returnCarbon Monoxide Sensor Going Off?

December 27th, 2019

carbonMonoxide I would never detract from the advice given by carbon monoxide sensor manufacturers or Fire Service Professionals when a CO detector sounds in your home. Call the Fire Dept, open windows, be alert to symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning etc.

But is there more to the story? It does occur that an exact cause is not detected since the event has passed by the time the Fire Department attends the scene. Often, Fire Professionals will advise to have household heating systems checked for malfunction. For example; Do chimneys need sweeping?

To this I would add the following:

Do you have gas or oil appliances in the home? Where they running at all?

#1- How old are your sensors?
Do you have 'plug in' sensors? if so, switch the position of your sensors (if one only going off)
If both are going off - then explore other factors. (if only one sensor is activating- you can start by replacing that sensor)

Other questions to answer:
Where you using a clothes dryer or any type of fan that puts air from the inside of the house to the outside of the house when this occurred? - because appliances like these cause depressurization which can pull carbon monoxide out of other appliances, especially those dependant upon natural draft; for this reason I always advise cracking a window in the room where the clothes dryer is located and being used.
It is not surprising to find out that most alarms are triggered between 11:00 and 5:00am when, during the winter months windows are sealed shut and doors remain closed the longest (a door opening provides a fresh air supply to the dwelling).
Not all homes have HRV's (Heat Recovery Ventilation) devices to bring in fresh air from outside and expel stale moist air from the inside of the home. Even, if there is a functioning HRV; when was the last time the filter was checked for blockage?

As far as wood burning appliances; you may need a chimney sweep (we do not know; this being said you should know the condition of your chimney and have a maintenance schedule in place) but, I would not assume that first off if there is no smoke spillage from the appliance.

Now, if this only happened when the stove was down to coals; there is little smoke at that time - so this would not be conclusive. Then again, if the stove is situated in a negative pressure zone (like a basement) or the chimney goes through the wall and up the side of the house; then, the chimney exposed to cold will naturally have a weaker draft that at some point will reverse as the fire cools down. Likewise, a basement installed wood stove will be competing for combustion air with the upper portion of the home and could spill smoke or carbon monoxide when the draft becomes weak as the stove is cooling off.

A very strong wind at just the right angle on the chimney top can also produce smoke spillage from a wood burning appliance especially when the draft is low or combined with the examples above. If your carbon monoxide signals very seldom try to be aware of atmospheric conditions at the time.

Check and consider these factors up to and including possible propane leaks (if you have) or a malfunctioning oil furnace or even a cracked furnace heat exchange will spill carbon monoxide into your home (something for the furnace tech to check into). If a carbon monoxide alarm goes off a second time and the cause is still undetermined then I would suggest having a qualified person (gas company / Fire Dept.) with a carbon monoxide sniffer test while the event is occurring.

returnPreventing Chimney Fires

January 28th, 2018


Chimney Safety Overview

An annual chimney inspection performed by a qualified professional can help prevent carbon monoxide intrusion and chimney fires. These inspections can also identify potential system issues to address them before they become costly.

Many agencies and organizations now recognize the importance of annual heating system inspection and maintenance in keeping “the silent killer” at bay.

A well-tuned furnace or boiler will operate efficiently and produce a warm and comfortable home. An overlooked heating system can produce death and heartbreak.

Considering the risks involved when heating systems are neglected - and the benefits of having them properly maintained - it is wise to have your chimneys checked annually by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep and swept or repaired as needed. You can find a local CSIA Certified professional at www.csia.org/search.

The Facts About Chimney Fires

Your chimney–and the flue that lines it–adds architectural interest to your home, but its’ real function is to carry dangerous flue gases from your fireplace, wood stove or furnace safely out of your home. A chimney helps your household air stay breathable… just as your windows and your bathroom, attic and kitchen vents do. Unlike those other exhaust points in your home, however, fireplace and wood stove chimneys need a special kind of care.

As you snuggle in front of a cozy fire or bask in the warmth of your wood stove, you are taking part in a ritual of comfort and enjoyment handed down through the centuries. The last thing you are likely to be thinking about is the condition of your chimney. However, if you don’t give some thought to it before you light those winter fires, your enjoyment may be very short-lived. Why? Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, which damage structures, destroy homes and injure or kill people.

No One Welcomes a Chimney Fire

A chimney fire in action can be impressive. Indications of a chimney fire have been described as creating:

  • loud cracking and popping noise
  • a lot of dense smoke, and
  • an intense, hot smell

Chimney fires can burn explosively – noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors or people passing by. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying airplane. However, those are only the chimney fires you know about.

The Majority of Chimney Fires Go Undetected

Slow-burning chimney fires don’t get enough air or have fuel to be dramatic or visible and they often go undetected until a later chimney inspection, but, the temperatures they reach are very high and can cause as much damage to the chimney structure – and nearby combustible parts of the house – as their more spectacular cousins.

