners: some home truths

‘WOODBURNERS will be banned’ – you’ve definitely seen headlines like these in the media in recent months.

And why not? Nothing beats a bit of sensationalism for a newspaper to sell a few more copies. Even if the headline isn’t telling the truth.

The problem with this type of fake news is that people can start believing it and it’s challenging to wade against the artificial tide of falsehoods.

Let’s be clear about this – woodburners will NOT be banned. The Government’s Clean Air Strategy was 100 per cent clear about that and if some journalists had actually bothered to look at the documents, they would have written accurate articles instead of the sloppy lies we’ve all had to endure.

What IS happening is that the most polluting fuels such as coal are likely to be banned. Dry wood with a moisture content of 20 per cent or less will still be available as fuel and clean woodburners continue to be used – that’s the official line from Defra.

Still not sure?

This is a direct quote by Defra about the Clean Air Strategy 2019:  “We are not considering banning domestic burning.  The government recognises that households have installed wood-burning stoves and the government is not seeking to prevent their use or installation.  But we are keen to encourage consumers to switch to cleaner burning. This will directly benefit consumers in their homes, as well as improving the local environment.”

And another comment by Defra: “We will legislate to prohibit the sale of the most polluting fuels. We will ensure that only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022. We will make changes to existing smoke control legislation to make it easier to enforce. We will give new powers to local authorities to take action in areas of high pollution.”

And if you’re wondering if keeping woodburners is still a good idea, Defra also says: “Using cleaner fuels, in a cleaner appliance which is installed by a competent person, knowing how to operate it efficiently, and ensuring that chimneys are regularly swept, will all make a big difference.”

There you go – you can continue to use your woodburner! If you still have questions about this, and you live in Tunbridge Wells or nearby area of Kent – contact James the Sweep on 07587 134589.

Reassurance for local residents

CHIMNEY sweeping in Royal Tunbridge Wells… chimney sweeping in Southborough… chimney sweeping in Crowborough – if you are a frequent visitor to the website or social media of James the Sweep, you will have seen these phrases often enough.

In fact, you have probably read that James the Sweep is the Master Chimney Sweep for Tunbridge Wells and similar such claims. It can all sound a bit outlandish but why? Why are such statements made?

It’s to do with the difference between an experienced and well-trained chimney sweep – and cowboys. James the Sweep has been sweeping chimneys in the wider Kent and East Sussex area for 20 years. You simply can’t beat that level of professional experience. He has also passed a number of industry training courses, such as those set by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. Not only that, but James has received numerous recommendations by satisfied customers over the years. Have a peek at his testimonials page.

What does that all mean? Reassurance. It’s reassuring for you as a resident living in James’ local area to know that you can call on him anytime to inspect your indoor fire set-up and sweep the chimney. He is diligent in ensuring your household is risk-free from carbon monoxide poisoning and chimney fires, as far as your chimney is concerned.

If you’ve read this and you’re thinking, ‘Should I phone him about my chimney?’ Just grab your phone and make the call. Honestly, one call is all it takes to get the job done properly. James charges £60 per sweep as a standard rule and he’d be happy to help you so that you can enjoy your woodburner or open fire with peace of mind.  

Kent Fire & Rescue Service says: “The chimney is essentially a household exhaust pipe — funnelling away soot, smoke, gases, hot ashes and sparks — sweeping should be an essential part of home maintenance. This will help protect against blockages, smoke leaks, inadequate ventilation, insufficient draw, down-draught and tar build-up.”

James the Sweep sweeps chimneys in Kentish and East Sussex local areas such as Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Pembury, Southborough, Sevenoaks, Hildenborough, Crowborough, Hadlow, Maidstone and Paddock Wood.  

 

Storing firewood: some simple tips

STORING firewood correctly makes a big difference to enjoying efficient fires, which are better for the environment and save you money – and the opposite: ineffective fires, causing pollution and costing more.

The good news is that there’s some simple ABC steps you can take to get the most out of your firewood. This is advice that James the Sweep gives customers in the towns that he covers: Tunbridge Wells, Southborough, Sevenoaks, Hildenborough, Pembury, Maidstone, Paddock Wood, Crowborough, Hadlow and Maidstone.

Firstly, make sure the logs are stacked in a proper wood store outside with a roof for protection from bad weather but open sides so that they can be kept dry but ventilated. You can cut them up further yourself when the wood is fresh: aim for five inches wide in shape. That makes it easier to cut rather than wait until the wood is old. It will also help the wood to dry and ideally we are aiming for a moisture content of 20 per cent or less (a moisture meter will help you know; if you split the wood and test the surface). Don’t just throw the logs together either, stack them properly. It should only take between six months and a year to get the moisture content to that 20 per cent mark. But that will only happen if the wood is properly stored as outlined above. By the way, ignore ‘seasoned’ wood. It doesn’t count for anything – the moisture level is the important thing. ‘Ready to burn’ logs usually have the right moisture level but may be more expensive.

