The UK solid fuel industry continues to receive reports relating to several chimney fires in properties with thatched roofing. The National Society of Master Thatcher’s (NSMT) have on record an average of between 50 to 80 thatch fires a year, the majority of which occur in older style properties constructed before 1960, and those fitted with either a solid mineral fuel or woodburning appliance.
This is not to say that solid fuel and woodburning appliances are unsuitable for installation in properties with a thatched roof, however it emphasises the importance of an installation that complies with the UK building regulations. Use an installer who carries out the necessary pre-assessment checks following practical installation guidelines, commissioning procedures and ensures the appliance is left in a continued state of safety from risk to both the occupants and the building.
A compliant installation with recognised service and maintenance regimes, and appropriate consumer education during the handover phase, all play key parts in the continued safe operation of solid fuel burning appliances in thatched properties.
Ensure you use a HETAS Registered Installer to complete your installation as they have access to a dedicated technical helpline and specific technical thatch guidance should they need any support during installation. It is also important to contact your home insurance provider before an installation to ensure compliance with any requirements in your policy, so you remain covered. The information provided by your insurance company will also be useful for the installer when carrying out pre-assessment checks and appliance selection.
It is vital that you comply with Building Regulations, especially regarding chimney height and HETAS registered installers will be able to advise on this. Also, they can advise on suitability of chimney lining systems for the property and appliance type.
Make sure you are happy with how to operate your stove in a safe and efficient way after installation. This should be something that your installer covers with you, and they should answer any questions you may have, so you can feel confident about correct operation when they leave.
We encourage having your chimney swept at least twice a year when burning wood and at least once a year when burning smokeless fuels. Remember to consider any recommendations or requirements laid out in your home insurance policy.
The best times to have your chimney swept are just before the start of the heating season and after your stove has not been used over a prolonged period. If sweeping twice a year, the second time should be after the peak of the main heating season.
Find your local HETAS Approved Chimney Sweep by using your postcode in the search.
All solid fuel appliances require continued maintenance and servicing, to ensure they operate efficiently and safely. A routine service should be carried out at least once a year and must meet the appliance manufacturers’ requirements given in any maintenance instructions. Also, consider any requirements or recommendations from your insurance provider as to servicing routines. Some insurance companies may specify a CCTV survey periodically and you can contact HETAS registrants to ask if they are able to carry this out for you.
Find your local HETAS Approved Servicing Technician using your postcode.
The right fuel
Make sure you use a fuel type that matches your appliance’s operating instructions and warranty for a long, reliable, and safe service.
From May 2021, wood sold in volumes of up to 2m³ in England will need to be Ready to Burn certified as having a moisture content of 20% or less. Suppliers selling larger quantities will need to provide customers with clear instructions on storing and seasoning so it is dry to burn. To find out how dry your fuel is, and whether it is ready to use, you can use a moisture meter.
You’ll find tips and advice covering wood storage guidance and moisture content on the Ready to Burn website.
Find your local Ready to Burn firewood supplier on the Woodsure website.
You will also find useful guidance on how to light a fire on the HETAS website.
The new law also applies to the sale of manufactured solid fuels in England. These fuels need to meet certain standards to be listed as Ready to Burn. A “manufactured solid fuel” means a fuel produced from coal, wood, plant-derived materials, waxes, or petroleum products with other ingredients.
Ready to Burn manufactured solid fuels can be viewed on the Defra authorised fuels list, linked above and are those whose ID code starts with MSF.