Woodstove in Penetanguishene – Smoky – Home Inspector had said it was okay..

Well had a call, mentioned in earlier post.  So what was wrong..

Well, the Home Inspector had missed a couple of things.  Having said that he is a very good Home Inspector in my opinion.  But this only goes to show even the best of them do not handle woodstoves well.

Problems :

a) missing heat shield at ceiling – 16 inches clearance with single wall pipe.  But this was not what was making it smoke!

b) missing screws on pipe joints – code says 3 screws per joint.  One joint of pipes had zero screws.. yes zero.

c) a two foot section of single wall pipe was not completely joined together.  Single wall pipe is essentially a flat piece of steel rolled into a circular shape and held together with a barbed like joint.  Snap it together and it is supposed to hold.  Well this was not together.. for a full half of the length of pipe!   And at the one end had a half inch gap .. this was defiantly one area where smoke was coming out..  when I asked they admitted smoke was exiting here.  Even if everything else was working this would leak smoke, flue gases, carbon monoxide, whatever.. a serious dangerous situation.  Yes this was potentially a cause of the smoke.

Three items missed – and potentially some very dangerous ones.. this is why a Level 2 Inspection is supposed to be done for Real Estate transactions.

But there was another cause as well, at least today being that it was minus twenty degrees outside.  A cold masonry chimney with a serious downdraft.  I did start a fire and get the stove pipe and chimney heated (after I replaced the stove pipe with gap – tried to snap it together and it did not hold – simply opened up again).  Once chimney was heated the stove functioned properly.

Realistically if you need a stove inspected then you do need to have somebody who understands the principles of the operation and how to fix and how to inspect it properly!

Unlike a Home Inspection there are few areas for opinions; it is generally right or wrong.  And with wood burning appliances you are often not simply violating a building code, which can be dangerous but you may get away with.  You are often violating or attempting to violate the laws of physics.   It is not an area to mess around and not do things right!  Be safe, sleep soundly at night.

Labels on woodburning stoves

The data plate or label on woodstoves has been affixed to stoves for the past couple of decades, is attached to the rear (on a woodstove) and has a unique serial number as well as the appropriate testing information and clearances to combustibles.    Some woodstoves do not have any corner data on the plate, simply because the woodstove was never tested and certified for corner installation.  This does not mean it can not be safely corner installed, but that more work is required during any inspection or installation process for a corner installation.

To allow that plate to be attached, each manufacturer of a wood burning appliance is required to have extensive testing performed on their behalf in an independent accredited test laboratory.  Several of these laboratories exist, one example being Warnock Hersey.

A prescribed set of tests have been established allowing a determination of safe clearances of combustibles for various installation configurations, and these clearances will be printed on the data plate.

If you need an inspection for a wood stove installation in Canada, you will need a WETT Certified Inspector to perform this on your behalf.   There are two levels of inspectors in Canada, the SITE Basic Inspector and the SITE Comprehensive Inspector.  The SITE Basic being an entry level inspector and the Comprehensive being a more Advanced, Experienced and Knowledgeable Inspector level.  The SITE Basic is able to perform Basic inspection on existing installations where nothing has changed since the last inspection, or any changes done have been exact like for like changes.

The SITE Comprehensive is able to perform more rigorous testing required for new installations, changes in existing installations, inspections after a chimney fire or inspections for real-estate transactions or property transfers.

WETT Inspections do not provide a Certification of your equipment – it only provides a proper inspection to ensure it is installed properly as per applicable codes.  A good Level 2 or Level 3 inspection performed by a Comprehensive Inspector will also ensure the operation of the system is functional as intended at time of inspection.   Level 1 inspections performed by SITE Basic inspectors do not and can not ensure the woodstove or fireplace actually works due to the limited scope of the inspection.

WETT Inspectors can not provide a missing label for a woodstove or produce one for a homebuilt or uncertified woodstove.  These stoves can still be inspected but must comply with CSA B365 installation codes for uncertified appliances – which are more demanding in the way of clearances.

These clearances can however be reduced with properly approved heat radiation shields, and a inspector can help with these requirements.  In fact most SITE Comprehensive Inspectors can also install any necessary heat shields for you.

It is always a good precaution to find a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep or WETT Certified Comprehensive Inspector to perform these inspections due to their exhaustive knowledge and experience.