Creosote & Chimney Fires: What You Must Know

Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to safely contain wood-fuel fires, while providing heat for a home. The chimneys that serve them have the job of expelling the by-products of combustion – the substances produced when wood burns. These include smoke, water vapor, gases, unburned wood particles, hydrocarbon, tar fog and assorted minerals. As these substances exit the fireplace or wood stove, and flow up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs. The resulting residue that sticks to the inner walls of the chimney is called creosote.

Creosote is black or brown in appearance. It can be crusty and flaky…tar-like, drippy and sticky…or shiny and hardened. Often, all forms will occur in one chimney system. Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. If it builds up in sufficient quantities – and the internal flue temperature is high enough – the result could be a chimney fire. Certain conditions encourage the buildup of creosote. Restricted air supply, unseasoned wood and, cooler than normal chimney temperatures are all factors that can accelerate the buildup of creosote on chimney flue walls. Air supply may be restricted by closing the glass doors, by failing to open the damper wide enough, and the lack of sufficient make-up air to move heated smoke up the chimney rapidly (the longer the smoke’s “residence time” in the flue, the more likely is it that creosote will form). A wood stove’s air supply can be limited by closing down the stove damper or air inlets too soon or too much. Burning unseasoned wood – because so much energy is used initially just to drive off the water trapped in the cells of the logs– keeps the resulting smoke cooler, than if seasoned wood is used. In the case of wood stoves, overloading the firebox with wood in an attempt to get a longer burn time also contributes to creosote buildup.

How Chimney Fires Damage Chimneys

Masonry Chimneys

When a chimney fire occurs in a masonry chimney – whether the flue is an older, unlined type or tile lined to meet current safety codes – the high temperatures at which they burn (around 2000°F) can “melt mortar, crack tiles, cause liners to collapse and damage the outer masonry material”. Most often, thermal shock occurs and tiles crack and mortar is displaced, which provides a pathway for flames to reach the combustible wood frame of the house. This event is extremely dangerous, call 911 immediately.

Prefabricated, factory-built, metal chimneys (majority of residential communities)

To be installed in most jurisdictions in the United States, factory built, metal chimneys that are designed to vent wood burning stoves or prefabricated metal fireplaces must pass special tests. Most tests require the chimney to withstand flue temperatures up to 2100°F – without sustaining damage. Under chimney fire conditions, damage to these systems still may occur. When prefabricated, factory-built metal chimneys are damaged by a chimney fire, they should no longer be used and must be replaced.

Nine Signs that You’ve Had a Chimney Fire

Since a chimney, damaged by a chimney fire, can endanger a home and its’ occupants and a chimney fire can occur without anyone being aware of them it’s important to have your chimney regularly inspected by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep. Here are the signs that a professional chimney sweep looks for:

  • “Puffy” or “honey combed” creosote
  • Warped metal of the damper, metal smoke chamber connector pipe or factory-built metal chimney
  • Cracked or collapsed flue tiles, or tiles with large chunks missing
  • Discolored and/or distorted rain cap
  • Heat-damaged TV antenna attached to the chimney
  • Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground
  • Roofing material damaged from hot creosote
  • Cracks in exterior masonry
  • Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners

If you think a chimney fire has occurred, call a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep for a professional evaluation. If your suspicions are confirmed, a certified sweep will be able to make recommendations about how to bring the system back into compliance with safety standards. Depending on the situation, you might need a few flue tiles replaced, a new liner system installed or an entire chimney rebuilt. Each situation is unique and will dictate its own solution.

Proper Maintenance

Clean chimneys don’t catch fire. Make sure a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep inspects your solid fuel venting system annually, and cleans and repairs it whenever needed. Your sweep may have other maintenance recommendations depending on how you use your fireplace or stove. CSIA recommends that you call on CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps, since they are regularly tested on their understanding of the complexities of chimney and venting systems.


returnTraditional Chimney Sweep attending a wedding

May 17, 2016

wedding I have talked about chimney sweeps being considered good luck in European countries. Did you know they are specifically invited to weddings for this purpose? Here I am at a Caribbean destination wedding.



wedding Delivering the good luck kiss to the bride (it's a hard job - someone has to do it). Congratulations Cassandra and Frank Rossi!




returnA Family's Pride

May 15, 2016

pride Sometimes the flag falls down on our mail box. I did not look on Friday and ended up taking a peak on Saturday afternoon. Surprise, there was a post card invitation from my 24 year old daughter living in Germany. By the post mark- it took a long time to get here so the content was shocking. I was under the impression that she had one more year of school to go. She has been in Germany for 4 years. Here it was, Dad, I know you will probably not be able to come to my graduation on February 13th- but, I wanted to invite you anyway. It was now February 7th! I shuffled into the house, dragging my jaw through the snow and showed it to Tina who was in the kitchen. I was more or less resigned that it would be something I would missing out on. Night was falling, I went out to close up the chicken coop for the night. When I came back inside Tina had already found me a flight for the 10th and told me I could make it in time. She said you must go. I said, I know.

