Chimney Sweep Everett

Chimney sweeping in Everett area – two inserts and two wood stoves.  One of the stoves was an older Fisher model – non-certified with single wall pipe.  Nothing wrong with installation from a code perspective – but a terribly inefficient wood stove – would be worth it to get a more efficient and modern stove which would save money, energy and add enjoyment.

Nasty Slammer in Alliston area

Had a nasty slammer to clean in Alliston area yesterday – took over a pail of creosote deposits out.  Scrubbed the whole smoke shelf and inside of fireplace – owner is replacing insert with new one and adding a liner.  Some small glazing remains in some parts which are not possible to get out – once damper is out could do more if needed.  The real reasons for removal are to prevent creosote odours from coming back down and if a lot then a potential for a chimney fire exists as the liner still gets hot.. especially if a fire in the liner were to occur.  Slammers are nasty – create a lot of creosote – are a serious hazard and a code violation.  A slammer is a fireplace insert – typically an older one – pushed into the fireplace without a proper liner attached.  For the record these units often do not provide much benefit in the way of heat either and are often times a waste of wood, money and energy.  Replacing them is often more than worth the work and cost not to mention the safety which is added.  If you need a Chimney Sweep – call a Certified Chimney Sweep professional!

Had To Use Creosote Remover Today

Yes, sometimes to get to the bottom of the glazed creosote requires help and that is where a professional grade creosote remover comes in.  Thankfully not something that is necessary a lot but when it is.. it is.

Going to be a cool night – a few wood fires burning out there already I expect.  Be sure to stay safe – burn good seasoned wood and have your chimney swept by Certified Chimney Sweep on regular basis.

Water Causes Most Chimney Damage – Not Fire!

It is true; most chimney damage is actually caused by water.  Far more damage is caused by rain than by chimney fires.  Not to discount the danger of a chimney fire when it happens, but the rain – especially in the rainy parts of the year can cause serious problems with chimneys.

Whether your chimney is masonry or factory-built, long term water exposure can eventually cause cracks or gaps in chimneys where creosote can accumulate and will increase the risk of a chimney fire or even provide passage for dangerous carbon monoxide gases to enter your living areas of home.

What are the clues to a potential problem?  If a factory built chimney then rust stains are one significant clue.  These could be on the outside or the inside.  If they are in the fireplace then the risk can become even higher – if you see it in the fireplace then it is likely a lot worse up the chimney.

Another clue may be any standing water or where you see water dripping – water anywhere near your home is never a good thing.  Your chimney does not like water and neither does any other part of your home – water is their #1 enemy.

Look for bent, damaged or missing flashing.  The metal flashing around your masonry or factory built chimney (as well as the caulking as well) are designed to keep water out.  They must be intact and in good condition to work well.  These can become warped or damaged over time and cause water intrusion and eventual water damage.

If you don’t have a rain cap get one now.  If there is not one there is a considerable increase in risk of damage.

If a masonry chimney – consider having waterproofing applied to the outside – a proper material will allow moisture to escape out but prevent it from entering the masonry.  Never use any paint or non-vapour permeable water sealer not designed for masonry – as it will make it worse and actually can hasten masonry deterioration!

Call a Certified Chimney Sweep to perform any recommended jobs – the Certified Chimney Sweeps are the top level of the industry’s professional standard.

Time To Get Ready For Winter

Yes winter is on its way – we have had nice weather for the past few weeks and unseasonal warm days.  But don’t worry – it will catch up to us!  Hopefully you have taken advantage of some of those days to get ready for winter, if not you still have time.  We will have some rainy cool days, but you can do some during that time and others in the nicer days between.

Don’t forget to clean your gutters – maybe even professionally cleaned.  Ensure they are working and doing their job properly.  What does a professional cleaning cost – it will depend a lot on size of home, access, etc.  I actually cleaned gutters on a cottage on the Severn River the other day while I was up inspecting and cleaning chimney.. as a favour to owner.

