16 February 2024


Back in November we arranged for someone to come and sweep our chimney.

In French this is called "ramonage".

The central chimney serves two fires which are back to back either side of a stone wall. One is in the kitchen and one in the living room.  The tubage from each fire shares the same space. 

Tubage (pronounced "tewbarge") is the actual flue.  It’s a solid metal structure at the fireplace end but once into the actual chimney it becomes a more flexible metal hose.  

We spent much of the winter of 2014/15 in the house and came to the conclusion that neither of the wood burners was ideal for the room.  

The original Godin fire in the kitchen.
It had a very fat flue.

In the kitchen there was a very handsome Godin which threw out way too much heat for that size of room.  

The original living room fire that came with the house.

It's an insert that is designed to be fitted flush into a wall.

In the living room was an unbranded "insert" - the kind of fire that is meant to be recessed into a wall with just the door showing.  This one was perched on the hearth with all its fixings on show so it was rather ugly and not very efficient either.  

At the time we thought it would work if we moved the Godin into the living room and got a smaller wood burner for the kitchen so we invited the local plumbers round to look at the possibility.  They discovered that the tubage for both fires ended about a metre into the chimney and above that there was nothing, just an empty stone chimney with no lining.  

An unlined chimney is fine for an open fire (assuming the stonework is in good condition) but woodburning stoves are meant to have tubage (a flue pipe) that carries smoke to the top of the chimney.  When we lit the Godin in the kitchen we could smell smoke in the bathroom and the previous owners had said that they never had both fires burning at the same time although they didn’t say why that was.  We found out for ourselves that this produced a lot of smoke upstairs. 

After a lot of head scratching the plumbers decided that the main obstacle to reusing the Godin was that it had a very wide flue.  There simply was not the space in the chimney for its tubage and another one.  This is probably why the previous fires were installed as they were - with no tubage because the chimney space was not big enough.  There then followed a nervous discussion when the plumbers thought it might actually not be possible to have two tubages in the same chimney space because it wasn’t big enough.  

However, with much investigation, crawling on the roof and prodding with tape measures, they decided it could be possible but we would have to change both of the fires.  We could not reuse the Godin from the kitchen because of the size of its flue.

We sold the handsome Godin for a reasonable price on Le Bon Coin and gave the other one away.  We ordered two brand new wood burners from the plumber’s catalogue and are very happy with both of them.

Since then we have only had the chimney swept once, by the company that installed the new fires.  They did the kitchen one from the roof.  During the covid years the fires were hardly used and in fact they had little use at all until this winter and we decided to get them done.  

We tried to contact the company that installed the fires and did the last ramonage but their old business premises is empty and the phone number doesn't work.  We asked around and a friend gave us the number of the plumber they used to sweep their chimney.

This person came to sweep the chimneys in November but declared he was unable to do the kitchen fire because it couldn’t be done from inside the house.  We asked around again and another friend recommended a firm that they use for chimney sweeping and gas boiler servicing.

Those people came in January but declared they couldn't do the kitchen fire either, despite the fact that I had been into the office, shown the woman the instruction manual for the kitchen fire and been reassured that they would do it from the roof.  One the day they said they couldn’t do it because the sweep wasn’t insured for roof work. 

We asked our lovely builder's wife if she had any suggestions and she gave us the name of a company that only does ramonage - chimney sweeping - and that they always use for any clients that need it doing.  Just to be sure we sent them photos to show exactly what sweeping the chimney for the kitchen fire involves.  

Third time lucky!  They turned up on the day and got the job done.

There was a moment of concern when I thought he was doing the wrong chimney!

But all was well, the job was done in very little time at all.

Were most impressed but less so when they told us we are legally supposed to have both fires swept twice a year, before and after use!   

Well, we shall see about that!  There is never a dull moment when you own an old house in France!


  1. I love the bright pink Van!

  2. Check with your house insurance on how many times they require it doing... to our knowledge it is only once per annum... well, that's MMA's requirement.
    Two times seems very odd... before and after.... if you have it done after, it is already done before.... isn't it?
    As a "ramonage only" firm, perhaps they need the extra work for nothing...... says cynical old me!
    Our big boiler is a bit different and because it is a high "rendement" [ more than 95%... it only needs doing every two years and is done when the boiler is serviced....

  3. We actually sweep our own, but it's very simple, a straight flue with only one storey between it and the roof -- a 10-minute job. I take a photo of the brush sticking out to prove we've done it! I would check with your insurance, normally it's just once a year. Our flue doesn't get very dirty, we do it before lighting for the first time in case there's a bird's nest in there.

    1. We have spoken to our insurers and they say that they don't dictate how often the chimney should be swept, that it's up to the local department and Mairie to set the rules.
      I asked at the Mairie and they said once a year.
      Our insurers said that doing it yourself is acceptable but in the event of a house fire or chimney fire they will send an expert to assess the condition of the chimney and that will affect the outcome of a claim. A professional sweep gives a certificate to say the chimney has been swept.
      As always with insurance, nothing is certain!