What is a chimney liner?
Most masonry chimneys in our area have clay tiles stacked and mortared inside the brick structure.  These clay tiles are intended to carry the flue gases and smoke inside away from the masonry structure.  Without the liner, or with cracked and damaged liners, heat wold transfer into and through the brick and mortar.  A liner is a stainless steel flexible pipe inserted inside this clay tile, and the gases from the wood stove flow inside this liner.   Some liners are insulated and can make a masonry chimney perform virtually as well as a factory built chimney.

My chimney has white stains on the brick what is this?
The white stains or powder-like material is often the result of water penetration of the chimney and known as efflorescence. During a rain, snow, or ice storm water is into the brick and mortar, as the mortar and brick dry lime and salts from within the brick and mortar are let behind on the surface.

How often should I have my chimney cleaned?
There really is no hard fast rule, it depends on the stove, the wood you burn, how you burn it and how often you burn it.  I have seen as often as every month to once every decade.  However the Ontario Fire Code states that the chimney must be inspected and if necessary cleaned at least once per year.

As a general guideline the actual frequency of cleaning will depend on:

  • How frequently you use the wood burning appliance
  • The species of wood burned
  • How dry the wood is when burned
  • How you burn the appliance
  • Weather it is a wood stove, fireplace or insert
  • How efficient the appliance is – also related directly to age
  • If chimney is lined or a factory built
  • Location of chimney (indoors or exterior)
  • If chimney has a raincap
  • If the chimney also has oil in same flue

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be swept at 1/8″ of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system.  This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home. Factory-built fireplaces should be swept when any appreciable buildup occurs. The logic is that the deposit is quite acidic and can shorten the life of the fireplace.

How often should I have my chimney inspected?
The Ontario Fire Codes makes it clear – at least once a year.  Inspected by a chimney sweep and cleaned if necessary.  During the inspection there are a whole list of problems I may find which include:

  • cracks in liner
  • settling or movement of chimney
  • moisture damage
  • nests or other obstructions
  • excessive tar or creosote buildup
  • etc

Do you have references?
I can provide many references, however many of them are from the days of installations. Generally people do not ask for references for sweeping or inspections, often times with most the highest credentials that are offered by WETT in each area are more than enough.  Being an Advanced Chimney Sweep and a Comprehensive Inspector offers adequate evidence of competence for most customers.  I am also partnering with a local business where the owner sells wood stoves and is an Advanced Advisor and Advanced Technician.  Between the two of us we have each of the highest credential offered by WETT and are happy to bring that to your home.

What areas do you service?
Area is pretty much dependent upon what is requested.  However, as a rule of thumb most of Simcoe County including down to Barrie, Blue Mountains, Collingwood, Creemore, Orillia, Brechin and of course up into Muskoka including the Parry Sound and Gravenhurst area.  Also island access into Six Mile, Go Home Lake, Georgian Bay, etc.

I have an outside chimney, with a wood stove in the basement.  How can I fix back-drafting?
This is a tough one and it appears in various blogs throughout our website.  There is no single, simple answer to this problem.  If there were I would post in big, bold text on the front page.  Realistically chimneys are always better if inside the home.  The problem you have can be related to flue size in chimney being too large, the chimney being masonry, the chimney being un-insulated or other reasons.

If you have a factory built (metal) chimney you may be able to move it inside, or build a chase around it (inside is better option of the two).  If it is masonry then moving is not possible, you could try an insulated insert/liner inside the chimney – which can in some cases make it almost as good as a metal factory built chimney.  You may say there is no way to run it inside, but there always is a way to do almost anything.

It is also impacted by how leaky or tight  your home is, if it is leaky at higher levels then the problem becomes worse.  (a two story home – with serious leaks on 2nd floor is a typical worst case example)
Try sealing up attic hatches, ceiling fixtures, 2nd story windows, etc.

There is no single – for sure solution to this problem – just as there is no single reason why the back-draft occurs to begin with.

What stove do you recommend that I buy?

I generally do not recommend any particular brand or model, although there occasionally may be the rare exception to this.  Most often I will look at the efficiency of the stove, the size (output) of the stove, and other general factors that will ensure it meets your needs, operates at lowest cost and brings you great joy in use over the years.   Most good stove dealers will have operational stoves in their showrooms, and most have WETT System Advisors on staff to assist in the decision.  While as a Chimney Sweep I am trained to understand many aspects of the system and components, there may be aspects the advisor is aware of which may assist you – and I would not want to detract from their expertise.   Always look for a WETT System Advisor to discuss options and a WETT Technician for install and finally a WETT Chimney Sweep for maintenance and cleaning services.

How do I get a WETT inspection or WETT certificate?

Your appliance (woodstove, fireplace or furnace) cannot be WETT certified.

I often get requests for :

  • a WETT Certificate
  • a WETT Certification
  • a WETT Approval
  • verification it is a “WETT Certified installation.

Sometimes people will ask if the company is WETT Certified.