It may surprise you that five inches wide is the best size for fire logs. Larger logs, in fact, cost you more money because the burn rate is lower, which makes them less effective as a heat source. Larger logs also cause more harm to the environment.

Any wood can be good enough to burn as long as there is no contamination with products such as plastic or other substances. Pure wood is what we want to burn. Of course, some types of wood naturally do tend to burn better and James the Sweep has provided a guide to types of wood here.

You should find that by properly organising and storing your dry wood, it helps organise your indoor fire set-up so that you can enjoy safe, efficient, cost-effective fires as a reliable heat source.

Caring for your chimney flue liner

CUSTOMERS often ask James the Sweep about how to care for a flue liner installed inside a chimney flue. And if they don’t, James will respectfully offer the information anyway because it’s an important part of caring for your indoor fire set-up.

Every chimney situation is different and consumers will have different flue liners installed: stainless steel for example, which is a bit like a sleeve. Or perhaps a flue liner agent which is more akin in layman’s terms to a concrete substance smeared smoothly over the inside of the flue, such as Thermocrete or Eldfast.

Whichever flue liner option you agree with your installer, it’s important to protect the chimney. Acid corrosion caused by indoor fires and the effects of weather such as frost can damage the brickwork and joints over time. And that’s not good because it also puts your household at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from indoor fire gas seeping through cracks.

What can you do then to care for your flue liner?

First – make sure the original installation was done correctly. James the Sweep has too often seen stoves and flue liners, which were not fitted correctly. And that includes the finer details, which only a professional would understand. The trend for finished reproduction fireplaces, for example, can often include a steel or cast fireback within the insert – but that conflicts with the components of British Standards. A cowboy installer could set that up for you and set off with a gleeful smile on his face, his pockets jingling with the cash you’ve just given him. In fact, he’s just installed an indoor fire which has little efficiency and will lead to more of a draught in the room. This is just one of numerous examples where professional knowledge is essential. Flue liners cannot be installed with a bit of slapdash. That’s why James the Sweep will only recommend certain installers in the counties of Kent and East Sussex to you. It’s difficult for a customer to know if an installation is done well. Although James does not fit liners, he can point you in the right direction.

Second – Regular sweeping. Never ever use an indoor fire if the flue liner is not swept properly. Always check with James the Sweep as to how often sweeping is needed. We want to ensure that the flue liner is in excellent shape to withstand pressures of the fire and to keep it clear of any creosote obstruction, so that your household will be safe. Regular chimney sweeping is a MUST.

Third – Use the correct fuel for your liner. If your liner is meant for gas only because you have a gas stove, don’t burn wood! You should also be aware of the different types of wood if you have a woodburner and take some time to re-educate yourself on how to set an indoor wood fire alight properly, to save your expenses and to help the environment. Ask your installer about  how to use correct fuel. Wood should always have a moisture content of 20 per cent or less. James gives advice to residents all over the county, such as Tunbridge Wells, Southborough and the like, so do ask him for free advice.

In summary, the best way to care for your flue liner is to make sure it is properly fitted in the first place (also check your appliance is fitted professionally); keep the chimney swept regularly and use the correct fuel for your appliance. You may need protection at the top of the chimney via a cowl or pot and James the Sweep can give further advice. Best of all – don’t worry about the flue liner. If you book regular appointments with James, he can do all the worrying for you!

If you have any questions about your chimney flue liner, please get in touch with James the Sweep today. It’s important that you enjoy your indoor fire safely as a heat source.

Where was Ol’ Sweepy heading?

IF YOU happened to be driving in the northern parts of Kent last weekend you will have noticed the county’s Master Sweep – James the Sweep – tootling along in his work van, aka Ol’ Sweepy, with plenty of sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper stacked-up on the passenger seat.

Why was James heading out of the county? Where was he going? His van is a familiar sight on the streets of Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Southborough and the like. So why did James disappear for a couple of days – and then reappear in the borders of Kent with a stack of gleaming new chimney sweeping brushes in the back of Ol’ Sweepy?

What a mystery… well, the answer is simple: James attended the annual Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps Trade Exhibition 2019 near Kenilworth. James is a longstanding member of the Guild and the yearly event gave him a chance to buy new chimney sweeping equipment so that he can better serve his many customers in T Wells, Maidstone, Pembury, Paddock Wood and other towns, as above.

