Fire places and wood stoves are about to be brought back to life with the dipping temperatures we have experienced this week. However before you just throw a few logs in the old wood stove and light it up, take some time to make sure your stove is prepared for the upcoming season. Wood stoves and fireplaces need to be maintained to avoid serious problems, ask anyone who has been unfortunate enough to have us visit them for a chimney fire and they will tell you it’s definitely better to pay the price of maintenance as opposed to paying the price of non-maintenance.
Yearly cleaning of the chimney is a must; build-up of creosote, animal infestations and nesting material can all be found in a chimney that has sat unused for the summer months, and all of these things can lead to a chimney fire. Many people choose to try and clean their chimneys themselves with a weighted brush that can be bought at most hardware stores, we strongly suggest that you have a WETT certified technician both clean and inspect your chimney and wood stove yearly. WETT certified companies are also authorized to certify fireplace and woodstove installations when requested by insurance companies. This service is not done by fire departments or municipal building inspectors.
One of the most important factors for safe burning is choosing the right type of wood and making sure it is sufficiently dried. Burning softwoods or wet wood will cause creosote to rapidly build up within the chimney, once again risking a chimney fire. Wet wood will also not burn as efficiently as properly seasoned wood causing you to spend more to heat, and it will also produce more polluting emissions. Burning of trash or scrap wood should never be done in a wood burning stove or fireplace, theses devices are not designed for this use and doing so can result in the starting of a chimney fire or excessively hot fire which could spread outside the hearth.
If you are thinking of having a wood stove installed make sure the installer is WETT certified, if you use an installer who tells you that they are experienced in wood stove installations and that being WETT certified means nothing, find a new installer. If you do have a fire because of the wood stove, the first piece of information your insurance company is going to look for will be the WETT certification of the unit. We also highly suggest that if you have moved into a new home with a wood stove, have it inspected. It is better to be certain that the unit meets the codes requirements than find out afterward when you are arguing with an insurance company about a claim. The best way to avoid any insurance issues is to prevent problems from happening in the first place; maintenance, proper wood selection, annual inspection and cleaning, will all insure a problem free winter.