The Right Way For A Home Inspector To Do WETT Inspections

Can a Home Inspector offer WETT Inspections with their Home Inspection?

Certainly and a lot do that.   Many in fact do it themselves – often with varying results due to various levels of experience.

Some however provide the service as a convenience to the consumer and simply bring along another WETT professional – often a Certified Chimney Sweep – to do the WETT Inspection part.  Has a few benefits – the WETT Inspection is done by somebody who works with and on woodstoves all the tine – and the whole process goes faster as the WETT Inspection (which will take around an hour to do properly) is being done at same time as the rest of the home!   Actually a brilliant idea!

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.

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.

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.

The Truth About Real Estate Agent Referred Home Inspectors

 What’s Wrong With A Real Estate Agent Recommending A Particular Home Inspector To A Prospective Home Buyer?

Potentially a few things.

When doing woodstove I hear about it from time to time, a week ago a customer was complaining about the things found in home – the Home Inspector was a relative of the Realtor!  This was a home in the Orillia area.  Topic usually comes up when I point out problems with the woodstove installation – often which I fix onsite as many are as easy as missing fasteners in flue pipe (screws in stove pipe).

It appears from what I hear that often times the selling agent will recommend particular home inspectors to a prospective buyer, sometimes a list of three is given out. But just who are these recommended inspectors? And just how did they “qualify” to get on the “approved” list of the agent? Can you be sure the agent recommending a thorough unbiased inspector?

So I dug into this topic a bit and it appears that some real estate agents actually view a thorough and unbiased home inspection as a threat to their sales commission.  I have even heard that some Realtors will use tactics in an attempt to control the process by saying comments like “That inspector is a deal killer”, or “that inspector takes too long” or “we’ve had trouble with that inspector” or “we don’t allow that inspector to inspect any of our listed properties” or “that inspector is too expensive.”  All of which are attempts to move you away from that particular inspector.

Do prospective home buyers have the right to use an inspector of their own choosing? If a real estate agent tells you that you cannot use an inspector of your choosing, or insists that you use one of their “recommended” or “approved” inspectors, you should contact your attorney.   It may be in your best interest to use one OTHER than the recommend ones!  It may save you ALOT of money down the road.  In fact it might be GOOD TO AVOID the RECOMMENDED list – at least in some cases.

You do hear about this from time to time; but I am told the Realtor lobby is strong.  Will Home Inspector Licensing in Ontario address this?  Likely not as again there will be a strong lobby against this.  You don’t even see many Home Inspector ads in newspapers! But a LOT of Realtor ads!

The best selection is your own research – unfortunately in many cases. Not saying this is the case all the time.

But on the other hand lets look at some realtor selected Home Inspectors:

Mactier – missed flue pipe clearances on woodstove – inspector from Barrie.

Tiny – incorrect call on Fireplace hearth – two of them – inspector from Midland.

Port McNicoll – said chimney was fine – but they are no longer permitted by code – Home Inspector from Midland.

Midland – Hearth called out incorrectly – Home Inspector from Barrie.

Wasaga Beach – ember pad clearances wrong – Home Inspector from Barrie.

Tay – chimney height wrong – Home Inspector from Barrie.

Midland – chimney height wrong – Home Inspector from Barrie.

I could go on – these are recent ones within the past year!

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!

WETT Inspection By Home Inspector ??

Does a Home Inspector do a good WETT Inspection?  If you read some of their websites it would lead you to believe that.

One local website reads “A WETT Inspection by XXXX XXXX inspector will ensure that your system is installed and operating correctly, and that it poses no threat to your home and family. ”   Then they go on to say “will also tell you how to properly maintain your system“.

Really?  They will ensure it is installed and operating correctly?  Do they run a camera down chimney; do they even take rain cap off and look down chimney?  Do they clean and inspect firebox?  Enough said – won’t go any further because if they do not do that there is NO WAY they can tell you the system will operate properly.  Not a chance.  As far as how to maintain it – good luck – do they really know how the stove operates?  Not very likely – it takes actually more education to learn how to install and service a wood stove than most Home Inspectors take for their entire job, including their WETT training!   Trust your instincts – would you hire a Home Inspector to tell you about your gas fireplace?  How then would you expect them to know about a wood burning system?  A few theory based courses at WETT training allows them to perform basic visual inspections and nothing more.  I know – I was once there myself!