Each of these is WRONG/INCORRECT.  None of these terms EXIST.

What should be issued is an inspection report, completed by an individual who is WETT certified.

There is no SUCH thing as a WETT Certificate.

The appliance may be CERTIFIED – but by the manufacturer and not by WETT.

The person performing the inspection is certified by WETT.

What you need to do is contact a WETT certified professional to inspect your wood-burning appliance. WETT has adopted a process to help identify the level of inspection required.  Generally the inspection is best performed by a Chimney Sweep or Comprehensive Inspector – normally either of whom can also clean the chimney if necessary.

What is a SITE Basic Inspection? / What are the levels of Inspection?

SITE outlines three levels of inspection:

  • Level-1 Inspection – “Readily Accessible”
  • Level-2 Inspection – “Accessible”
  • Level-3 Inspection – “Concealed Accessibility”
What kind of report will I get?

For any level of inspection, you should receive a written report.  WETT has standardized forms which should be used as part of this report and should always be included.  At the top of each form will be the words “WETT RECOMMENDED INSPECTION CHECKLIST“.  In a properly performed inspection, you will receive two or more of these reports – one for the appliance and one for the chimney.  While members in WETT are encouraged to use these standardized forms, some vary and have made their own form template which they use.  Most competent inspectors will also include a short written report with a Level 1 inspection, Level 2 inspections and Level 3 inspections will always have a more complete written report with them and cost more due to the additional time onsite and in report preparation.  The report may also include photographs, or the inspector may retain these simply for reference in the future.

Having said that I have heard of inspectors who apparently give no report, or sometimes a simple small one page report with not a whole lot on it.  Realistically, you often get what the inspector is able to provide based upon their experience and good inspectors who have been doing a lot of work in the field will know what you need and will provide generally a minimum of two or three pages in the report.

How long is an inspection report valid for?

Any inspection report records what was seen on that particular day, and can not guarantee anything into the future.  Most competent inspectors will explain this to the client, and should include this in their written report.   I always have this written in the report clearly.  This is because like in any inspection, after leaving the premises, the inspector has no control over, nor knowledge of any changes that may take place to a wood-burning appliance installation.  I have heard some say the report is good for 5 years!  WRONG!  In fact, the Ontario Fire Code stipulates an inspection should be performed annually.  Realistically ANY WETT Inspection is valid on the day it is performed ONLY – although I will provide in writing mine are valid for 30 days.

My fireplace stinks, especially in the summer. What can I do?

What you smell is actually creosote deposits within the chimney, this is a natural by-product of wood burning. The higher humidity in the summer and the lack of burning wood is what causes the odour to be more noticeable.  When wood is burning, there is a natural draft taking all odours up and out.  The problem is the air being drawn down the chimney into the home, a sweeping of the chimney in early spring/summer can help – a rain cap is mandatory – and a treatment with Ozone can eliminate any odour in the home (although if the source is not dealt with it will return.

When I build a fire in my upstairs fireplace, I get smoke from the basement fireplace.

This is more common in the air tight homes of today, and is due to differing air pressure zones within the home.  The easiest way to solve this is to have an easy source for air to enter the home, and new fireplaces will have this built in as part of their design.  If you have this problem, give us a call and we will try to work to a solution for you.

How do I know if he really cleaned my chimney?  

A proper chimney sweeping includes the chimney flue and smoke chamber of a fireplace or the wood stove and chimney flue.  All WETT Certified Chimney Sweeps will provide a Level 1 or Level 2 inspection as part of the sweeping – it is mandatory with WETT certification.  There will NOT be a written report unless you pay a bit more – but the sweep will still do all the necessary work involved in the inspection.  This is in fact why it is a WASTE of money for people hiring a Home Inspector to do a WETT Inspection – unless they are also a Chimney Sweep!  Have the chimney cleaned as well – you will need to do it when you buy the property & it will save you MONEY!  Level 1 and Level 2 inspections are detailed in the National Fire Protection Association 211: Standard on Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances.  DO NOT HIRE ANY SWEEPS WHO ARE NOT WETT CERTIFIED CHIMNEY SWEEPS!

I’m unsure how to work my damper. Can you should me how? 

This is actually a fairly common question.  If your damper is not working properly or it is closed, you are at minimum going to get a really smoky room.. and possibly a very dangerous fire hazard.  You must have the damper to be fully open before you light your fire.

How I can verify that someone is certified?

A VERY GOOD QUESTION.  It is important to note that WETT certifies individuals, not companies.  It is also important to note that Certifications can expire.  We have had TWO individuals that I am aware of advertising they were WETT certified and performing WETT inspections in the Midland area who were doing so fraudulently.   WETT Certified professionals are issued a photo ID Card – the current year will be on the ID card.  Furthermore you will find them on the WETT site at this link .  If I understand correctly one individual was using a WETT # (which each inspector gets) which was no longer a valid number, and the other simply made the information up out of thin air.  Protect yourself and your family.

The ID Card Should Look Like This.