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!

 

Do You Need A Fireplace Inspection When Purchasing A Home

Yes obtaining a satisfactory WETT Inspection report when buying a home is a good idea; in fact as important in many cases as a Home Inspection.  It is an excellent idea; there are however a couple of important differences.

What is WETT?  WETT or (Wood Energy Technology Transfer Inc.) is a non-profit training and education association in Canada. WETT Inc operates as the national registrar of the WETT program, promoting the safe and effective use of wood-burning systems throughout Canada.

Masonry Chimney Crown Needs Work.
Masonry Chimney Crown Needs Work.

Most often WETT inspections are performed on cottages, seasonal homes and rural properties which contain woodstoves, however don’t forget the fireplaces as well which are common in urban homes throughout Ontario.

Fireplace Ash Pit Cleanout.
Fireplace Ash Pit Cleanout.

In many of the rural areas, at least in the local Midland and Collingwood area, many of the installations of wood stoves are DIY jobs, where the homeowner and a friend put up the chimney and installed the stove.  Problem is that often times these do-it-yourself jobs have some code violations in the installation, either related to the chimney or stove pipe or in relation to clearances from combustibles.

Fact is that WETT Inspections are few and far between in larger areas; and likely would never be seen in the GTA area of Ontario.

Yes a WETT Inspection is recommended on any property which has a fireplace, woodstove or wood furnace regardless of where it is located.  In fact the buyer should insist on a WETT Inspection.  A proper WETT inspection report will detail any code compliance problems and/or areas where the existing system is in need of repairs.

Don't Forget The Lintel.
Don’t Forget The Lintel.

Keep in mind that building inspections are not sufficient – even for NEW HOMES!!  A fireplace can in fact pass Building Code and fail the FIRE CODE!  The municipal inspector will verify only the building code.  One example is the Ontario Building Code stipulates a masonry chimney has a concrete or masonry cap/crown on a masonry chimney for a fireplace.  The Building Code does not however mention a rain cap or spark arrestor; the Fire Code however does!

Note that there are some items you need to be aware of however in having

Or Inside The Chimney Flue.
Or Inside The Chimney Flue.

the Home Inspector perform a WETT Inspection.

a) the NFPA 211 indicates that for a Real Estate Transaction or Land Transfer a Level 2 Inspection should be performed – can your Home Inspector perform a Level 2 (more detailed and in depth) Inspection?

b) does your Home Inspector open up and examine the whole system to check for any defects – or only look at it visually ?  A Level 1 will NEVER look for all the parts and if they are operational – it does not need to nor is it part of a Level 1 Inspection scope.

Also keep in mind the Inspector MUST check inside the chimney itself, is the flue intact continuous?  Is there creosote buildup?  If they do not then by the Fire Code you need to have somebody inspect the chimney inside for creosote deposits and clean if necessary.  A sweep is recommended

WETT Inspection - WETT Chimney Sweep
Find A WETT Certified Chimney Sweep

when 2mm of creosote is present – which is enough to cause a chimney fire.  A depth of 3mm is mandatory sweep under the fire code.

For safety reasons, fireplaces always should be equipped with a glass or mesh screen in the front preventing the escape of sparks and embers during normal operation of the fireplace.

The WETT Inspector should check all the components of the system, including the crown, cap, spark arrestor, chimney flue/tiles, bricks, mortar, any dents or rusk, missing screws or fasteners, etc.  Part of the report is also the inclusion of a Smoke Detector/Alarm and/or Carbon Monoxide Detector/Alarm – both of which are mandated by law in Ontario.

A WETT inspection is an important part of a home purchase, and an inspection condition should always be inserted into an agreement of purchase and sale where the home has a fireplace or a woodstove.  Be sure to get the Chimney Swept at the same time and ask for a Level 2 Inspection.

