Fire and Flue FAQ

Proper installation, operation and maintenance of your fire and flue will ensure you maximise your fuel, stay safe and most importantly, stay warm this winter.

A dirty or poorly maintained fire and flue will ensure your pollution levels rise, your risk of exposure to carbon monoxide increases, your insurance could be at risk and you have a higher risk of fire spreading beyond your fire or flue.

Below is all you need to know about best practice operation and maintenance of your fire and flue and how to make sure you are burning efficiently, cleanly and safely this winter.

Chimney Sweeping – All you need to know

Keeping your fire and flue clean starts with what you burn and how you burn it. Operating your fireplace well and to the specifications of your model will save cost on fuel, maintenance and also lower the risk of damage. Always check with your manual or installer for best practice burning for your fire.

Clean fire and flue units burn hotter and cleaner and make the most efficient use of your fuel for a warmer winter. Flues over time get coated in a nasty substance called creosote which is a highly flammable substance and this needs to be regularly cleaned away.

The risks of a dirty flue include

1. Carbon monoxide poisoning

2. Chimney fires

3. In some cases a poorly maintained chimney can put your insurance policy at risk (beware the sneaky clauses)

4. Excess pollution - be a clean kiwi

5. Evicting birds nests which also like to burn

So, to best manage your fireplace read on….


Managing the fuel

What to burn

Dry wood – when ordering or sourcing wood make sure your demand, dry seasoned wood. In order of quality follow the list below


Avg Cost/m3

Heat Output kWh/m3

Price per kW heat produced

Burn time


Firewood NZ rating






Fast Burning

Soft hard wood







Fast Burning

Hard wood







Fast Burning

Soft wood






Slow Burning

Medium density wood







Slow Burning

Very hard wood


***Also note firewood is sold as a ‘thrown measure’ so will reduce by one-third when neatly stacked.


What you should NOT burn

Wet wood, Christmas trees (more specifically, evergreens which contain more sap resulting in more creosote build up), painted or treated timber, any paper with coloured print or gloss, plywood, particle board or chipboard, fire accelerants or fire starters, plastics (including nappies), and carboard.

Tips for Storing your wood

  1. Stack firewood loosely to allow air to flow through it
  2. Secure your stack – wood pieces will shrink and shift as they dry. Nothing worse than stacking twice!
  3. Split your wood – smaller pieces dry faster
  4. Soft woods like pine, fir and macrocarpa normally take 6-12 months to dry
  5. Hardwoods like gum, manuka and kanuka can take 18+ months to dry
  6. Keep wood dry using a tarpaulin or water proof cover. Make sure you tie it down
  7. Allow air to flow to the sides of the stack so moisture can escape
  8. Keep wood off the ground using bricks, blocks, pallets to prevent damp seeping up and allow air to flow under the stack


Fire and Flue Maintenance

Over time your fire and flue will collect soot – technically known as creosote which is an extremely flammable material.

Chimney cleans and fire box inspections should be done annually or more often depending on the age of the fire.

To determine if your fire and flue is operating well or needs a clean take the following tests

1. When burning, close the door and if the fire goes weak or goes out - you need a clean

2. When burning, open the door and if smoke fills the room - you need a clean

3. Check your smoke – go outside and see what is coming out the top – the darker the smoke, the dirtier the fire and flue

4. You have lived at your house for a while and cant remember the last time you had a clean - you definitely need a clean

5. You just moved in and you’re not sure if it has had a clean.


Tools of the job

First of all determine if you are going to do it yourself or get someone in. Professional Chimney sweeps can be your best friend and the best operators will arrive on time, check and clean the flue and fire box and will leave the place spik and span and will also give you advice on how to best use your fire. A chimney sweep can "read"your chimney and can often provide experienced, professional advice.

If you decide to clean yourself you will need a good quality brush with a bristle trim to the size of your flue and some good quality fibreglass rods. Before diving in to do it yourself check the diameter of your flue and the height of your chimney – the last thing you want is a brush that doesn’t reach the sides or rods that don’t cover the height. There are a range of sizes and a rough guide is included below but measure up or check the specs of your fire

Open Fires          300mm (12”)

Wood Burners   150mm (6”)

Pallet Fires          75mm (3”)

Pot Belly’s           100mm (3 15/16”)



Keeping clean during your clean

Make sure you have gloves, safety glasses a dust mask and a dropsheet. Cleaning your flue and fire isn’t what is often depicted with soot covered gentlemen in overalls. But to contain the mess and ensure you keep clean make sure you prep the area and contain any mess.


How to Clean your chimney

A picture says a thousand words but videos show more. So rather than explain we found some good, informative videos thanks to YouTube

Cleaning a Chimney Using the Brush and Rod Bottom Up Method

DIY Chimney Cleaning using the Brush & Rod Top Down Method

How to Sweep a Chimney - Do it Yourself & Save Money - Warren Nash


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