pride I had never been to Europe before - what an adventure! My daughter met me at the Munich airport. What a clean, beautiful city. A two hour ride by train to the south and we arrived in Mittenwald, nestled in the mountains, on the border with Austria. It is a part of the Bavarian Alps. Mittenwald is encircled by mountains. The sun does not hit your face until after 9 or 10:00AM. The mountains are stunningly beautiful - you cannot look skyward in any direction without seeing them. She had moved to Munich one year before going to her school of choice because she had to be fluent in German before she could apply. For the first year she attended state sponsored language classes in Munich. She also had to audition at the school playing her Cello. All students are required to read music and play a stringed instrument.

pride On the 13th I was there when she was presented with her diploma. She is now a certified Luthier, a graduate of the 150 year old violin making school of Mittenwald Germany. In true style, she has already secured a job in Berlin and has a seven week violin restoration course scheduled for next month in England. After a year or two in the field she can apply for her Masters.

pride Are we proud of her? You could say that. This was her dream from the time she was 13 or 14 years old. She saved up 90% of the money and made all the connections through her own research. I brought her a card from the family that said- Daughter, you have gone confidently in the direction of your dreams and are living the life you had imagined. We are all so very proud of you!



returnDo You Often Get Headaches? Maybe Your House Is Talking To You.....

March 12, 2016

CM Detector Being a chimney sweep and being called to investigate chimneys that are suspected of polluting household environments and applying the methodical process of elimination has lead to some interesting conclusions that I would like to share. First of all, the poor wood burning chimney gets blamed for everything. We should be thanking the wood burner because years before the carbon monoxide sensor became mandatory in Ontario homes it was already mandatory when there was a solid fuel burning appliance within the home like a pellet stove or wood stove. It has been through investigating the concerns of home owners on the job sweeping that I have been able to deepen my awareness of house system dynamics.

I got a call that a barely used, one year old, high efficiency fireplace was triggering a C0 alarm. Strange, since all new fireplaces in Ontario are required to have an outside air supply connected directly to the fireplace to ensure it has a steady air supply so it will not use up the oxygen in the house and depressurize, reverse the draft or pull combustion air from other appliances like oil furnaces and water heaters and expose the occupants to the fumes of those appliances. In this case, after careful examination of the fireplace and finding everything as it should be I turned my attention to the home. It was new construction and very tightly insulated- as is the trend. There was an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation) which is an appliance that exchanges stale air from strategic locations from within the home with fresh air from the outside. I made sure it was turned on and set up correctly because stale air (lacking sufficient oxygen) is carbon monoxide. Consider if you will the off-gassing, contamination of your fridge compressor motor or your propane cook stove. How about your coffee maker, computing devices or your furnace which is basically cooking the dust in the air as it circulates. Do not delay! Go now and open up your windows a crack- do you even remember what fresh air smells like? The mystery continued. The couple with the newborn was still having their Carbon Monoxide sensor sounding the alarm. It kept me up that night. The next time I went back I walked in and there was a door open that I had not seen before. There was a monolithic clothes dryer and it was turned on. How I did not get sucked into the room I will never know.

Contrary to popular belief, the poor, little wood stove and chimney is often not the cause of household distress- rather, it is the 'canary in the coal mine'. It is a common misunderstanding that an HRV will provide 'make- up' air to counteract the depressurizing effects of appliances within the home. Considering the air-tightness of new homes due to building regulations - my question is why are manufacturers of appliances that depressurize the home not require to design air make-up accessories for each and every appliance to nullify the quantifiable negative effect of the products they are selling? It may be the wood stove that gives some smoke or odour that brings the problem to your attention - because a wood chimney that is asking to be swept has a weaker draft and is more susceptible to smoke spillage due to home depressurization. Here is a table flip for you - if your house is sealed too tightly and/ or has chronic depressurization from various sources - that in turn will cause your wood stove to perform with less efficiency, thereby creating even more than normal creosote and requirement for chimney sweeping! Here, now at least some of the myriad sources of depressurization and stale air within your home should no longer be a mystery- not to you, not anymore. Now about that window.....

returnThe Luck of the Chimney Sweep

December 10, 2015

Trinity Ring In European tradition, a chimney sweep is considered lucky. In Great Britain some chimney sweeps offer the service of attending weddings, decked out in full regalia. Dusty suit and sooty faced, because it is understood that a sweep brings Good Luck to the union. I have pondered the origin of the myth is simply that a knowledgeable sweep as a daily routine keeps bad things from happening to good people by servicing their wood burning systems and even pointing the way to better burning with their tips and tricks.