The trade show also allowed James to talk business with other Guild members and keep abreast with industry developments, which is so important as the Government’s Clean Air Strategy – very supportive of chimney sweeping – continues to develop. James was able to get an update on the BurnRight campaign, which he strongly supports because it informs customers about how to burn an indoor fire efficiently.

We are still in March and there is a chill in the air. If your chimney has not been swept you and our family could die from a chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. So if you live in Kent or East Sussex, don’t delay – book a sweep right now with James on 07587 134589.

Test CO alarms regularly – what does that mean?

 

YOU’VE probably heard this saying often enough (and more likely than not from James the Sweep, Master Sweep for Tunbridge Wells!).

“Make sure you buy a carbon monoxide alarm and then test it regularly.”

Oh right, you may think, and then put it down on the list of Things To Do.

But what does that actually mean? It’s easy to hear these things and to not really take them on board.

It really means three things: [1] Make sure you buy an efficient carbon monoxide detector. It should be a standard to EN 50291 from a reputable supplier. You can expect to pay about 20 pounds for a good detector. [2] Follow the manufacturer’s instructions by checking the alarm is working once per week. ‘Test it Tuesday’ is a handy way to remember to test the alarm every Tuesday! [3] Don’t just have a CO alarm at home. Also have a portable CO alarm which you can take with you on holiday – to keep you safe if you are camping or on a canal boat, or similar.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible danger wherever a solid fuel is being burnt and it makes sense to always be monitoring the situation, so that you will be fully aware of any poisoning threat. Medical professionals even find it hard to diagnose CO poisoning as the initial symptoms can be like having a cold or the flu. So please be active yourself in making sure this gas does not cause harm to you and your loved ones.

Of course there’s an even more important point: don’t just rely on your CO alarm. Carbon monoxide is difficult to detect, it doesn’t smell and it can kill you in no time at all. The best way to combat this evil gas, which is produced as a result of an indoor fire, is to prevent it causing harm in the first place. That means, very simply, booking your regular chimney sweep with James the Sweep. A clean chimney means a CO-free chimney. Remember that James covers the wider Kent and East Sussex area including Maidstone, T Wells, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Hadlow, Paddock Wood, Pembury, Southborough, Crowborough and Hildenborough.

Basic advice about wood briquettes

What do you think about using wood briquettes for your woodburner? Have you tried them yet or are you tempted to give them a try? Well, why not? Here’s some basic info about wood briquettes to help inform choices for solid fuel burning.
Wood briquettes, also known as heat logs, are made from wood and comprised of pure substances such as wood chips and sawdust, which are pressed into blocks for solid fuel burning.
Manufacturers of this fuel source have cleverly engineered them to suit different purposes ranging from fire ignition to providing a steady hot burn. Manufacturers generally apply about 10,000 pounds per square inch in pressure, to make high quality briquettes.  One briquette will last you about four hours and it’s been reported that you can save £150 per year, compared to using normal logs.
Try different wood briquettes and see which is best for you. Don’t try and make a briquette though, out of bits of old timber because there could be hidden chemicals. Make sure the  briquettes are made to European Standards and, as above, they should have been highly compressed (low compression briquettes don’t burn at such a high temperature, which is less efficient, less environmentally friendly and costs you more money).
People in the UK tend to be a bit suspicious of briquettes but they’re popular in Europe. And for a good reason – they produce 50 per cent more heart, per pound, compared to logs. And the fact they’re made from pure waste wood meats they’re a lower carbon alternative. Be careful though, never enter an enclosed space with wood briquettes stacked up, or you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.
Food for thought! Or rather briquettes for your mind fire! If you feel a bit unsure about using wood briquettes, and want to ask further questions – just ask your friendly local chimney sweep – James the Sweep!

Why does James give advice to customers?

So.. the doorbell rings and you open it to see James the Sweep on your doorstep armed with his power sweeping brushes – he’s arrived on time (always does) and gives you a friendly greeting.

You show him into the room, often the lounge, where the fireplace sits and let James do his ‘thing’ – inspecting the indoor fire set-up and the state of the chimney flue and flue liner (if you have a liner). James sets to work, if all is well, cleaning the chimney using his brushes, once the clean, fresh dust sheets have been laid down carefully.

And at some point, it’s likely that James will give you some advice. Polite advice but advice nonetheless, about the importance of regular chimney sweeping. If there are any other issues – the fire stove or open fire not being fit for purpose, for example – James will be honest with you about it. He will also suggest any remedial action, which needs to be taken.

Why does James give advice to customers? Why doesn’t he just keep quiet and waggle his power sweeping brushes (waggle isn’t a technical term but you get the idea!) up the chimney flue.