Get your chimney cleaned – hire a professional Certified Chimney Sweep!  The reports indicate a leading factor in home fires is failure to clean the chimney!  It is also wise to have it inspected by a Certified Chimney Sweep – or a WETT Certified Comprehensive Inspector.   A clean chimney will be a more efficient chimney and also help to prevent creosote fires and will reduce potential of carbon monoxide filling your home.

Seal the air leaks – true you won’t necessarily get them all yourself without special equipment to detect them – but you can get a lot!  This can in fact be an ongoing task through the winter – on windy days you can more easily find some leaks you missed.  This is one of the lowest cost and highest return on energy cost savings you may have at your disposal!

Have your furnace checked over – be it gas, oil or wood – there are professionals to help!  I do wood and pellet furnace cleaning and inspections weekly this time of year.  A well maintained furnace is an efficient furnace.

Check your trees over – this is something you can do yourself and may be in fact recommended.  In north Simcoe there are a lot of tree companies who will condemn any tree simply to try and make more money!  A study actually indicated that 60% of trees cut did not need to be removed!  If you hire a company look for an ISA Certified Arborist and a ISA Qualified Risk Assessor – a Certified Arborist is NOT trained to determine if a tree is a risk – and while they will provide their opinion it is nothing more than an opinion.  Look for dead and dying limbs – wind can bring them down – look for leaning trees and ensure they are well supported.  Ensure trees are away from home and any electrical wires serving your home.

Check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms – when time change comes change the batteries and be safe.

Certified Air Tightness Tester

What does a Certified Air Tightness Tester do, know and why does it matter.  Air Tightness certifications are provided in Canada by CRESNET – the Canadian equivalent of RESNET.  The purpose of CRESNET is to provide proper and effective energy audits and apply a proper HERS Index.

As I work closely with Home Energy systems and heating – knowing more about the whole building envelope is an important part of the job and how it can impact the solid fuel burning appliance and the occupants of the home.

If you are burning a wood stove, wood furnace, fireplace or insert – they all need air (oxygen) – the same as we do.  If they have no outdoor air supply they will attempt to use the air available to them in the home.  New fireplaces built to code will have external air supply – many new wood stoves, pellet stoves, etc. also have the provisions for external air supply to the fire.  The importance of this in a tight home can not be overlooked, not only is the oxygen the fire needs supplied – the potential of a downdraft is also eliminated.

Be smart; be safe!  Hire somebody certified to do the work!  Oh and yes I did get my Air Tightness Certification!


How to best clean a clay tile lined fireplace flue in a masonry chimney?

What’s the most effective way to sweep and remove the creosote from a clay tile lined fireplace flue in a masonry chimney?

Honestly there is no single and no easy answer.  There are many different creosote types encountered and some require slightly different techniques.  The advancement of tools in the industry helps a lot and there are other factors as well such as rooftop or chimney access.  Bottom line if there is more than 2mm of creosote – it should be cleaned.

Historically the way to clean was from the top working down using either round or flat wire brushes; this can be effective when there is a powdery creosote buildup or even a thin layer of glaze present.

However, due to technology the rotary sweeping method from bottom up using nylon or poly rods attached to a drill has become quite effective and popular.  These also are very effective at removing the powdery creosote buildups as well as thin layers of creosote glaze – they can actually be more effective than the older brush method – although the older brush method does give a feel when using which is beneficial in a masonry chimney and lost in the power sweep.

However, if the creosote glaze becomes thick and is not flaky, then it can be very difficult to remove with traditional methods from either the top or the bottom.   Chains can be used – however this method often will damage the flue liner – and should be used with caution – especially true if the liner is old and in not great condition.  Chemicals can also be used to assist in removal of the glaze creosote buildups.  Some of these are designed to be used with fireplace/insert/woodstove in use – these often work well to help in reducing buildup but caution should be used if there is already significant creosote deposits present in the flue.  Having a fire in the appliance with large buildup is asking for a chimney fire!  There are products we can use when the appliance is not in use – but it has to remain in place for a time to effectively loosen the creosote and does become an expensive job.  It can however be very effective at loosening the hard deposits from the flue surface.