Then, there's last week. One of our technicians Matt Neville was replacing a brick in a wood stove at the request of a customer on Kennisis Lake Rd. To get a brick to fit it is necessary to vacuum out the cracks between the bricks. While doing so he noticed something gleaming in a crevice (how he did not suck it up in the vaccuum I will never know) It was a Gaelic ’Trinity' diamond ring.

The home owner Ellen T. was absolutely thrilled when Matt presented it to her. It had gone missing over a year ago and held great sentimental value. She said she had searched and searched every where to find it. She had been visiting a friend at the hospital and even returned to look there as well.

A day at the jewellers for a little polishing and the ring will be right back where it belongs.

returnThe Hardwood - Burn It Hot Myth

April 2nd, 2015

Firewood Quaint as the myth is, like others - it has it's root in our past, causes confusion in our present and no place in our future.

I strongly suspect that the 'nothing but hardwood' thing originates in our not too distant past. I have talked to my mother of when she was a child with a cook stove as the main heat source for the family of 13. They were rock farmers on the Bruce Peninsula. Hand-me-down clothes and shoes. They would raise one pig per year and that was the meat for the year. She would heat up rocks and chunks of wood on the stove then put them upstairs into their ice cold beds so it was not such a shock climbing in. The only heat upstairs was the cook stove flue pipe that would snake through a couple of rooms on it's way up and out of the house. Big solid chunks of hardwood was 'king' simply because there was a chance it would burn longer into the night. In those days you could still buy and burn coal. Of coarse it was out of reach for most poor country folk. On occasion my grandfather would luck into some of the black gold. My mother said that was a treat because it guaranteed warm through the night. I propose that reality to be the genesis of the myth. Back then wood stoves were totally inefficient. Hardwood equalled a longer burn, period. Well, things have changed. Most manufacturers recommend a log that is on average 6inch across. Large chunks will actually inhibit the efficiency of the burn. Stove technology has completely changed. Some, what I call Super- highly efficient wood stoves are designed to have the air turned down to the point that the flames in the box extinguish. At that point it is operating as a coal stove. The heat is released evenly and the smoke from the combustion is burned in the catalyst.

We witness the downside of the Hardwood – burn it hot myth on some sweeping calls. Often it is the reason that people wait years to call us. They are convinced that the protocol is fool- proof. It makes them take too long to call us and from what we see they often damage their stove through over-firing. If you burn nothing but super dry hardwood- please turn down your stove!

At least 2 or 3 times per year I meet people who are clearing trees off their property. I see large piles of trees rotting in the sun. They say, too bad- all softwood.........

All firewood should be fully dried and sheltered for minimum 1 year. The heat release from your wood probably increases by 15 to 30% from wood that is dried 6 months to just over 12 months. Don't take my word for it- experiment for yourself. For accuracy though, I would suggest following the stove manufacturers recommendation for wood size – usually the 6inch average.

I would suggest mixing softwoods into your hardwood pile and not thinking about it again. A modern stove is designed and capable of consuming seasoned softwood along with your hardwood. The only thing to avoid would be pine that is sap laden.

returnDoes Your Stove Smoke Back?

March 21, 2015

Lighting Fire If your stove smokes back and it never did before- then you need to have the chimney swept. But, if you have an outside masonry or stainless steel chimney that has a reversed draft because of cold air falling in the chimney (which is natural). It can be rather unpleasant to grin through the smoke until the draft is established- through the usual paper and kindling process.

In our showroom we have exactly that problem. We only light the fire and heat the showroom during business hours. It also has an outside chimney.

Through trial and error I came up with the perfect method that I do suggest you try if you have the same problem.


  • Wood must be dry
  • Lay one layer of medium (6'') split logs covering the bottom of the stove
  • Place 3 chunks of compressed wax/ wood firestarter blocks or cubes spaced evenly on top of the layer of wood each chunk approximately 1.5'' x 1.5'' sq.)
  • light the starter cubes (like candles) - close the door (leaving it open a crack for about 2 minutes- then close the door completely, leaving the air control wide open on the stove
  • Observe the 'candles' for 1 minute with door closed
  • If the flames do not choke -the draft is reversed! open the door and fill the stove with wood half way- making sure the candles are under and around the smallish wood you are putting in- proceed as usual

Congratulations on your no smoke start!

returnChimney Safety Secrets

Oct 3, 2014

Chimney Sweep We have had some sweeping customers as of late let us know that they are calling us because they have heard about devastating chimney fires over the last few years in the County. They are actually quite scared this could happen to them.

We always like to give good information about these matters because it is equally disturbing to us that homeowners should be frightened of their wood burning systems.

It is after all for a lot of us the most cost effective and environmentally sound choice for supplemental home heating in Haliburton County. You might say the trees are falling into our wood piles- but, that is another story.

Here's what you should know:

All modern, ULCS629 compliant chimney is highly resistant to chimney fires. They are so well insulated that they stay hotter when the fire is on so therefore there is less cooling in the chimney-so less condensing of the gases (which is creosote). In fact it is extremely helpful to the chimney sweep since if there are large creosote deposits it is an indication of another problem with the system- usually the stove.

