Q: What is a WETT Inspection? What’s involved?
A: WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) Inspection relates to the inspection of any wood-burning system in a home. A WETT Certified Professional 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.
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 is the type of inspection performed by Home Inspectors, and is strictly for the purpose of determining whether the wood burning installation appears to conform substantially to the applicable Code.
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 type of inspection is beyond the scope and limitations of a home inspection, however may be required by some insurance companies and is a good idea if there are any doubts as to the integrity of the installation.
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.
Q: When should a WETT Inspection be performed?
A: Level 1 inspection should be completed yearly, preferably in conjunction with the annual cleaning of the system. Level 2 or 3 inspection should be done if a significant event, like a chimney fire, or a lightning strike, has happened. These situations typically require a more detailed assessment.
Q: What are some common misconceptions among homeowners, with respect to fireplaces?
A: 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 inspection is important for maintenance and safety.
Q: Are there any clear indicators that a wood-burning system is experiencing a problem?
A: 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 tell-tale 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 contact a professional to have the system assessed.
Q: 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?
A: Homeowners can help their systems operate properly by doing an annual cleaning of the flue by an experienced chimney 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 wood-burning systems are working well is a great way to enhance performance, ensure household safety and reduce insurance rates. WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) member sevices provide homebuyers, sellers and their real estate partners with quick, reliable information about wood heating equipment, maintenance and locating qualified specialists.
Encouraging homeowners to call for expert service helps everyone be better assured of a trouble-free winter, with safe and enjoyable wood burning comfort.
Locate qualified wood heating professionals at www.wettinc.ca
Gil Strachan is a professional home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in east-central Ontario since 1994.