So twice already this year i have come across (perhaps they are becoming popular now, i cannot say) the type of stoves that are inset into the wall, flush with the edges and a few feet above ground level such as can be seen in figure 1 below.
This of course makes it very neat and tidy to the eye but what might be pleasing aesthetically to the owners eye; might very well end up a frustrating task for myself or create the need for a service/installation engineer call out (much more money) for cleaning instead. Now i cannot generalise of course as every case is different and I’ve only come up against two like this so far (and the second was designed and fitted well), so i am just sharing my experiences so far this year.
In the first of these cases, the actual inside of the stove did not have any kind of direct access to the vertical flue pipe, seemingly assuming the gases etc would flow up over a tiny lip edge at the front. It was essentially, just a jigsaw puzzle of very fragile vermiculite tiles , some of which (due to their fragility) were already broken.
Yes i know perhaps some might say; ok turn around and walk away and i was initially tempted to do so but in retrospect, i am glad i didn’t do that.
During the course of that particular job i also proceeded to find a large lump of concrete blocking the flue pipe (i bet the draw improved immensely, lol) and that the metal edge plate that held the top or “ceiling” tiles in place was warped due to being very thin and poor quality.
I am not about to mention the company involved other than to say, they of course immediately denied any blame whatsoever (when questioned by the customer about servicing and cleaning) and tried to suggest i had somehow been at fault.
This same company is not cheap and they used to have a reliable reputation as at least one of the best companies of its kind in Ayrshire but you know everything changes and good things sometimes go bad and even occasionally the reverse may be true too.
Like any other kind of stoves , all heating appliances are subject to their own material quality and the standard of the installation.
As we are so often reminded today . we live in an information age, the age of choice. So, as with anything it pays to do your homework before making any decisions and get & stay informed as possible. One phrase i find myself using repeatedly in this trade is, “prevention is better than cure”. The customer concerned was shrewd enough to know who was telling the truth of course and i was happy to assist as best i could. NB/ In case this is the only post you have read here, you might want to find out more about stove installations on our HETAS post category posts.
As is normal for me i have been swotting up on several parts of the trade including how it operates in Germany , both our histories and i am considering undertaking some education in correct stove installation. I only need find a decent education on the subject and i am all in.
In Ayrshire we come across many varied types of stoves and sometimes, unfortunately, the installation quality can vary too. I have been led to believe that on occasion stoves and other heating appliances come in container loads of inferior and cheap quality. When you couple bad quality stoves with poor quality installation materials (such as the wrong choice of flue pipe liner) and the installation itself is also bad, then it is not only dangerous to the owners but can make life interesting for us too at times.Ultimately, the end result can be anything from monoxide poisoning to a chimney fire (see this video on how chimney fires work: Controlled Chimney Fire ) . The resulting damage can be catastrophic to your premises. You know the old saying though?… you pay peanuts you get monkeys a.k.a you get what you pay for …is mostly true!
In fact, after a few run-ins with stoves that had 90 degree bends attached or T-bends behind flush to the wall (both of which are no-no’s) soon proved that normal good old bailey rods were unsuitable and i would have to explore other options. This was when i came across the term power sweeping and began to explore the alternative equipment available out there. Although we had to import our equipment from the USA with all the included taxes & postage etc, the power sweeping equipment has proved invaluable many times over, the rods are so flexible they can still rotate in a horseshoe position.
I have already looked at and mentioned HETAS elsewhere in my posts What is Hetas and when i last looked they seemed to be the up and coming body for England & Wales but at this exact moment i still think here (not looked lately) in Scotland there are as such no regulations yet i.e. monkey stove installers are running amok in many cases. Many stoves too are also being home installed themselves… which i generally don’t have many problems with if done correctly. Another thing we often find is lack of debris/register plates or they are fixed with materials like mastic instead of thick angle iron. Ideally, these plates that fill the gap around the flue pipe and the often rectangular gap of an old fireplace should have some kind of access hatch, especially if there is no liner. They should also be made from sheet zinc galvanised metal; not plasterboard or any flammable material.