Beyond that the #1 culprit of creosote formation is not having the chimney swept enough. A build up of non-flammable soot within the chimney can cause a restriction that would then create 2nd and 3rd degree creosote- which is flammable. But, if the chimney system is compliant even that is a non-issue. Since little flare ups are a common occurrence and largely go unnoticed to the home owner. But it must be said that good advice should be had as to when your system should be cleaned to avoid the above mentioned condition.

Masonry chimneys can be different. In fact, when wood burning house fires occur it is usually related to masonry chimneys. Code requires that masonry chimneys have 2'' clearance to combustible framing when the chimney is located within the building structure. I think I have maybe seen that twice. It is the responsibility of the installer of a wood burning stove to such a chimney to identify this deficiency and address it through relining the chimney and insulating it with an acceptable method. It can add as little as 180.00 more to the cost of a liner installation when added at the time the liner is installed. It is a sad reality that most installers out there have no interest in this requirement and do not do the required insulating of the liner even though it is clearly outlined in building Code.

I guess consumers need to ask this question when it comes time to install that new wood stove and connect it to the old masonry chimney. The insulation of the liner replicates the above mentioned characteristics of the stainless steel chimney. An insulated liner has less creosote in general, stronger draft and better stove performance. It also has the added feature of insulating your home should there be a fire present in your chimney. What other insurance can you buy that is so important and is only a one time fee of 180.00?

Regards, Ian Myers

returnWood Stove in the Basement

Sept 6, 2014

Chimney Sweep A wood stove in the basement is a good idea in general but first consider this: is the basement insulated?

If the basement walls are not insulated or there is frequent water getting into the basement you are wasting time and money due to heat loss.

So in that case, you should first renovate to deal with the heat loss and then call us for advise about space heating.

returnDon't Let Your Roofers use Rubber Flashing!

June 2, 2014

No Rubber FlashingBlack or red rubber flashings- the roofers choice!

Roofers love to use rubber flashings for your chimney because they are slightly easier too install with little skill (that's the only reason I could come up with)

Here are the reasons you should say NO:

They are not compliant for 4 reasons-

    1. they do not allow free passage of air to cool the chimney- chimney can overheat presenting a fire hazard.
    2. the black one is combustible -it can melt.
    3. chimneys can only be installed with the parts supplied by the same manufacturer that made the chimney!
    4. they are not structurally strong- they collapse under weight of snow.

It is not really a difference of opinion. Just don't listen to the roofer. Read the instructions that you get with the chimney. Or later when inspected you will find out the hard way.

returnChimney Sweeps Make the Best Installers!

March 29, 2014

Chimney Sweep Why?

Because a chimney sweep will naturally be the person who services the appliance and chimney after they install it.

Because of this 'field experience' they are the best at matching chimney systems with wood burning appliances and knowing what type of set-ups will not perform well or even which stoves are poor choices.

So, I suggest that you look at the advertizing of the hearth dealer you are planning to buy from. It is astounding how few stove sellers have little or no experience sweeping chimneys and servicing appliances. It is no question that hardware stores are the least qualified in this regard. But, there is no excuse for a specialized retailer to not genuinely service what they sell.

Please consider, if you are buying from a hardware store- simply because of the price- the product may not be as good in terms of quality. Also the service before and after is practically nil. Can you really trust that the guy behind the counter will sell you what you actually need? He will never see you again, so why will he care?

returnDon't Let a Bitter Hearth Dealer Scare You Off a Catalyst Stove!

March 28, 2014

Chimney SweepI realize that Catalytic technology is taking a bite out of their business. But, don't let our competitors get away with misinformation.

OK, time to clear the air.

Catalytic stoves do not produce any more creosote than any other wood burning stove. If they are operated correctly there is no difference!

If your wood stove is burned daily as a serious heat source you will need your your chimney checked and swept about every 2 to 3 months. If you burn your stove every day and it does not need sweeping for 2 to three years- THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING! - that would mean that your stove has a poor design and is more interested in heating the chimney than your home!

If you want a maintenance free chimney I suggest something like propane.

Now, my last counter-punch: They will tell you- You are going to have to replace an expensive catalyst!

To be fair on this point you would have to ask every stove dealer how much it would cost to replace their baffle system. Yes, they all deteriorate and require replacing- with serious home heating use. A good guess would be 5 to 12 years.

We asked Pacific Energy (because we have replaced many of them)

Baffle, side rails & flame shield = 388.00 . To install we would charge 200.00 Plus tax

I think you get the idea! A catalyst goes for 315.00 + hst and you can put it in easily yourself (or we will install for free with a sweep) It is not unusual for a catalyst to last for 10 years (*The manufacturer (Blaze King) also has a 10 year warranty on their catalyst)

Now, lets talk about what matters.... what stove captures the greatest heat for your home and lets you sleep through the night?

returnTips for a Leaky Chimney from your Local Chimney Sweep

August 12, 2011

protected chimneyDo you have a chimney that leaks but, does not leak all of the time?