Extension of Chimney and WETT Inspection

Hopefully decent weather today as I will be outside extending a chimney which is too short.  There are clear requirements on chimney height which is 900mm above the roof where it sits or extends out of the roof – this should be measured at the centre of the chimney flue and the side of the chimney (top of chimney is shorter than bottom – don’t try to cheat and measure the highest or tallest side – measure the centre where the flue gases come out).  But there is also a requirement to be 600mm higher than any other object or structure within 3 metres!  This last one is often the problem, although there are also some out there which fail to meet the first.

Once completed of course a WETT Inspection – Level 2 – is in order.  When anything has changed as per the guidelines a Level 2 inspection is required.  You need to be aware of that because there are many WETT Inspectors who are NOT qualified to perform a Level 2 inspection!  If somebody is certified by WETT as a SITE Basic Inspector and nothing else, the SITE Basic is their ONLY certification, then they are only able to perform a Level 1 Inspection!  What else needs Level 2?  A couple – one of the most common being that of Real Estate transactions or Real Estate sales.  Many do not know this, including Realtors themselves!  Why is this?  Well at times the system may not have been used for years, may not have been used properly, may have broken or non-functional components or need cleaning.  A Level 1 Inspection would never find any of these situations!  You need to find a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep or WETT Certified Technician who are also able to perform a Level 2 Inspection or a SITE Comprehensive Inspector who is able to perform a Level 2 as well as a Level 3 inspection.

WETT Inspection on Balm Beach Road

Chimney Sweep and WETT Inspection on woodstove and chimney on Balm Beach Road.

Home Inspector had picked up on a couple of items – one being ember pad in front which was defiantly not correct.  However, removal of stove pipe and then adjusting stove on pad provided proper clearances on all sides.

Removal was necessary for the cleaning – if done properly – so I did not charge any additional for moving of stove as realistically the additional time was minimal.  I do not charge for an additional 5 minutes work if I am already onsite!  Some say I should – but to me it is about customer satisfaction.

Home Inspector also said chimney was not tall enough – and it was difficult to tell on this one for sure and measurements were the only way to tell.  Roof pitch was 3:12 – and something home inspectors never seem to think of measuring for some reason.  But roof pitch is the only way one can often tell the height requirement of chimney accurately – without it they are simply attempting a guess at how high the roof is (3 metres away) where it intersects the chimney – not an easy job to do accurately and one that invites error.  At any rate a 3:12 roof rises 3 inches per foot, and the chimney was 2 feet from the peak – or 6″ higher than it is at base of chimney.  This means by code the chimney must be 3 feet (or 900mm) high where it comes out of roof which it was – and at least 2 feet (or 600mm) higher than the roof peak – which it was.  Hence chimney height was code compliant.

But be it on Balm Beach Road or anywhere else – doing a WETT Inspection is important to your needs – provides proof to Insurance Company all is code compliant and gives you peace of mind.  However, doing a chimney sweep at same time is beneficial as your insurance company loves that as well – care and maintenance – and they then realize the inspector touched – felt an looked at the appliance and chimney closely.

If you are getting a WETT Inspection – hire a Certified Chimney Sweep!  Oh in this particular case they once again offered a single page report for their WETT Inspection – it is definitely time WETT mandated their report forms be used – as people are bunching together the information and leaving parts of it out!  It is there for a REASON.

WETT Inspection Midland

WETT Inspection in Midland this morning – after BNI meeting.

WETT Inspections are something many get because their insurance asks for it – or because their realtor suggested it.

Both good reasons perhaps – but keep in mind why you actually want or need it.  It should be so much more than simply a basic set of measurements to combustibles – which is what many actually do!  Even had a realtor tell me the Home Inspectors often provide a single sheet of paper  with “PASS” on it.

Well couple of comments here – first the “Recommended WETT Reporting Templates” should be the MINIMUM used and WETT dictates that if you use your own they should go BEYOND the minimum recommended templates.  Well the recommended for a wood stove and factory built chimney would have 7 pages of detail and if a masonry chimney then add a couple more pages.  Far more than a single sheet – when you see what they offer as supposed WETT reports then one wonders about their Home Inspections as well!