This is just the status quo here in Ayrshire (and i’m guessing much of Scotland today still) and has been for a while. The diversity of stoves, fireplaces and various assorted heating appliances often present sometimes significant challenges which can be fun to solve but can also be occasionally impossible. Sometimes as they say you need to know when to just walk away. Even though time, fuel and money have been spent getting to the job; I still occasionally find it uncomfortable asking some people for a call out fee. This is the nature of the modern chimney sweeps job, we all have bills to pay.
Downloadable Document~J Building regulations for the installation of solid fuel heating appliances
HETAS are now the official body recognised by the government to approve biomass, solid fuel domestic heating appliances, fuels and services including registration of competent installers and servicing businesses. One could liken them to the gas safety register which used to be known as the corgi register.
Promote and watch continuous improvement in the safe installation and use of solid fuel appliances, systems, chimneys, flues and in their maintenance.
Encourage continual improvement of products and promote high standards of quality, design, safety and efficiency.
Lead the industry in updating & maintaining uniform standards of education. Training at all levels to make sure safe, efficient installation and use of solid fuels, systems & appliances.
Working with stakeholders to promote to the wider industry and its customers the means & benefits of achieving the safe, efficient use of solid fuels. The raising of standards & encouraging advice and guidance to solid fuel users.
Influence legislation, regulations, policies (national & international levels) that affect the use of solid fuel & solid fuel appliances, systems, related products and services.
Ensuring that HETAS is seen as offering an understandable and secure route through safety standards and relevant regulation in support of our organisational purpose.
England and Wales
The current situation in England and Wales now means all stove installations are subject to document J of the building regulations available. here:Document~J building regulations
The HETAS association could be described as the Solid Fuel Associations equivalent to what used to be known as the Corgi register and is now known as the Gas Safety Register for gas fitters. HETAS cover all installation work on domestic solid fuel, wood, biomass and their associated systems which are subject to Building Regulations e.g. heating, hot water and controls etc. The approved building documents F, J, L, G, P are applicable and most work is notifiable to the relevant Local Authority. The information notified is required for household insurance and the future sale of properties.
Where work is carried out by a HETAS Registered Installer they can self-certificate their work via HETAS and save the customer applying for a Building Notice from their Local Authority. The HETAS route can save a lot of money and time for consumers and gives registered businesses an opportunity to charge a fair fee for a professional installation, including the notification process.
Scottish Ministers are responsible for Building Regulations Standards in Scotland with the key purpose of protecting the public interest, creating building regulations and preparing technical guidance to make sure buildings are safe, efficient and sustainable for all. Technical Handbooks have now been consolidated to include publication errata and the changes brought about by the Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2011.
These versions now include the new Section 7: Sustainability alongside minor changes to the technical guidance are available from the building regulations standards section.
There are many British Standards and European Standards. see here: HETAS Professional standards
These apply to both the solid fuel and biomass industry and affect everything you do on a daily basis. Many of these are referenced in the HETAS Guide, the HETAS Technical Handbook and throughout the range of HETAS training manuals.
To assist the industry HETAS has pulled together the latest set of standards along with quick links to each of the Standards on the BSI website where they can be purchased.
So how does this affect me in Scotland?
HETAS are the up and coming body who will eventually standardise the installations of stoves in the UK. However, at the moment the regulations they follow are NOT enforced in Scotland , so sadly many “cowboys” are now in the stove game. We regularly come across installations that might be cheap but are seriously sub standard. This can not only make our job more of a challenge (sometimes impossible) but also these installations are dangerous to yourself and your property. Also, many of their recommended stoves are cheap imports from China .. so remember: If you pay peanuts you get monkeys. In the age of “freedom of choice” the onus is on you to do your research and choose wisely.