Frequently Asked Questions

We have done our best to assemble a list of the most commonly asked questions about chimney sweeps, WETT Inspections and chimneys in general. If there is something we have not addressed, please send us a message and we will help to answer any questions you may have.

What is a chimney liner?

Most masonry chimneys in our area have clay tiles stacked and mortared inside the brick structure.  These clay tiles are intended to carry the flue gases and smoke inside away from the masonry structure.  Without the liner, or with cracked and damaged liners, heat can transfer into and through the brick and mortar. 

A liner is a stainless steel flexible pipe inserted inside the mason chimney along the clay tile which allows the gases from the wood stove flow through the liner as opposed to along the clay tiles.   Some liners are insulated and can make a masonry chimney perform virtually the same as well as a factory built chimney.

How often should I have my chimney inspected?

The Ontario Fire Codes makes it clear – a chimney inspection is required annually.

The Ontario Fire Code requires inspection by a chimney sweep and recommends a cleaning when necessary. 

During the inspection, your technician will look for the following common issues:

  • Cracks in liner
  • Settling or movement of chimney
  • Moisture damage
  • Nests or other obstructions
  • Excessive tar or creosote buildup
What areas do you service?

Area is pretty much dependent upon what is requested.  However, as a rule of thumb most of Simcoe County including down to Barrie, Blue Mountains, Collingwood, Creemore, Orillia, Brechin and of course up into Muskoka including the Parry Sound and Gravenhurst area.  Also island access into Six Mile, Go Home Lake, Georgian Bay, etc.

What stove do you recommend most?

I generally do not recommend any particular brand or model, although there occasionally may be the rare exception to this. 

Most often I will look at the efficiency of the stove, the size (output) of the stove, and other general factors that will ensure it meets your needs, operates at lowest cost and brings you great joy in use over the years.   Most good stove dealers will have operational stoves in their showrooms, and most have WETT System Advisors on staff to assist in the decision.  While as a Chimney Sweep I am trained to understand many aspects of the system and components, there may be aspects the advisor is aware of which may assist you – and I would not want to detract from their expertise.   Always look for a WETT System Advisor to discuss options and a WETT Technician for install and finally a WETT Chimney Sweep for maintenance and cleaning services.

What is a SITE Basic Inspection?

SITE outlines three levels of inspection:

  • Level-1 Inspection – “Readily Accessible”
  • Level-2 Inspection – “Accessible”
  • Level-3 Inspection – “Concealed Accessibility”
How long is an inspection report valid for?

Any inspection report records what was seen on that particular day, and can not guarantee anything into the future. 

Most competent inspectors will explain this to the client, and should include this in their written report.   I always have this written in the report clearly.  This is because like in any inspection, after leaving the premises, the inspector has no control over, nor knowledge of any changes that may take place to a wood-burning appliance installation. 

I’m unsure how to work my damper. Can you show me how?

This is actually a fairly common question. If your damper is not working properly or it is closed, you are at minimum going to get a really smoky room.. and possibly a very dangerous fire hazard. You must have the damper to be fully open before you light your fire.

When I build a fire in my upstairs fireplace, I get smoke from the basement fireplace.

This is more common in the air tight homes of today, and is due to differing air pressure zones within the home.  The easiest way to solve this is to have an easy source for air to enter the home, and new fireplaces will have this built in as part of their design.  If you have this problem, give us a call and we will try to work to a solution for you.

Why Do I Need A Chimney Inspection?

There are actually two reasons.

The first being the Ontario Fire Code.   The Fire Code states :
[1] Chimneys, flues and flue pipes shall be inspected:

  1. annually
  2. when any appliance is added to it
  3. after any chimney fire

[2] Chimneys, flues and flue pipes shall be repaired or replaced to eliminate any structural deficiency [such as the absence of a liner] or any decay [such as cracking, settling, crumbling mortar, distortion, advanced corrosion, separation of sections or loose or broken supports]

[3] Chimneys, flues and flue pipes that constitute a fire hazard shall be repaired or replaced in accordance with the Building Code.
Chimneys, flues and flue pipes shall be cleaned as often as necessary to keep them free from accumulations of combustible deposits.

The second being for factory built or stainless steel chimneys.  An annual inspection is required by the manufacturers to maintain the limited warranty that they have provided.

Is Cleaning Of My Chimney Actually Required?

Yes! Actually cleaning is required both for safety and by law. No the hot burning, potato peels, aluminum drink cans or chimney logs do not do the job. The chimney logs can help with Level 3 Creosote (if only a small amount – otherwise a professional level chemical is required), Hot burning will help prevent a significant buildup but will not prevent deposits nor will it clean any deposits out, it can however actually cause a chimney fire if there are significant deposits already present. Yes cleaning your chimney is of critical for the safety of your home, and your family. The Ontario Fire Code mandates annual inspection and cleaning if necessary. The Fire Prevention Agency testing shows only 2mm is necessary to sustain a chimney fire and by law with 3mm you must have the chimney cleaned.