What about the “PASS” portion – when in fact there is NO PASS/FAIL in a WETT Report.  It is a Code-Compliance report – with some items perhaps being non-compliant but still not a pass or fail.  It is simply a report.

Third – does the Home Inspector go onto the roof?  Check inside the flue pipe?  Look inside firebox?  What exactly did they do?

WETT Inspections should be done for code-compliance related questions as well as assurance the chimney is or is not clean – does it need a sweep?  Is it intact?  Is it able to be used?  Fact is some WETT Inspections by Home Inspectors leave those questions unanswered – and fact is that there are MANY errors found on the reports by Chimney Sweeps following up later.

Always good to hire a Chimney Sweep and GET IT DONE RIGHT.

THE HOMEOWNER, THE CHIMNEY SWEEP AND THE HOME INSPECTOR

You’ve recently moved into a new home. In the process of buying the ome you hired a home inspector to check on the conditions of the major systems in the house. He or she checked the foundation, plumbing, heating and cooling. The report identified a few problems, nothing to do with the chimney, and you were able to work these out with the seller.

Now, you’re looking forward to cozy evening with a fire in the fireplace or woodstove. You’ve called a reputable company to sweep the chimney. The chimney sweep comes down from the roof and says, “I have bad news.” He or she then describes a problem that may cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to fix.

You say, “I don’t understand. We hired a home inspector when we bought the house, and he didn’t say anything about that. ”The chimney sweep may even chime in, “Well, all the home inspector had to do to see it would have been to…”

This frustrating scenario is an all-too-frequent occurrence. Why does it happen?

Homeowners (and chimney sweeps) often don’t understand the scope of a home inspection. Not all home inspectors make it clear to their customers what their inspection entails. Nor do all homeowners or prospective homeowners carefully read the home inspector’s report. And of course, the quality of home inspections varies with the knowledge and conscience of the home inspector.

What is a home inspection?
The American Society of Home Inspectors says, “ASHI professionals  perform a visual inspection and produce a written report of the condition of residential properties for buyers or owners. The purpose of such an examination is to describe observable major defects which require repairs.
The minimum scope of the inspection and report are described by the ASHI Standards of Practice.

standards_updated3-4-2015

 

There are several such trade groups for home inspectors that publish standards of practice. In some states, law regulates home inspectors and defines the standards of practice.  “The inspection report is a reasonable effort to assess durability and serviceability of the property in its present state,” says Betty Buckley, a licensed home inspector in Oregon.  “The inspection is not meant to be technically exhaustive but should be  thorough enough to recommend further evaluation by licensed trades persons for apparent areas of concern that fall beyond the scope of a home
inspection.”

What do home inspectors look for around chimneys?
The various standards of practice generally require home inspectors to inspect readily accessible areas that are exposed to view. Inspectors are not required to climb on top of chimneys or take off chimney caps. In fact ASHI Standard 9.3.D.1 specifically says, “The inspector is NOT required to observe the interior of flues.”

This sometimes comes as surprise to chimney sweeps and homeowners.
In some situations it would seem very easy to look into the flue. (Where the deterioration or lack of a flue liner, for example, might be obvious.)

Bob Priesing, a certified sweep in North Carolina who also holds a state home inspector’s license says, “If the inspector conducted the inspection in accordance with standards of practice by which he or she operates, and if flues or chimney interiors are excluded by those standards, then the inspection was in fact complete.”

Many home inspectors will recommend in writing that the chimney be cleaned and inspected by a professional chimney sweep. “If the customer  doesn’t do that, they have no cause to complain about the home  inspector,” Priesing says.

Some home inspectors are not well versed in chimneys and venting systems.

Relatively few home inspectors come into the business after working as chimney sweeps or venting contractors – Priesing is among a number of chimney sweeps across North America who give presentations to home inspector groups in an effort to help them understand what they are looking at when they observe chimneys, and to familiarize them with the capabilities of competent chimney sweeps.

A Detailed Chimney Inspection
Fully equipped modern chimney sweeps often carry video scanning  equipment that can show the condition of the inside of your flues and directly pinpoint problems. A competent chimney professional will also be able to inform you of building codes and product listings that are applicable to your situation.

When preparing to buy or sell a home with a combustion appliance, be it a furnace, fireplace or woodstove, it is advisable to obtain a detailed inspection of the chimney and venting systems. The standards of the National Fire Protection Association also recommend that chimneys be inspected after any operating malfunction or external event likely to have caused damage to the chimney; upon replacement of appliances; and whenever verification of the suitability of the chimney for continued  service is needed.