Fireplace and Masonry Chinney Cleanning in Collingwood

Yes, in Collingwood around noon today.  Cleaning of a chimney and fireplace.   Had some large deposits of soot and creosote – definitely needed cleaning!   Customer was familiar with wood burning and said they were happy when they bought the home with a fireplace.  Rather a tall fireplace; almost Rumford like – but not quite.

Paul Bartello actually did the Home Inspection and WETT Inspection on the place when they purchased and they said they were satisfied with the Home Inspection.   Paul is one of the few Home Inspectors I have seen who will provide a reasonable WETT Inspection – all be it still very limited in scope.

Sweep went well – looked at bricks and mortar on outside of chimney – top of crown – caps – and inside flue.  Cleaning was done with power sweep – which actually for most chimneys works well.. although there are some I prefer the old manual brush and rod method.

Regardless of who you hire for you Chimney Sweep – be sure to find somebody – ensure they are a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep!!  Get it done and get it down right!

Is burning wood an efficient and renewable way to keep our homes warm?

Wood is something that many do not fully understand and often jump to conclusions. Some consider it a dirty fuel that contributes to pollution and green house gases. Others consider it a reliable, efficient and clean energy option. Which is true?

Realistically wood can for the most part be either. In a worst case scenario, burning a campfire outside in your backyard, all of the heat is wasted, there is no managed secondary burn to control emissions and large particles enter into the atmosphere. On the other side an energy efficient EPA Certified wood stove, which has a secondary burn to control waste and emissions and is burning seasoned wood as designed – will be an energy efficient heat source which is in fact greenhouse gas neutral. Yes neutral. There are zero amount of carbon release into the atmosphere than would be released if the wood were left to die naturally, the only difference may be in the speed of the carbon release.

But then some might say, we are cutting down our forests to create the firewood. Well, another urban myth created by those who really do not understand how woodlot and forest management works in Ontario. You see you can not simply enter a woodlot or forest and start cutting trees, it is illegal in Ontario and you will pay the consequences.  You must manage the forest properly and there are officers employed to work with you and to control abusive individuals.  Yes some do get away with some illegal activities and that is going to happen, but for the most part it does not.  In fact the most abusive individuals in our area are aboriginal decent, and try to use that as an excuse to say they can do what they want, which is a disgrace as any of their ancestors would manage the forest and leave for the future generations.  Wood stores carbon as the trees grow naturally and when decaying will release that carbon back to the atmosphere – burning is an identical release of carbon and the only thing we have changed is method of release and timeline.

What really happens in our area, and Ontario for that matter, is forests are managed and dead, dying or less desirable trees are removed allowing the remainder to be more healthy and grow better.  In years to come the remainder will be thinned and younger left room to thrive, however this ongoing cycle is not an annual cutting but one that happens only every five or ten years in any given woodlot – there is a minimum basil area which legally must be maintained in the woodlot to satisfy the law.

Some of the positive sides are the carbon you release burning wood – is in fact absorbed by the new trees growing – as designed in nature.  However to get this efficiency out of wood – you need to ensure that you season it properly and burn it wisely – otherwise you are wasting the wood energy and contributing to more pollution.  Do it right and you are energy smart!

It is true that for those on a budget, wood heat has the potential to save them money compared to other heating systems, this is no more true than comparing to electric heating (especially in Ontario).  Our current government has made electricity virtually unaffordable for most living outside the large urban area where annual income is lower and the electricity cost are higher.. frankly I don’t think I have ever seen any worse solution for energy production than we currently have in Ontario – and the sad part is our government convinced the urban dwellers it was the right thing to do and gained votes by this silly platform.

Moving on – wood heating means you gain independence.  Independence from the energy costs – independence from power failures – independence from others telling you what to spend.  This is no more so true than if you can get your wood for free from your own property which many in the Midland and Penetanguishene area are able to do.  However, even if you do purchase wood – you are helping to support the local community.  On the other hand purchasing electricity sends those dollars to other parts of the province, country and even other countries!