Does Chimney Cleaning or Sweeping Make a Mess?

The short answer is NO. We use drop cloths and cover the floor area and our vacuums have HEPA filters installed. Our WETT Certified technicians treat your home with utmost care and work hard to ensure you have the best job available in the entire area.

How Do I Know If My Chimney Needs Repair?
It has been said that a picture says a thousand words.
Most chimney sweeps are trained to take pictures from start to finish. 
And any reputable chimney sweep will have a chimney camera – typically that goes onto the end of rods and can go up to the top of the chimney.   Its not uncommon to have ten or more pictures from top of the chimney to the firebox inside the home, or even a video. If your chimney technician tells you that you have a problem, they should be able to show you that problem as well using a photograph.  Don’t get scammed!
Chimney cameras are not toys and you will see a camera with a very long cable and a case with a viewer in it- they have bright lights and designed to look inside the dark areas of a chimney.
Why does my chimney need cleaning?
Well it is simple chemistry.  When wood burns it goes through the process where it first turns black, this is when pyrolysis occurs and the hydro-carbon in the wood is released in a gas form.  It is actually this gas that burns and not the solid log.  But all wood burns this way, actually coal does as well, and every log you burn leaves traces of creosote in the system as when this gas is not 100% burned and makes it way up the chimney it can condense into a liquid goo which then drys, hardens and becomes creosote. The National Fire Code of Canada specifies that a buildup of more than 3 mm (1/8 in.) of creosote or soot particles on the walls of a chimney represents a potential fire hazard. Sweeping a chimney cleans it so that it can properly do its job of venting gases and smoke to the outside. 
Sweeping must be done at least once year, and it doesn’t matter how dry your firewood is as even dry wood will produce creosote. But when cleaned get it done right.. call and use only a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep!
Can I Clean My Own Chimney?

Yes we do get asked that question.

Of course the simple answer is yes you can.  

But should you?

First of all, the old style push clean rods and brushes do no where near as good a job as the professional rotary sweep equipment, even when used by a professional.  So if you are using the old push brooms maybe think again.  This is especially true with a flexible liner, where the push brushes can actually cause damage to the liner itself.   And there are many circumstances where it is clear that chimneys which were apparently cleaned the previous year have far too much creosote once we clean them, meaning that the system generates far above normal levels of creosote or that it was poorly cleaned the year before – that one of course is always open to question.

Now to the question – should you?  Well as explained professional rotary sweep equipment can and almost always will do a better job of cleaning the chimney.  However, it goes far beyond that, especially if the sweep is a Certified Chimney Sweep – and if they are not then perhaps look elsewhere!

The Certified Sweep is going to do far more than push some soot out of your chimney – far more.  And that more is actually necessary for a safe and efficient system.  If you don’t know all that is needed and how to inspect the system properly while you do the job than perhaps look for a Certified Chimney Sweep.

My chimney has white stains on the brick, what is this?

The white stains or powder-like material is often the result of water penetration of the chimney and known as efflorescence. During a rain, snow, or ice storm water is into the brick and mortar, as the mortar and brick dry lime and salts from within the brick and mortar are let behind on the surface.

How often should I have my chimney cleaned?

There really is no hard fast rule, it depends on the stove, the wood you burn, how you burn it and how often you burn it.  I have seen as often as every month to once every decade.  However the Ontario Fire Code states that the chimney must be inspected and if necessary cleaned at least once per year.

As a general guideline the actual frequency of cleaning will depend on:

  • How frequently you use the wood burning appliance
  • The species of wood burned
  • How dry the wood is when burned
  • How you burn the appliance
  • Weather it is a wood stove, fireplace or insert
  • How efficient the appliance is – also related directly to age
  • If chimney is lined or a factory built
  • Location of chimney (indoors or exterior)
  • If chimney has a raincap
  • If the chimney also has oil in same flue

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be swept at 1/8″ of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system.  This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home. Factory-built fireplaces should be swept when any appreciable buildup occurs. The logic is that the deposit is quite acidic and can shorten the life of the fireplace.

How can I fix back-drafting?

This is a tough one and it appears in various blogs throughout our website.  There is no single, simple answer to this problem.  If there were, I would post in big, bold text on the front page.  Realistically chimneys are always better if inside the home.  The problem you have can be related to flue size in chimney being too large, the chimney being masonry, the chimney being un-insulated or other reasons.