It is also important to note that most chimney sweeps also now have very sophisticated and expensive chimney cameras; capable of looking closely at the chimney walls from inside.  This can be done before the sweep to examine how and where the flue gases flow,  based upon buildup, or after the sweep is performed to closely examine for cracking in tiles.

Inspecting during the sweep is important and should be done by an professional Certified Chimney Sweep.  Which is why a proper Chimney Sweep is not going to be performed in less than an hour in most cases.  You should always hire a Certified Chimney Sweep or Certified Advanced Chimney Sweep.

Chimney Height Rules

How high should your chimney be with a woodstove?  Well did one yesterday; and as soon as I got out of vehicle I said chimney may be too low.

Well, they had a WETT Inspection from a local Midland area inspector who showed the chimney as being compliant apparently for their insurance company.

Pulled out my TruPulse laser height measurement tool – and with a quick measurement it showed 2 feet from where chimney exited roof to the top of the liner.

Now other company likely did not get onto the roof and perform a measurement and likely did not have a laser height measurement tool.  As far as I know there are no other Chimney Sweeps or individuals doing WETT Inspections in Simcoe County who have one – certainly not in North Simcoe / Midland / Penetanguishene area.  Wish I had taken with me sweeping yesterday in Blue Mountains though – a chimney clearly too low which a Collingwood company had pointed out to homeowner.   I clearly was visually; looking out approximately 10 foot range (guessing by eye) the top of chimney was essentially level with the roof at that point.

People wonder why or how a chimney can be in place for years and then be suddenly non-compliant.  Especially when they have had previous inspections done by WETT Certified individuals who say it is okay!?

Problem is a WETT Level 1 inspection is visual in nature; many/most do not venture onto the roof and none that I am aware of have capability to actually measure the height from the ground.  Yes it is not inexpensive – bought mine half a dozen years ago – but they have not come down at all in price!  Here is place to buy one if interested.  Below is video showing one being used.

So bottom line if the WETT Inspector does not get onto the roof; and does not have technology to measure the height of chimney; how do they know?

So some even ask when the code changed.  Or how it has been okay for this long?  Well the simple reason it has been okay is again nobody measured it – or simply overlooked it as they could not be certain.

The actual Ontario Building Code states: Height of Chimney Flues
1) A chimney flue shall extend not less than
a) 900 mm above the highest point at which the chimney comes in contact with the roof, and
b) 600 mm above the highest roof surface or structure within 3 m of the chimney.

These rules have been in place for a long time.  There is no reason or excuse why any previous WETT Report would not pick these items up.  At minimum anybody who did these on regular basis you would think would notice immediately from ground when driving into the laneway – as I did. A Home Inspector who also does WETT Reports may miss this; as they realistically do not do enough of this work to necessarily pick this up.

Those who are thinking of building their own chimney (be it masonry or factory built (stainless steel) – follow the code.  Some may have trouble grasping the measurements – however the picture above should help.

These measurements are to not only meet code, but the wood burning appliance will operate better and often cause less problems.

Essentially the rule states the chimney must be 600mm (2 feet) taller than any structure within 3 m (10 feet) of it and at least 900mm (3 feet) taller than the roof where it exits/penetrates the roof.  c

These as mentioned are designed to ensure proper draft at fire as well as reduce likelihood of house fire.

A chimney which is too low or close to the roof (less than the necessary 300 mm height) is more likely to cause a roof fire from flying sparks and less likely to draw well.

It should also be noted that as a rule the minimum total length should be no less than 15 feet, this is the height the wood stoves are tested and certified at.  Note this is 15 feet from top of chimney (where smoke exists) to the floor on which the wood stove sits.

On the other side of the coin, too tall of a chimney can result in over drafting which can in fact cause damage to some appliances.  Now some manufacturers do offer dampers in double wall stove pipe – but must be used with care.