Once the roof has been ruled out - if it leaks all of the time,every time it rains- then you have a seal broken on the flashing itself or the 'storm collar'. If it leaks right on the edge of the chimney itself and drips to the wood stove- then you know it is the storm collar seal. If it leaks on the area surrounding the chimney support box- it is the flashing seal or the surrounding shingles.

Then, it gets a little more complicated. If it leaks from the support box, but not necessarily when it rains then you probably have a condensation problem. The temperature difference between the outside and the inside of the house is causing the moisture in the home to condensate on the surface of the support box. If that is the case, it can happen in summer or winter and is especially aggravated by air conditioning.

Some chimney manufacturers allow insulation to be added to the support box to help prevent this. Those that do -allow only their insulating products to be used on their chimney. Manufacturers never allow insulation from another brand to be used with their chimney. There are good reasons for this. The most important is that their chimney has not been tested with that insulation and a fire could be caused by its use. This is the basic principal that installers must adhere to: Do not 'Mix & Match brands'. It is questionable how effective the added insulation is at preventing condensation ( with the models that allow it's use ). Most people just learn to live with this, usually minor leaking. In fact, some people don't even notice that it is happening.

Then, there is the last type of leak. The most allusive and confusing, even baffling. I have had many long-winded emails about this phenomenon. This is my inspiration for writing this piece actually. I have seen homeowners replace their flashing only to have the mysterious leak return! You see, chimneys today are required to be ventilated at the support box / roof line area. This is the purpose of the 'storm collar', the little 'cone' sitting just above the top of the flashing. The gap under the storm collar allows air passage into the top of the flashing. What can happen is if you live beside a lake or any large open field where a wind gust can carry rain side-ways toward the chimney. Rain gets up, under the storm collar and into the top of the flashing. It can also happen it the roof is steel and very steep. In that case, during heavy rain the rain drops will actually bounce off the roof and up, under the storm collar. You know for sure if you have this kind of leak because it only happens during heavy rain and / or wind. If it does not occur each and every time it rains then this is the cause.

When I was figuring these things out I just had to ask. I emailed the inventors of modern factory built chimneys to see what they would say on the topic.

I will end with my email to the Selkirk Technical dept. And their response.

June, 2010


I install your products and like them very much.

I have had occasions were customers have said that their chimney flashing have leaked.

It has only happened during heavy rains (not mild rainfall) and really hard winds at lakeside cottages. I have come to the conclusion in these cases that wind must carry the rain under the storm collar contacting the chimney. Have you ever heard of this or do you have literature that I could refer to my customers in this situation? I am sure that no chimney systems are guaranteed- no leaks in every situation.

Regards, Ian Myers

Hello, Thank you for contacting Selkirk. Yes there are circumstances when rain water will find it's way under the storm collar and into the flashing. Nothing can be done regarding these situations. The vents must be kept clear to let air circulate around the chimney. Thank you

returnSo What Do You Want to Know About Pellet Stoves?

March 17, 2011

pellet stoveIf you are considering buying a pellet stove, no doubt you may hear negative things from people you know or even from Hearth product retailers.

Pellet technology has been around for a long time. They are typically the most efficient, cleanest burning solid fuel appliances available. My experience tells me that almost every person with negative things to say has never owned or operated a pellet stove. They are simply repeating what they themselves have heard. Buyers should know that if they burn their pellet stoves continuously during the heating season they will need to have it completely cleaned by a competent professional at least 2 times per year. The homeowner can learn how to do this servicing if they want to. This is also the recommendation for a regular wood stove. The second and third hand stories usually relate to poor operation due to maintenance not being performed.

The other thing that I hear about is part failure. I bought a brand new Ford Ranger in 2008. I love my truck. It has taken everything thrown at it and still purrs. When I had it for three months I was out on a call and the electrical system failed. I was just able to limp back to town and into the dealership. The alternator had failed. I do not blame the truck. Almost all components for every device or appliance produced today are of this type. That would be disposable. The manufacturers term is 'consumable'. In other words- mass produced. Another aspect to these components that I have become aware of is that they are in themselves designed and fuse protected to fail under certain conditions. The condition that usually occurs would be the situation when the unit is not maintained. For example: If the burn pot of a pellet stove is never cleaned and there is a crusty build up. It puts pressure on the auger and thus the gear box and then the motor- eventually effecting the unit computer.

I personally would consider it lucky to have to replace a fuse or even an auger motor before having a major short that would burn out the computer. Biofuel is the way of the future. Lets not be so grumpy about it. Read the manual. Get yourself a good service technician. Then enjoy the consistent, clean burn heat and great savings that only a pellet stove can deliver." - Ian Myers

Note: here's a great article on "The Benefits of Wood Pellets" - Everything you will ever need to know about them.

returnSafety Warning - A True Story

February 2, 2011

creosote on chimneyI was called by an elderly woman living alone.

