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ANSWERED: Do I *have to* sweep my chimney in France?

PLEASE NOTE: As for October 1st 2023, Decree No. 2023-641 of July 20, 2023 came into effect, superseding the below information. This blog remains live for the purposes of interest only. Even though the content below was correct at the time of writing, it MUST NOT be relied upon as current accurate information as it no longer applies. To read about Decree No. 2023-641 and how this new law applies to you, please click here.

The sweeping of a chimney is a surprisingly contentious subject here in France. Those on social media sites will be familiar with individuals insisting this and that about whether or not you have to have your chimney swept every year, whether you can sweep it yourself or even if a ‘bûche de ramonage’ is sufficient enough to protect you from a chimney fire. Today we cut through the noise and bypass the ‘pub talk’ finally putting an answer to the Chimney faux pas we see constantly online.

Legal requirements

In November 1979, the 6 sections of Article 31 of the ‘Règlement sanitaire départemental Type’ (RSDT) came into effect. Section 31-6 ‘Entretien, nettoyage et ramonage des conduits de fumée’, stipulates the conditions that legally must be met for the maintenance, cleaning and sweeping of fireplaces. Failing to comply with the conditions below could land you with a category 3 fine of up to 450€!

Heating appliances, boilers and/or kitchen devices (Ranges) and their connecting pipes (flues) need to be verified, cleaned and rectified (If necessary) at the user’s initiative at least once a year or more depending on the use and duration of use of the fire.

Flues in use serving residential and business premises must be swept twice a year with one sweep being conducted during the period of use.

The sweeping of the chimney must be carried out by a company qualified for this purpose by the professional body for building qualifications and classification[X]. The company must issue a certificate (certificate de ramonage) to the person concerned.

To view the full list of conditions, you can read Article 31 of the ‘Règlement sanitaire départemental Type’ (RSDT) here: See below

The previous link no longer exists. For current regulations, please see here.

Insurance requirements

Most insurance companies require you to produce a valid ‘certificat de ramonage’ from the past 12 months should you ever have a chimney fire. Without being able to provide this document, your house insurance policy could be invalidated, leaving you without cover should the worst happen. It is because of this that most homeowners in France choose to contact a professional chimney sweep to sweep their chimney once a year.

Different insurers have different requirements. It is therefore recommended that you check your own policy or contact your insurance agent to understand the requirements of your insurer. Remember to ask:

  • Do I need to sweep my chimney in order for you to continue providing cover?
  • How often do you require me to sweep my chimney?
  • Can I sweep my chimney myself or do I need to have it cleaned and inspected by a professional?
  • Do you need me to send you the certificate de ramonage once the sweep has been completed?

In reality

The reality of the situation is most homeowners will have their chimneys cleaned and inspected annually simply to comply with their insurance. Although there is a legal requirement to have the chimney swept in France, there is currently no way that this is being policed, meaning that the aforementioned category 3 fine would likely only be issued in the event of a chimney fire. Having said all this, it is of course still a good idea to have your chimney swept regardless, you can check out the 5 reasons you need your chimney swept here.