Out of all the solid fuel installations I end up condemning as ‘dangerous’, 90% of them are because of the way they have been fitted in the beginning.
And it’s usually because the customer has tried to save a few pounds by either doing it themselves or getting a general builder to do it.
So you can imagine the disappointment when we sweeps come along and point out all the faults. Unfortunately, it’s all too common. Here’s why…
Lack Of Knowledge
On the face of it, installing a stove can look fairly straightforward, especially for someone who is good with their hands and used to DIY/building things for a living. However, rules and regulations governing solid fuel are very specific and too numerous to list here. Basically though, installations are governed by Approved Document J of the Building Regulations. This isn’t a ‘box ticking exercise’ or the ‘nanny state’ going into overdrive, it’s about sticking to a set of rules to ensure your safety. Almost 99% of installations carried out by an untrained person fail at least one aspect of the regs.
Lack of Experience
Even if you stick completely to the regs, there are aspects of solid fuel installation which aren’t covered in depth or at all. For instance, there are times on a solid fuel installation when the situation isn’t specifically mentioned in the regs – not surprising given the various potential scenarios. This is when experience comes into play. I usually find those who aren’t au fait with solid fuel use inapparopriate materials/methods in order to make it ‘work’. An experienced solid fuel professional will be able to advise you on the right type of stove and lining system for you, because not all stoves and liners were created equal! There is some real junk out there which simply doesn’t last. The phrase ‘pay cheap, pay twice’ springs to mind. Talking of money…
It Could Cost You More In The Long Run
Having an installation ‘condemned’ isn’t a particularly nice experience, and chances are it will have to be ripped out and started again. The reason? Well, there are parts of a solid fuel install which you can’t see on initial inspection. So if something you CAN see is dangerous, then you can almost guarantee that there’s something related to the flue way which wasn’t checked/done properly during the installation process. Remember, if the price sounds like a real bargain, then it usually means that corners are being cut somewhere.
Your Safety Could Be At Risk
Again, on the face of it, solid fuel installations can look straight-forward. But as anyone with a ‘real’ fire will tell you, the heat from solid fuel appliances is much more intense than with most other forms of heating. The components of the installation will get very hot, and if installed incorrectly, it can cause a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. These are entirely preventable through a combination of having it professionally installed in the first place, using the appliance in accordance with manufacturer instructions and keeping on top of sweeping/service and maintenance requirements. Missing any one of those facets out can leave you at risk.
No Proper Paperwork
As solid fuel installations are governed by building regulations, that means that all new installs should be ‘signed off’ under the regs and receive a Certificate of Compliance. This is an important piece of paperwork, and you’ll need it (along with sweeping certificates) if you’re ever selling your property or claiming on your house insurance. It’s rare that installations are given retrospective ‘sign off’ so you really only normally have one chance to get that all-important certificate – at the beginning.
So, given the above, why do uregistered installations get fitted in the UK? Well, currently, there is actually nothing in the rules and regs which say you have to be a registered solid fuel professional in order to install a stove. But as you can see, there are a number of pitfalls in not getting an experienced professional in to do the work.
Generally speaking, when it comes to solid fuel installations, you get what you pay for.
My strong advice is don’t chance it – get a professional in (usually HETAS or OFTEC solid fuel registered installers are the most widely used). If that’s outside your budget, then wait until you can afford it.
Because if you don’t, you could end up paying much more in the long run anyway…
Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a HETAS Approved Sweep, and member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, offering a professional and friendly chimney sweep and stove service in Wigan, Stockport, St Helens, Ormskirk, Chorley and surrounding areas. Book Mr Soot online or call 0800 0541154.