However a good inspector should not need to go onto the roof to identify some chimney defects; one that is too low is one of these.  You can recognize some problems as soon as you arrive – if you are luck enough to have a high precision laser height measurement tool then that works as well.  There are other defects I will grant you that are more difficult; I did one in Port McNicol earlier this year that the fire department said was okay – however the chimney was too high and actually should have had braces/support down to the roof.  Why did they pick this up?  Likely two reasons – first the fire departments in townships are likely volunteer and not as experienced with this work as those who do it full time – secondly they did not go onto the roof for a real measurement.

Bottom line – best to consult a professional if working on building a chimney!  This becomes particularly so if your property is near different terrain which maybe be near high hills; higher elevations or even out on a lone island in Georgian Bay – requirements may vary slightly.

How Frequently Does Your Chimney Need Cleaning?

Why Should I get my Chimney Cleaned?

Part of the job of the chimney sweep is to remove soot, blockages and built-up creosote from your chimney liner, firebox, smoke chamber and damper. But there is more – they should also check installation for code compliance – system for any broken or worn parts – and attempt to ensure it will work as intended or designed.

By having your system cleaned and inspected you will reduce likelihood of chimney fire or other disaster and have much greater peace of mind.  Remember it only takes a small amount of creosote to cause a chimney fire!  Yes a Chimney Fire!  That nasty substance we know as creosote is a highly flammable substance that builds up inside your chimney or liner as a result of burning wood. No – and other blogs explain why – but old wives tales such as burning potato skins; or burning the fire hot; or burning only hard wood.. do not negate the importance of a Chimney Sweep.

How much creosote accumulates and how fast it accumulates and more importantly what type of creosote is present depends on your burning practices and the particular appliance or woodstove you have.  Some woodstoves are worse than others; burning practices such as shutting down air on older airtight stoves cause tremendous buildup; green wood and other factors covered in other blogs here.  Species of wood is not as big a factor – some think wood such as pine causes huge buildup – an old myth disproven by the University of Georgia – but beware of advise you take.  Some websites where one might think they can get advise are wrong – burning pine being one that may pop up from time to time which is WRONG.

There are also other wives tales such as burning hot fires; burning potato skins or even the thought of the chimney cleaning logs.  None of these clean out creosote – the best some of them do is to cause the hard Stage 3 creosote to become crisper and flakier in formation.

To ensure you have that confidence and peace of mind you system is in good working order and operating as they should, you should follow the Ontario Fire Code and have an annual chimney inspection.   In fact most homeowners do have a Chimney Cleaning each year; some think they can skip it; others think they can do it themselves and others think burning potato skins does the job.

The first – who do it every year not only comply with the law but have peace of mind.  The ones who can skip may be taking a risk they can not afford – best to have a Professional Certified Chimney Sweep take a look and see if you can skip.  The ones who do it themselves – well to be honest and frank about this – I have yet to see one who did it correctly.  Not saying they can not – but do not know how.  Oh some think they do and these are actually likely the worst.  Finally the ones who rely on potato skins.. you might as well go to the fortune teller and get some advise or buy a lottery ticket.. it is NO more reliable and has be proven multiple times that it DOES NOT remove creosote but may make it more cleanable.

Even those who only use their system on minimal basis should have inspections – in fact I offer inspections at low cost – typically the $40 range.  If the system is clean will see you the next year – if it needs cleaning will clean and not charge you the inspection fee but will naturally charge for the sweep.

The inspections are code inspections as well as operational inspections – this is part of reason you always should hire a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep – they are trained to do this properly.

How often should you clean your chimney?  The National Fire Protection Association and the Ontario Fire Code states that chimneys, fireplaces, woodstoves and vents should be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. All cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.  Keep in mind also that birds and animals can get into the chimney – I cleaned a squirrel and bird out of fireplace earlier this week.

The CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) says that fireplaces should be cleaned when 1/8″ of sooty buildup is evident inside the chimney and flue system – the Ontario Fire Code says 2mm of deposits.

I recently did one chimney with a full 5 gallon plastic pail of creosote – and another with 2 full pails.  Owners in both cases were new owners but indicated this was only one year of use.

Don’t wait until the fall, I can perform your chimney cleaning or inspection any time of year.