Wood Burning FAQs

If you have a wood burning system, there are some things you can do to ensure that your system is burning as efficiently as possible. We have some suggestions here in our FAQs.  You can also find answers to frequently asked questions about duct cleaning here.

Q: If I burn wood, how often does the chimney need to be cleaned?

A: How often you need a chimney cleaning depends on how quickly creosote builds up in your chimney, which depends on many factors. The BC Fire Code states that a chimney should be checked at least once a year and cleaned if there is more than 3mm of build up. Here are a few considerations that will help you to optimize wood burning, and minimize creosote buildup.

  1. Only burn quality firewood. In choosing what kind of wood to burn, we recommend sourcing second growth fir as it generates the most heat and has the least amount of tar and resin. We also suggest that you avoid hemlock, yellow cedar, and first growth fir with thick bark. If you are buying firewood, be sure to purchase dry seasoned wood and avoid mixed loads. The moisture in unseasoned wood will prevent it from burning efficiently and cool down the pitch in the wood, making the by-product of creosote more likely to stick to the inside of your chimney. If it’s possible to get your firewood from trees that are already dead and down that’s preferable but if you are cutting standing trees, cut it in the winter before the sap rises. The wood will season over the summer months, ready for burning the following year.

  2. Burn smart. Start your fires with lots of paper and kindling to warm up the inside of your chimney. This will allow more of the tar to get outside of the chimney before condensing, rather than condensing inside the chimney. Burn your main fire hot if you've recently had your chimney cleaned, to keep your chimney in good shape. You should know the condition of your chimney before you start burning to avoid damaging and dangerous chimney fires. This is where a WETT certified chimney sweep should be called in.

  3. Choose the right woodstove. Older woodstoves have only one air intake which often results in incomplete burning of the gases that condense as creosote. Newer woodstoves will have a secondary air intake to burn off excess tar, increasing the heat output, keeping your chimney cleaner and providing better air quality.

Q: How can I tell if I’ve had a chimney fire?
A: It is not always evident to the homeowner when they’re having a chimney fire, and it’s often a neighbor or passerby that notices. When burned, a layer of creosote can expand up to 12 times its original thickness which can dramatically reduce the inside dimension of the chimney flue. This build up reduces the draft, causing smoke roll back into the room. If you’ve had a chimney fire, you should always call a WETT certified chimney sweep to check for damage. Remember!! If you are experiencing a chimney fire call the fire department, as there are a great many things that can go wrong. Don’t take a chance.

Q: Does Oliver’s Power Vac and Chimney Sweep provide chimney repairs?
A: Yes, in some cases we are able to do light masonry repairs, chimney crown repair and chimney relining. Chimneys with significant damage require a certified tradesman, and we are happy to recommend the services of professionals we have worked with.

Q: What does a chimney inspection involve?
A: A Level 1 inspection of a wood stove, fireplace and/or chimney is done to verify building code compliance. The component will be assessed for clearances to combustibles, integrity and proper use. Inspections are done at the request of a homeowner’s insurance company, during the sale of a house, or after a chimney fire.

Q: Do I have to have a stainless steel flue liner?
A: Building code requires that a chimney have a flue liner of masonry or stainless steel. If the masonry flue liner of your chimney is code compliant (uncracked, mortared, in alignment), there is no need to replace it. If, however the masonry liner is deficient, a stainless steel replacement is recommended.

Q: Does my chimney have to have a raincap?
A: It is not always required, but one is often recommended especially in our west coast environment. Rain caps do more than just keep out the rain, some types can help prevent down drafts. Screened caps will prevent pest entry such as birds, and act as a spark arrestor. Any manufactured chimney or steel lined flue must have a rain cap installed or the risk is run of early deterioration.

Q: I just had my chimney cleaned. Why am I getting smoke roll back?
A: Even if your chimney is clean, you can get smoke spillage or even just a sooty smell from “cold downdraft at standby”. This happens because the air in your home is warmer than the chimney. The colder air in your chimney is dropping and displacing the warmer air in your home, bringing odour or smoke with it. You can reverse the draft by lighting a quick hot fire, or by opening a downstairs window to provide your house with another access for displacement air.