Although the weather outside isn't frightful yet, September is the perfect time to make sure that come December, when you want a fire, it will be delightful. We know that phrase doesn't have quite the same ring to it as Cahn's famous tune, but what it lacks in eloquence it makes up for in prudency.
It's easy to believe that summer will last forever; that the recent sunny days are a trend that will continue for a long time. However, realists like us know that it's only a matter of time before warm winds become cool and sweaters replace sunscreen. Taking the necessary measures now to maintain your fireplace will help to keep you cozy for many future snowfalls.
We reached out to Specialty Service partner Carleton Chimney Services to discuss the merits of WETT Inspections and highlight some easy approaches homeowners can take when it comes to fireplace care. We spoke with company President John Carleton, to get a more in-depth look at this type of service.
Carson Dunlop: What is a WETT Inspection? What does it entail?
John Carleton: "A Wood Energy Transfer Technology, or WETT, Inspection relates to the inspection of any wood-burning system in a home. A WETT Inspector assesses different components of the system in question, to determine whether or not it meets the minimum requirements set out by the Code applicable to the installation. There are three levels of WETT Inspections: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.
- A Level 1 inspection does not require the inspector to look into hidden spaces or use any tools other than a flashlight and measuring tape. This type of inspection would be performed as an annual maintenance task, if the system has already been thoroughly inspected and brought up to Code. (Some insurance companies may require a yearly certification - this inspection would be suitable in these instances).
- A Level 2 inspection includes the same visual components as Level 1, but also requires the use of tools to open readily-accessible areas such as removing the smoke pipe, accessing the roof if safe, and using a camera to inspect the flue interior. This is a recommended level of inspection for anyone buying a home. (It is important to ensure that the inspector performing this type of inspection employs video inspection equipment to scan the flue interior).
- A Level 3 inspection covers that of Level 1 and Level 2, as well as opening areas that require destructive actions such as opening walls or digging up the foundation. This is only needed when strong evidence suggests that there is a problem that needs to be investigated thoroughly."
Carson Dunlop: When should a WETT Inspection be performed?
John Carleton: "A Level 1 inspection should be completed yearly, preferably in conjunction with the annual cleaning of the system. A Level 2 inspection should be done when the home is changing ownership or if a significant event, like a chimney fire, or a lightning strike, has happened. These situations typically require a more detailed assessment."
Carson Dunlop: What are some common misconceptions homeowners operate under with respect to fireplaces?
John Carleton: "Many assume that if they are not experiencing a problem with their fireplace or wood-burning stove, there is no need to be concerned. In reality, it can take a long time for a defect within the system to manifest itself. Fireplaces and chimney systems built prior to 1954 have the potential for serious Code issues. Although the potential for Code violations decreases with homes built after this date as higher standards were put in place, poor workmanship and deterioration can present problems as well. An annual WETT inspection is important for maintenance and safety."
Carson Dunlop: Are there any clear indicators that a wood-burning system is experiencing a problem?
John Carleton: "If a fireplace system has staining anywhere, including the face of the fireplace or on the chimney, this would indicate a problem. In addition, if smoke or the smell of smoke is present anywhere in the house, that is another telltale sign of a problem. A properly operating system will remove all the smoke out of the house - a lingering odor means something is amiss. If you experience one or any of the conditions outlined above, it is best to reach out to a WETT Inspector to have your system assessed."
Carson Dunlop: What simple tasks can homeowners undertake to maintain their fireplaces, chimneys and wood-burning stoves? What are some "best practices" for caring for these systems?
John Carleton: "Homeowners can help their systems operate properly by doing an annual cleaning of the flue by a certified sweep and by burning dry fuel. The danger of a chimney fire can be mitigated by these simple actions. A competent sweep will advise you on what they found, any problems noted, and if your systems have been burning properly."
Ensuring your wood-burning systems are working well is a great way to start winterizing your home this season.