Now there are efficient and inefficient ways to burn that wood.  A modern wood stove is perhaps one of your best options – and an old pot belly stove or masonry fireplace maybe the worst – sending the most heat up the chimney.  Now while we are on that – many think all fireplaces are inefficient and that is not so – the Rumford fireplace design is efficient and even EPA certified and tested – but more on that in other blogs.

I have heard some say it takes a lot of trees to make the wood you need, some saying an acres to make half a cord.  Nonsense – In fact I have seen single trees which will produce half a cord – and not on a rare occasion.  I had a good friend who produced firewood – some of the best in the area – and I have seen many large old trees which would provide easily half a cord of good firewood.  Having said that – ensure you buy your firewood from smaller companies – they will by far provide you with the best firewood and will almost always ensure the forest and woodlot is managed properly.  Do not burn unseasoned wood – on the other hand don’t waste money on kiln dried firewood!  One of the silliest marketing ideas around yet – when firewood in Ontario can be seasoned properly and naturally outside.  But do season it – as properly seasoned firewood has more than four times the heat value of green (uncured) wood, since, when burned, not as much energy has to be used to remove moisture.  What is seasoned wood – it is wood that has dried naturally to the point where it has a moisture level of less than 20%. Typically, this is achieved by air-drying rain-protected split wood for at least six warm months.

Finally don’t forget to get you chimney cleaned by a Certified Chimney Sweep!

The Rumford Fireplace – They Are Not All Equal – Do It Right

The Rumford fireplace is an amazing design, an efficient and great looking fireplace.  Yes efficient.. hard to believe for many.. and some looking at the design would say it will not work or that it will be smoky in operation.

Fact is it does work, fact the Rumford is efficient.  Fact is it is even EPA approved and is the ONLY fireplace design that can support a secondary burn!

But there are modifications to the Rumford that have been done over the years and many do not work, they neglect the science behind the design – remember that Rumford himself was a physicist and understood Fluid Dynamics, Thermal and Heat Properties and built the fireplace design with science in mind. One of these early design changes was actually Thomas Jefferson, making some drawings to “improve the design” which unfortunately neglected science and frankly were a failure.

Fact is Rumford did it right and we can still use his original design today if we implement correctly – do not attempt to modify it or you may end up with a smoky mess!

If you want an efficient masonry fireplace – why not research and consider a Rumford – it does work!

Fireplace Inspection – Tiny Beaches Road

Beautiful fireplace – modern and more efficient design.  Love these units.

They are definitely a step up from the older more traditional fireplace, yet give you the same fireplace ..

Beautiful day on Georgian Bay for Chimney Sweeping!  I offer clients an annual inspection for very low cost; and perform sweep if necessary.

Keep in mind that 3mm of soot and creosote will drive burning cost up by 15% and at the 3mm level is considered a fire hazard!  Call your local Chimney Sweep today.

WETT Inspection – Chimney Sweep – Stove Clean

Complete clean of fireplace insert – chimney liner and Level 2 WETT Inspection on Farlain Lake in Tiny Township.

Started with a general clean of the insert – review of clearances – not just WETT Inspection on Real Estate Transactionsthe front but those inside the old masonry fireplace as well.  Then went to cleaning firebox, removal of all the refractory bricks and vacuuming.  That led to observations that the liner needed cleaning and a trip to top of masonry chimney confirmed this – so power sweeping came out and chimney liner was cleaned.

Once all cleaned inspected and put back together a fire was started to test the whole system out – I often like to start a fire if time in the systems.

Love the job – love the people!  Chimney work is great!  If you need help don’t wait, call today.

The Beginners Guide On Lighting A Fireplace

It is a fact that lighting a fireplace the first time can be a challenge, smoke coming into your eyes and the room, the wood keeps going out, what am I doing wrong?  A great video to watch for the beginner.  Oh, and don’t forget to get the annual Chimney Sweep completed.

 

 

Yes – Clean Your Chimney During The Summer

Actually the BEST time to clean your chimney is during the summer months.  You are right in thinking that maybe summer is the best time for your Chimney Sweep.

