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Sweep Safe Technical update three.

Hello fellow chimney sweeps and industry professionals, welcome to today’s technical update; sealing methods and equipment.

Fireplaces, stoves, Flue pipes and access doors are all varying shapes, sizes and materials and as such we must have access to a variety of methods and techniques to seal them all for the purpose of a clean and safe sweeping process.

We all know that the vacuum we use is for dust control and pick up, however the vacuum is ineffective in a poorly sealed or large opening therefore we must be able to seal and encapsulate the area and still have access to sweep through.  Sealing the opening greatly increases the effect of the vacuum and causes an area of negative pressure inside when used. This negative pressure will suck outside air in  in instead of the alternative which is soot pushing out.

Have a quick watch of our video below where we show some of the methods we recommend

There are various sealing methods that sweep safe recommend , these include:

  •  Sponge blocks
  • Soot cloths and magnets
  • Soot cloths or sheets and expanding poles and possibly tape
  • Poly sheeting and magnets
  • Poly sheeting and tape
  • Sheets or soot cloth with nozzle and market stall clips, magnets or tape.

A mixture of the above fixing methods can be utilised.


Sponge blocks

Sponge block

sponge blocks used to seal an open fire with a chair brick

The sponge block sealing method is probably the most simple and is very effective. The method is to have one sponge block with a split in the centre or two separate blocks which are slightly oversized for the aperture to be sealed and compress them into place with the rod and brush already in place within the slit in the centre.
Sponge blocks seal almost air tight.

Tip ask some sweeps on the chimney sweep forums what is their favourite density of sponge and what size works best for what opening. Sponges of around 150mm in thickness work for most applications.
A sponge block used to seal a high level soot door

A sponge block used to seal a high level soot door


Soot cloths poles and tape

This method it great for large openings such as inglenooks or large open fires.
A soot cloth or sheet is placed over the aperture with the brush or flail already on the dirty side.
Expanding poles are used to hold a stretched out sheet or soot cloth in place through compression forces. The sheet covers the mouth of the opening. Tape can be used around the edges to form a seal.

Soot Sheet and Poles

Soot Sheet and Poles

 Warning if using tape surfaces might become damaged
Expanding poles are very strong and exert great force, they can easily lift up a fire surround so are best used in solid brick recesses.


Poly sheeting and magnets

Poly sheeting and magnets have changed the way many sweeps work, for the first time we are now able to see what is falling in real time as it occurs, meaning we can work cleaner and safer with less risk.
The magnets can be used to sandwich the poly sheeting, temporarily bonding to ferrous stoves and fireplaces. This gives an excellent seal without the need for tape. The poly sheets have a preformed hole to sweep through. The use of a plastic 40mm T piece and some 40mm plastic tubing makes attaching the vacuum nozzle simple and makes a low friction surface for the rods to pass through.

The poly and magnet method is one of the best for rotary power sweeping.

A poly sheet and magnets sealing set up

A poly sheet and magnets sealing set up


Soot sheets and market stall clamps

This method if often used to seal canopies that might have three open sides. I will break it down into bullet points
• Secure a solid soot sheet on the sides of the canopy using magnets or market stall clamps leaving some extra fabric the front
• Secure a soot cloth with a sweeping access nozzle to the front of the canopy using clips or magnets
• Fold and pleat the edges of the front and side sheets together in order to make a corner, roll this a few times to come a sausage and clip several market clips along the pleats to secure.
• You will now have a three sided tent suspended between the canopy, side walls  and the hearth.
• Turn on your vacuum and secure the nozzle into the dirty area
• Place your brush head or flail inside the tent ready to sweep with the rod passed through the nose of the sheet
• As necessary seal the tent to the hearth, canopy and wall using suitable tape taking great care not to damage the surfaces with the tape.


Soot sheet with sweeping  nozzle

The soot sheet with nozzle and magnet sealing method

The soot sheet with nozzle and magnet sealing method

The soot sheet  with attached sweeping nozzle can be used in many scenarios. It is best for manual sweeping as you can push the nozzle back and forth. A sleeve must be used for rotary methods.

It can be attached using expanding poles, tape, magnets and market clamps. Unlike poly these sheets have to be washed from time to time.

These soot sheets come in various shapes and sizes. Some come equipped with Velcro fasteners in order to easily wrap around stove pipes with access doors.

Soot sheet with nozzle, wrap around sealing method.

Soot sheet with nozzle, wrap around sealing method.


Total encapsulation or tent method

The total encapsulation method involves making a tent around the entire working area and then a second sealing method which seals the sweeping aperture.
This method is often used in stately homes, palaces and sites of special concern where risks are higher than usual.
Using a method where you are inside a tent there are several extra things to consider.

  • Adequate PPE
  • Overheating and hydration
  • Job cost
  • Time
  • Possible damage to ceiling if using props
  • Space
  • There are many national trust properties who now insist on this type of additional protection.
A tent sealing method

A tent sealing method

There are many possible methods to seal appliances and apertures, there is no de facto method and indeed it is often necessary to combine several different methods together in order to prevent soot escaping and adequately protect the property.

No matter how good the sealing method is there is no substitute for setting up a safe working area with adequate floor covering and sheets as sealing must always be used in combination with and not instead of.

Keep up the good fight professional sweeps. Let’s keep upping the standards and raising expectation