Don’t get caught up in a game of who should have found what.
Remember that your family’s safety is the first priority. If there are problems with your chimney or venting system, get them taken care of right away!

Reprinted, with permission, from the July 2000 issue of SNEWS, The Chimney Sweep’s Newsmagazine, an independent trade magazine forchimney service professionals, 3737 Pine Grove Road, Klamath Falls, OR 97603 USA; 541-882-5196. Jim Gillam, editor/publisher.

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:

9.21.4.4. 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.

Hiring A Chimney Sweep – What To Look For – Ten Things You Might Consider

Beware of any phone calls from Chimney Sweeps offering to clean your chimney regardless of price!  There are many who claim to be Chimney Sweeps and are NOT Certified Sweeps – have no education or training – no insurance – and put you at RISK!  Their goal is to take your money for a service that they have no skills to perform.  Often times these people who claim to know what they are doing will then point out expensive chimney repairs that are needed, for safety sake!  They may even try horrendous scare tactics!  It is best to choose carefully and look for WETT Certified Chimney Sweeps or WETT Certified Advanced Chimney Sweeps.   Keep in mind this is for your safety; and peace of mind; if your chimney is not maintained properly it can become a serious fire hazard.

  • Chimney Sweeping is an Unregulated Industry

Despite the face that chimney safety is important there are no requirements to be Certified.  The good news is that Certifications do exist; and you can use the WETT database to find a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep or WETT Certified Advanced Chimney Sweep.

  • Check for Membership with WETT and the NCSG

All Canadian Certified Chimney Sweeps MUST be a member of WETT and you will find them in the WETT database.  Some will also be members of the American counterpart; the National Chimney Sweep Guild.

 

  • Check for an Individual’s WETT Certification

As mentioned above the minimum nationally recognized standard for a professional chimney sweep in Canada is attained through WETT Inc – and the WETT Chimney Sweep certification is one of the more advanced certifications in Canada on the study of wood burning appliances.  Ask the Chimney Sweep if they are WETT Certified as Sweeps (some may have a Basic certification – and NOT the Chimney Sweep Certification – so beware).  WETT has a Certified Chimney Sweep and Certified Advanced Chimney Sweep Certification.  Verify here.

  •  Check a Chimney Sweep’s Identification

Every WETT Member will carry an ID card – which will have their WETT InspectorPhotograph, the year the Card is valid (it is reissued each year), their Unique WETT # and their Certifications (which will say Chimney Sweep or Advanced Chimney Sweep if they are in fact Chimney Sweeps).  It should look similar to this one.

  • Verify Insurance Coverage

Another good test of whether a chimney sweep company has experience and longevity in the industry is if they have liability insurance coverage.  A chimney sweep company with insurance can protect you against damages which could occur during their visit.  It is very unlikely that any damage will occur; however if it does and the company has no insurance then you are the one who pays the bill!

  • Check References Chimney Referrals

Any good Chimney Sweep will have references; and I have lots of them all over. There are many online you can simply look at – Google or other sources have references of legitimate and reliable Chimney Sweeps in the local area.

  • 7-Hiring the Right Chimney Sweep is a Safety Issue

Sometimes it is not all about price; although it is about value for the dollar.  A good Chimney Sweep should cost around $150 to $200 based upon looking at various websites in the Central Ontario listings – from Grey/Bruce County across to Haliburton area.  Some might be a bit more but should not be much higher.

  • Expect Prompt Service

Good Chimney professionals will be on time; and generally will call if running late.  Sometimes a job does take longer than we expected and I can get backed up half an hour or more really fast.  I do leave time between each appoint to help as a buffer zone, but sometimes not enough.

  • Expect Professionalism 

Reputable chimney professionals usually wear identifying company clothing.  It may have the WETT logo on the clothing somewhere as well.  There should be zero mess left behind when they leave, the Chimney Sweep should be helpful in answering any and all questions about yoiur system.

  • Be Alert to Telephone Scams

Good Chimney Sweep companies DO NOT call and solicit their services, PERIOD.  Keep in mind that an annual chimney cleaning is the best way to ensure that your chimney system is safe to use.