You may be enjoying summer – resting when you can and enjoying the sun.  But it won’t be long before cool fall nights are here.  At RAW Chimney Sweep I know the winters in Midland and Penetanguishene can be downright nasty.  And you want to keep warm at the lowest cost!  Some don’t bother to clean their chimneys often – and pay for it either with a chimney fire or a huge bill at Chimney Sweep time!  Yes if your chimney is nasty so will be your bill!
Why not use the summer months t0 benefit your family, your property, and your home by getting a Chimney Sweep.  Chimney Sweeps should be certified by WETT.  If the person is claiming to Sweep Chimneys – and is NOT a WETT Certified professional then beware!

Sweep your Chimney in the Summer and Avoid Chimney Odors

Summer is a great time.  The costs are lower.  The job is able to be done when you do not need your wood heat.  And the smells from creosote will not haunt you.  Yes the humid air during the summer can cause the dirty chimney creosote odours to enter your home or cottage.   Your home or cottage may begin to smell like a barbecue! If you haven’t taken the time to have your Chimney Sweep completed – why not schedule it now.

The other reason summer Chimney Sweeping is good, you may need repairs to the chimney.  A WETT Certified Chimney Sweep will identify these and will also make the repairs themselves, saving you money.  However,  it is good to have done when you do not need heat, as the wood fire can not be burning.  In fact it must be turned off for several hours before the sweep is performed.  If the fire has not been turned off, there will be additional charges for the Chimney Sweep job. Why?  A warm chimney is harder to clean and will cause unnecessary wear to the Power Sweep system.  In fact the damage a warm chimney can cause to the Power Sweep can easily be between $200 to $300 in damage.. or more.

And – avoid the FALL RUSH.  Yes too many people call in the fall.  The prices are higher and you wait longer.  From October to January is the BUSY SEASON for the Chimney Sweep.

This is the time we are busy with emergency calls, repairs and inspections.  The summer months are the best time for your Chimney Sweep.

If you haven’t yet had your Chimney Sweep, it’s time to make the appointment. You can speak with a WETT Certified Chimney Expert today by calling RAW Chimney Sweep at 705-300-1243  or contact us here.   If you are an existing customer you can benefit from our referral program, if you refer a friend and save on your Chimney Sweep.

Do You Need A WETT Inspection & Not Sure What You Are Looking For?

What do you require for a WETT Inspection?  There are actually 3 levels; and reasons for when each is required.

There are actually eight (8) levels of certifications within WETT; and many members hold two, three or more.  It is important you understand the ability of each level and look for the right one!

Essentially if nothing has changed, a Level 1 Inspection which is the most basic inspection should be sufficient.

Are you looking for one to provide to your Insurance company?  They may accept a Level 1; especially if you have not moved or changed anything since the last time you sent them a WETT Inspection (likely around 5 years ago).  If anything has changed, then you really should have had a Level 2 inspection at that time – however if you did not a Level 2 now may be prudent!    The Level 1 is a basic visual inspection of readily accessibly parts to determine code compliance.  Any WETT member can provide the Level 1 Inspection – which should include standard WETT recommended checklist as part of your report – and quite possibly photographs.

The Level 2 Inspection is required if something has changed, or if the property is changing hands.  This is a more comprehensive inspection and is designed to provide a better assurance for the new owner.  A WETT member who is a Chimney Sweep; Technician or Comprehensive Inspector can perform Level 2 inspections.  (It is IMPORTANT to note the level of certification/qualification when using the WETT directory)

The Level 3 Inspection is not performed often; and is really only when a Level 2 suspects a problem but is not able to determine with 100% confidence, after a chimney fire or any other occurrence which may impact the integrity of the system.

If the system is not functioning properly or as you think it should or is damaged or causing concern in any way (smoke spillage, rapid creosote buildup or other problems) then look for a Technician or Chimney Sweep.

Note: Not all technicians and sweeps offer diagnostic services.