If you have a factory built (metal) chimney you may be able to move it inside, or build a chase around it (inside is better option of the two).  If it is masonry then moving is not possible, you could try an insulated insert/liner inside the chimney – which can in some cases make it almost as good as a metal factory built chimney.  You may say there is no way to run it inside, but there always is a way to do almost anything.

It is also impacted by how leaky or tight  your home is, if it is leaky at higher levels then the problem becomes worse.  (a two story home – with serious leaks on 2nd floor is a typical worst case example)
Try sealing up attic hatches, ceiling fixtures, 2nd story windows, etc.

There is no single – for sure solution to this problem – just as there is no single reason why the back-draft occurs to begin with.

How do I get a WETT inspection or WETT certificate?

Your appliance (wood-stove, fireplace or furnace) cannot be WETT certified.

I often get requests for :

  • a WETT Certificate
  • a WETT Certification
  • a WETT Approval
  • verification it is a “WETT Certified installation.

Sometimes people will ask if the company is WETT Certified.

Each of these is WRONG/INCORRECT.  None of these terms EXIST.

What should be issued is an inspection report, completed by an individual who is WETT certified.

There is no SUCH thing as a WETT Certificate.

The appliance may be CERTIFIED – but by the manufacturer and not by WETT.

The person performing the inspection is certified by WETT.

What you need to do is contact a WETT certified professional to inspect your wood-burning appliance. WETT has adopted a process to help identify the level of inspection required.  Generally the inspection is best performed by a Chimney Sweep or Comprehensive Inspector – normally either of whom can also clean the chimney if necessary.

What kind of report will I get?

For any level of inspection, you should receive a written report.  WETT has standardized forms which should be used as part of this report and should always be included.  At the top of each form will be the words “WETT RECOMMENDED INSPECTION CHECKLIST“.  In a properly performed inspection, you will receive two or more of these reports – one for the appliance and one for the chimney.  While members in WETT are encouraged to use these standardized forms, some vary and have made their own form template which they use.  Most competent inspectors will also include a short written report with a Level 1 inspection, Level 2 inspections and Level 3 inspections will always have a more complete written report with them and cost more due to the additional time onsite and in report preparation.  The report may also include photographs, or the inspector may retain these simply for reference in the future.

My fireplace smells bad, especially in. the summer. What can I do?

What you smell is actually creosote deposits within the chimney, this is a natural by-product of wood burning. The higher humidity in the summer and the lack of burning wood is what causes the odour to be more noticeable.  When wood is burning, there is a natural draft taking all odours up and out.  The problem is the air being drawn down the chimney into the home, a sweeping of the chimney in early spring/summer can help – a rain cap is mandatory – and a treatment with Ozone can eliminate any odour in the home (although if the source is not dealt with it will return.

How do I know if my chimney has been properly cleaned?

A proper chimney sweeping includes the chimney flue and smoke chamber of a fireplace or the wood stove and chimney flue.  All WETT Certified  Chimney Sweeps will provide a Level 1 or Level 2 inspection as part of the sweeping – it is mandatory with WETT certification.  There will NOT be a written report unless you pay a bit more – but the sweep will still do all the necessary work involved in the inspection.  This is in fact why it is a WASTE of money for people hiring a Home Inspector to do a WETT Inspection – unless they are also a Chimney Sweep!  Have the chimney cleaned as well – you will need to do it when you buy the property & it will save you MONEY!  Level 1 and Level 2 inspections are detailed in the National Fire Protection Association 211: Standard on Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances.  DO NOT HIRE ANY SWEEPS WHO ARE NOT WETT CERTIFIED CHIMNEY SWEEPS!

What is Level 3 Creosote?

​You may have heard the term “Level 3 Creosote” and wondered what it was and if it really does exist.  The short answer is yes, there are three levels f creosote and Level 3 is the most difficult to remove.  Level 3 can not easily be removed, even by a professional.  In fact a professional will need to use professional-grade chemicals, generally in a powder form to change the glazed creosote into a for that can be removed.   The powder will require heat, often a small fire, t cause the chemical reaction to take place.  I have a post in the blog section on creosote modifiers which are the chemicals used to treat Level 3 creosote.   So, yes Level 3 creosote does exist, is dangerous and needs a professional to remove properly.   It is generally caused by less than optimal burning conditions and can be fairly expensive to remove as the chemical is not inexpensive to purchase.

What Causes Creosote?