Well, the reason is simply that James is concerned about you. His sole focus, when he knocks on the door, isn’t about getting the job done quickly, or whether you’ll have a mug of tea waiting (although if you do want to prepare: it’s a fairly strong brew with one sugar in Winter, and tap water otherwise because James is super-quick and the tea would not cool down in time to drink…).

It’s about the fact that James wants to protect your life! He is obsessed – really, absolutely and completely – with reducing any risk whatsoever of carbon monoxide poisoning or chimney fires, which could kill you and your family.

That’s why if James does seem to give you a lecture, please do listen to what he says! He is a master chimney sweep – a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps – and he has your best interests at heart.

Any advice given by James the Sweep is professional, supported by his vast industry experience and focused on keeping you and your loved ones entirely safe, so that you can enjoy indoor fires with peace of mind.

James is the Master Sweep for Royal Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Pembury, Sevenoaks, Hadlow, Hildenborough, and Paddock Wood.

To get in touch with Southborough’s chimney sweep, if you’re a resident there – James is the Master Sweep in that town as well, and he also sweeps chimneys in Crowborough.

 

Sherlock Holmes, fireplaces and Crowborough!

My dear fellow,” said Sherlock Holmes as we sat on either side of the fire in his lodgings at Baker Street, “life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”

Perhaps a visitor to Crowborough would find it ‘strange’ to realise that Holmes had strong literary links to the town. The statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at Crowborough Cross bears witness to the fact that Doyle spend many years in the area – some 23 years, in fact, at Windlesham Manor.

Crowborough residents rely on James the Sweep to sweep their chimneys. For the simple reason that James the Sweep is the Master Sweep for Crowborough – sweeping chimneys, checking flues and flue liners; and making sure all is in order with solid fuel appliances and open fires.

How does that relate to Sherlock Holmes? Because the Holmes stories, created by Crowborough resident Doyle, are full of action taking place around fireplaces. Note the ‘either side of the fire’ in the quote above – throughout the great detective’s stories, the fireplace is a silent witness to all that happens.

We find Holmes relaxing by the fireplace with Watson. The tongues of fire move Holmes to deep thought and reflection. He plays the violin by it and receives his stream of visitors too, both good and bad. Think of Dr Grimesby Roylott bending the fire poker in The Adventure of the Speckled Band (which Holmes later bends back) or the fiery quarrel in The Adventure of the Abbey Grange, which results in a lethal blow, also using a fire poker.

Next time (or first time!) you visit Crowborough, do take time to reflect on the connections between the town and Sherlock Holmes – and fireplaces! And if you have just moved to the town, do contact the Crowborough chimney sweep, James the Sweep for any chimney inspections or sweeping.

It’s easy to contact James the Sweep in Crowborough, your local chimney sweep. Find the contact details here. 

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If you want to find out more about Conan Doyle’s time in Crowborough, contact the Conan Doyle (Crowborough) Establishment.

 

 

Now’s the time to book your chimney sweep!

 

We’re living through a strange time in the middle of Winter right now (Jan/Feb). The season of Spring is officially two months away (it starts on March 20) and folk tend to be split between thinking it won’t be long until the sunny weather arrives and trying to keep warm as the weather doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

The reality, of course, is that Spring is still a long time away and even when it does arrive, that doesn’t mean we can all grab our surfboards and bottles of beer and head to the nearest beach.

It’s a fact that the cold weather is going to be around for a long time yet so do keep your indoor fires burning! But make sure they are burning efficiently and safely (see tips on BurnRight) to save money and save the environment.  

Meanwhile here in this little corner of Kent, in the Tunbridge Wells to Southborough to Maidstone area, to be exact, residents are busy making hay while the Sun does NOT shine. Meaning – we’re all being industrious and working hard.

For James the Sweep that means preventing residents from suffering serious injury, even death, as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by unswept chimneys.

You may spot James’ van (aka ‘Sooty’) driving around the region, checking and cleaning the chimneys for residents’ homes and local businesses such as pubs and restaurants.

If so, do give James a wave! And don’t forget that it’s not too late to book an appointment with James. It costs only £60 for a standard sweep for woodburning stoves and open fires.

That hard-to-beat price includes not only the full sweep after checking the condition of the chimney flue, but a professional smoke test to ensure the chimney and indoor fire is working properly. It ALSO includes a certificated officially approved by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps (James is a member) which can often be used for the purposes of household insurance.

So… whether it’s a cold Winter or a cold Spring… rest assured that James the Sweep is available to keep your chimney in good condition wherever you live in Kent or East Sussex. All you have to do is phone 07587 134589 to book an appointment.

James the Sweep covers the areas of Paddock Wood, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, Hadlow, Pembury, Tonbridge, Southborough, Tonbridge, Crowborough, Hildenborough and Maidstone.