Her house was full of smoke.  I had to go get my mask so I could breathe.  She had a raging fire and her chimney looked like this!

I told her I had to put out the fire. I scooped out the flaming embers into a steel pail and began dumping them outside. I climbed to the chimney and removed the cap- not easily- it was impacted with glazed 3rd degree creosote. There was only a 2 1/2 inch hole in the chimney that should have been 6 inches.

I had to remove the entire flue pipe and chimney to clean it properly.I was there for 6 hours.

creosote on chimneyShe had a high-efficiency wood stove and top of the line Excel Chimney.  How could this happen?

The stove should have had 5 firebricks for the smoke shelf in the stove. There was only 1 1/2 bricks left.  Not good.

It was a creosote machine.

If, in your travels you ever see a chimney that looks like this, please bring it to someone's attention. No chimney would have survived a chimney fire with that kind of 3rd degree impacted glazed creosote. The house, possibly lives would very likely be lost.


returnI Know That Winter and Wood Stove and Fireplace Use Seems a Long Way Off....

August 18, 2010

stoveBut, as a Chimney Sweep ,lets just say "I see things". On a daily basis, there are a couple of comments I find myself repeating over and over. It bothers me to the point that I feel it very important to get these points out to the general public - for basic safety and long-term personal health to wood-burning consumers.

If you have any modern, EPA, certified Wood Burning appliance and you have any of these conditions - There IS something not right with the unit itself or the installation and it should definitely be checked and swept by a qualified, WETT Certified Chimney Sweep. This applies also to non- EPA burners. These symptoms are especially concerning with a newer unit.

Things to look for:

  • You often smell smoke - There are soot stains around doors, blower outlets etc.
  • There is often a layer of soot on the furniture ( however slight )
  • It is very difficult to start a fire
  • Opening the door always brings a puff of smoke into the room
  • A big one - the glass is always dirty
  • Or this - dirty on one side of glass only, huh?

I cannot stress this next point enough:  Aside from opening the door too quickly, you should never smell smoke in your house!

Take a minute to explain your concern to your Chimney Sweep.    It is their job to find the source and fix these problems.   Here are some simple (not always) things I find wrong every day:

  • Fireplace Inserts- #1, separated liner
  • Masonry fireplace/ with steel insert- rust perforations of steel
  • Factory built fireplace- #1, fresh-air intake blocked by spiders!
  • EPA Wood stove / Insert- bricks in the wrong place

I also find many consumers, especially those that have just purchased do not understand how to operate their appliances. Its just like having a car that has low tire pressure or in need of a tune up. The energy and money wasted is staggering. It is a small investment to have a Chimney Sweep help you with your stove operation. We are more than happy to give you tips.

In many European countries that have long standing traditions of Professional Chimney Sweeps, I have been told that it is considered 'good luck' to have a chimney sweep cross your path. The Sweeps often have official uniforms with fancy silver shirt buttons. A customer told me people from her village were always sure to touch the sweeps cuff button 'for good luck'. I told her that these traditions probably came about because Chimney Sweeps, in the run of a day find and remedy (often for no extra charge) problems that could have ended with tragedy.


returnChimney Damaged by Snow & Ice

March 27th, 2009

Snow on Roof

If you have a steep steel roof that has a chimney, with or without braces located more than 3ft off the peak or lower- there is a 50/50 chance if located in Haliburton County it will need everything above the roofline replaced late winter/ early spring. I say 50/50 because depending on the typography, location next to water, predominate direction of snowfall towards the chimney side of the roof etc. The snow may or may not hang on the roof and transform into an iceberg as it melts. I feel for people that go through this, I really do. But, the only thing worse than having this happen to you is having it happen year after year or every second or third year.

We try a lot harder than most companies to avoid this by adding snow splitters, changing the direction of roof braces to discourage build up etc. But, beyond building a heavy duty dormer above the chimney or moving the chimney to a new location there actually is a solution here.

A different attitude towards your home or cottage. Invest in a person or company that you trust to monitor and remove the snow as required. If a build up of 1 ft of snow is raked off a roof around a chimney before it has hardened up it will not cause a problem. You may even be saving a deck or railing below.

I am sure that a lot of homeowners are just lucky with the prevailing wind direction, angle of roof etc. But there are those exceptional years. We have a 16/12 pitch on our show room steel roof. Most years it will not get more than 5-6 inches of snow before sliding off. But, one year it piled up 2ft. It was not easy to remove because I let it harden up too long. The snow splitter was crushed- but it did save the chimney! ( I know this is not exciting stuff, but bear with me).