Give us a call for chimney services if you live the Midland or Penetanguishene area and be assured you are choosing a Certified Advanced Chimney Sweep to help you.

More Home Inspector Errors On Websites

Few more items of interest to highlight.

One local Home Inspector states that the most common problem they find in WETT Inspections is the hearth pad size.  Well actually not – the most common BY FAR is lack of fasteners on flue pipes – followed by insufficient chimney height (which most Home Inspectors would never be able to tell).

The same inspector goes on to mention the typical size of ember pad for wood stoves and indicates this can be reduced by certifications – wrong.  Any data plate which shows smaller sizes is likely a very old one – the dimensions CAN NOT be reduced on ember pads.

And same inspector goes on to state that the hearth for fireplaces is also a common problem – indicating the pad dimensions as calculation of opening at 6ftor less fireplace opening have a hearth out 16 inches to front and 8 inches to side; but a fireplace with an opening of over 6ft2 needs a pad of 20 inches in front and 12 inches on each side.  They also mention additional sizing to pad if hearth is raised off of floor – which is true.

Actual rules in Ontario are (now note these are all metric):
9.22.5.1. Hearth Extension

1) Except as required in Sentence (2), fireplaces shall have a non-combustible hearth extending not less than 400 mm in front of the fireplace opening and not less than 200 mm beyond each side of the fireplace opening.
2) Where the fire chamber floor is elevated more than 150 mm above the hearth, the dimension of the hearth measured perpendicular to the plane of the fireplace opening shall be increased by not less than
a) 50 mm for an elevation above 150 mm and not more than 300 mm, and
b) an additional 25 mm for every 50 mm in elevation above 300 mm.

So let’s compare what is on the Home Inspectors website with the rules.

Note there is NO indication of 6ft2 or any area in the Ontario Building Code.  This training is in the Carson Dunlop Home Inspector manual which also indicates beside the rules a notation that some areas may require this.  Note the Carson Dunlop training is very American focused with some notes on Canadian content.  Use the Ontario Codes ONLY.

Rule is 400 mm in front which is approximately 16 inches and 200 mm on each side which is approximately 8 inches.  Yes there are increases in size if hearth is elevated – if hearth is more than 150 mm (6 inches) but not more than 300 mm (12 inches) then it needs to be extended another 50 mm (2 inches to a total of 18 inches) out front.  And for every 50 mm (2 inches) in elevation higher add another 25 mm (1 inch) in extension to front.

So a fireplace with a hearth less than 6 inches high would need an 16 inch hearth; one 6 inches high would need 18 inches for hearth and one 9 inches high would need 19 inch hearth.  Make sense?

So some of what was posted on their website was correct; some of it not so.

However – if you look at American Code then this information quoted in the Home Inspectors website is actually valid.  

What worries me is when Home Inspectors get into code; they obviously do not know the codes – and there are far too many to know!   They may remember what is in Carson Dunlop training – but beware – does this really properly reflect the Canadian/Ontario code?  Be sure – hire somebody who works in the wood stove industry to do your inspection – maybe a Chimney Sweep or Installer/Technician who is Certified as such by WETT.

Is it any wonder hearth size is a common error for them when they are using incorrect information as their reference!

Cottage Fires On Georgian Bay Islands

Have a customer on Georgian Bay Islands – do their sweeping on regular basis.  But they were saying they had 3 fires on the island this past year.  One was a chimney fire!  There are so many wood burning appliances on the islands – and NO reason to not get a Certified Chimney Sweep to help out in cleaning them.  DO NOT take the risk and do it yourself and DO NOT hire somebody who is not certified!  DO NOT TAKE THE RISK.

Fact is there are MORE uncertified Chimney Sweeps out there than Certified; only a handful of Certified Chimney Sweeps exist in North Simcoe and South Muskoka and I think I know them all.  Even fewer Certified Advanced Chimney Sweeps are in the same area.

Fact is that some un-Certified Sweeps may be as good as Certified – but there are MORE bad ones than good ones.  Fact is with Certified Chimney Sweeps you can guarantee that they have at least a minimum level of training, testing and field work behind them – with un-Certified you have no idea – they may have started working 2 weeks before!

Hire ONLY Certified Chimney Sweeps – schedule now or call me now or check for others in area here.