In a simple answer, burning wood.  When wood burns or is heated it releases a gas which is a complex Hydro-Carbon.  It is actually this gas that is burning and not the solid wood.  When this gas is not fully burned in the firebox, and makes it way up the chimney, it will condense if it passes by anything cool enough in temperature.  Chimney operation is simple physics – pressure and temperature and creosote formation is mostly chemistry.  Yes you can do some things to reduce creosote formation but you can not stop or prevent it entirely in any wood burning system.  The black creosote is simply a condensation of a hydro-carbon gas released from the wood.  And no,, softwood does not produce more creosote than hardwood!  However green or unseasoned wood will produce more than dry or seasoned wood!  The only safe way to deal with it is to clean the chimney – and if you heat with wood you need to do that on an annual basis (or sometimes more frequently than that).

What is Flashing For A Chimney

You may have seen the term “chimney flashing” on your Home Inspector report or somewhere else.  Flashing is the metal that is inserted into the brick of the chimney and goes down to interleave with the roof flashing, which is interleaved with the shingles (some beneath and part on top of the shingles).

Is My Stove Worn Out?

We have customers who have had other Chimney Sweeps tell them their stove was worn out.    Does a stove wear out?  Yes it can but.. Some Chimney Sweeps will clean your chimney and then tell you your stove is worn out or needs replacement. It may, and it may simply be a suggestion. A suggestion? Well your stove may be old, inefficient and you could be better served by a new stove. Sometimes a second opinion is a good idea, from a sweep who does not sell stoves and has no alterior motive to make themselves more money!

Yes a stove can wear out, but often the clues are obvious with holes, rust, etc. I have seen perfectly good, but older stoves which the owners had been told were worn out.

If you have been told that, call today as I feel honesty and integrity is above profit making.  If your stove is old and inefficient we will tell you that, not that it is worn out.

What Does Chimney Work Cost?
Well don’t fall for too good to be true pricing.  A legitimate company won’t take a ladder off the truck for $49.95 or even $100 for that matter.
Once you calculate in certifications, tools, equipment, payroll, taxes, maintenance, liability insurance, gas it adds up quickly.
Depending on your area, an inspection and sweep from a legitimate certified company/technician will cost you at least  $200.00 and perhaps a bit more.
If you were quoted something significantly higher or lower than that it should raise a flag.
Scammers are known for using a super low discount to get their foot in the door so they can tell you that you need more work – a new stove – a chimney liner, etc.. often quoting prices of $5000 or more.
Call today for an honest and accurate assessment of work and cost.
What is a Rumford Fireplace?
Fireplaces have been around for a long, long time.  Fireplaces were once how homes were heated, but the early ones were terrible and it was not until 1795 that the fireplace was finally perfected by a brilliant American named Benjamin Thompson “Count Rumford.
Rumford’s work revolutionized the fireplace and chimney construction.  Sadly many today have never hard of the Rumford fireplace, even though there are many out there and it still remains by far the best design.
By the late 1800’s almost no Rumford fireplaces were built any longer and masons forgot or never learned how to make a good fireplace.  It is sad but true that the fireplaces built today are a very poor substitute for the Rumford fireplace design.

Stepping back in history – before the Rumford design fireplaces were pretty poor and had problems with draft, were very poor at heating and did not work well without a lot of fresh air.  The Rumford design fixed all these problems.

By design a Rumford fireplace is taller and shallower than the typical fireplace we see/ than a modern fireplace. Despite the shallow fireplace the Rumford actually draws better than any other design and far exceeds the ability of our modern fireplaces.

The question is why did we change when we knew how to do it right!?  Well as heating systems changed, fireplaces were no longer needed for heating and became more of a visual enhancement than a heating appliance.  But all is not lost a good mason can redesign your fireplace into a Rumford design!  If needed we can help with that as well.
What is a Certified Chimney Sweep?

Well in Canada the Chimney Sweep Certification is issued by WETT.  However, not all who are WETT Certified are Chimney Sweeps!  A dilemma for many to say the least.  They ask “Are you WETT Certified?” – a logical question and the answer may be “Yes”.  However, that does not mean they are a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep!!   The most basic WETT Certification is Basic Inspector – and there are hundreds with this credential as that is where we all started.  After that is the Certified Technician, then Chimney Sweep, then Comprehensive Inspector, Advanced Technician and Advanced Chimney Sweep.

So yes you should always hire a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep or WETT Certified Advanced Chimney Sweep to clean your system.  But be sure you ask the right questions!!   Some who perform chimney sweeping are NOT Certified – perhaps half of those who do the work – and sometimes they charge less.  But you often do get less value as well.  Protect yourself and your family and get Peace of Mind!

“Exceptional overall service and performed a great job!  Actually were able to come the same day I called! Explained how everything worked and how to maintainstove. and explained how everything operated. Father and son.. great team. Will definitely be using them for all my chimney needs.


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