If you procrastinate about it and there is a large build up- you can still save it if you can control the mass by chipping away with a roof rake. It is important to do this before it gets too warm- so it is still stuck tight to the roof. Extreme caution should always be taken with how you protect and position yourself. Snow can be dangerous, be careful! If you have any doubts hire a professional. Snow removal is a service that we do not provide. We deal with assessing and repairing chimneys that are effected.

At this time I would like to remind homeowners that when they are away from their properties for some time, arriving up at the cottage on Friday night for example- Please take a minute and look at the chimney to make sure it all looks good before stoking the fire.

returnWood Burning is Surprisingly Environmentally Friendly

February 11, 2009

wood stoveOne thing that most people do not know is that wood burning is actually environmentally friendly. Essentially the same amount of carbon that is released from a tree that falls and decomposes in the forest is the same amount released during the wood burning process. If trees that would have otherwise fallen down are harvested and used as firewood and are burned in an efficient stove used to heat a home - replacing the consumption of oil or gas - it is environmentally friendly.



returnQuestion and Answer Section

Ian answers questions submitted on the website and by email

returnQuestion Submitted 01/08/13 by Tom W., Minden:  soot around chimney outside

I found black dust and creosote flakes in the snow on the ground where my chimney is. Do I need to have you sweep my chimney?


If there are no problems with the operation of the unit and a regular service (another question) is not due, then, no worries- that is completely normal. It happens all the time and most people don't notice. In fact, it can be considered as a sign of a healthy chimney condition.

Strange? Not really, the deposits in your chimney are being expelled during normal operation. You are reaching decent temperatures and the creosote is flaking out with the upward draft.

returnQuestion Submitted 12/10/12 by Doug B., Minden:  2 stoves, 1 chimney

Can 2 woodstoves share the same chimney?


Believe it or not, 2 woodstoves can be connected to one flue. There are conditions:

  • both units have to be on the same floor
  • both units must have 'mechanical' combustion air controls (so the flue will not be cooled by a woodstove not in use)

*note: I personally would not install this way- nor recommend it.

Such an install should be vigilantly checked for creosote formations.

return Question Submitted 9/18/12 by Doug B., Minden: soot in livingroom

I was at a clients home yesterday who had a Napoleon wood insert installed in a masonary FP in 2011 (unit was new). There is a fine black/gray dust/soot they notice when dusting the living room. Is this normal ?


If they have a oil furnace (any oil appliance) they should have it inspected. The heat exchanger might be cracked.   If there is no oil appliance, I would recommend a sweep.

return Question Submitted 7/14/11 by Doug B., Minden: telling double walled pipe

Sometimes people will say they have "double wall" stove pipe. Obviously, it's easy to tell with the new black pipe because of the venting space. Is there is double wall flue pipe without venting and if so, how do you know it is double wall?


There are 2 prominent brands of double wall pipe without the venting slots.

One way to tell: When dealing with 6'' blk pipe- if you look at where it connects to the stove ( if single wall ) the pipe will always be inserted into the collar of the stove, which can be see clearly.

The other way to tell is to look at the joints- single wall pipe is always the same, male into female facing downward. Often double wall pipe has machined looking ends- that may or may not look like male end down. ( since the inner sleeve is the one facing down )

Also, 'wrap it' with your knuckle- single wall clearly is thinner and higher pitched.

returnQuestion Submitted 1/2/13 by Doug S., Minden: dirty glass with a new stove

Thanks again for the work that you did installing our new Wood Burning Insert. We did review the information package that you left behind but I did want to follow up on one question. We did not think that the glass on the door would 'blacken' up so quickly so that was a little disappointing;  however, it does appear to be breaking down so we can begin to see the 'fire' inside the unit. I have not tried to remove the black deposit as of yet but would like your advice. Should we just be patient and let the use of the unit remove the black deposit or is there anything that you would recommend the next time that we are up north before having our next fire? The middle of the glass appears to be breaking down but there is still a very dark black ring around the rest of the glass. Is this normal? Is there a coating that they put on the glass when it is new that attracts the 'smoke' or 'ash' to the glass? Any feedback would be great as we would love to clean up the glass so we can properly see the fire inside the unit. No problem with the heating but could only begin to see the flame on Monday afternoon/night after running it since Friday afternoon.  


There is a lot of moisture is a fireplace when it is new. Especially the bricks inside - that would account for the blackened glass.

In general, the door should be kept open a crack while starting the fire. It should be kept open until it is producing enough heat so that when the door is closed- the smoke does not billow against the glass. 

Also, towards the end of the burning cycle the air should be opened up fully- this keeps the glass cleaner as well. 

If and when the glass gets dirty- it can be burned off with a hot fire (usually by turning the air down to halfway when it is burning hot or you could cut a lime in half an rub it on the glass ( this when cooled ). The other method is to dip newspaper in water, then dip in the ashes of the fireplace- then rub on the glass. Repeatedly dipping into the water and ash to keep it fresh, until the glass is clean.