How often do I need to have my chimney swept?
This is specifically addressed in each version of theBC Fire Code, quoted here is from the latest version (2018)
126.96.36.199. Chimneys, Flues and Flue Pipes 1) Every chimney, flue and flue pipe shall be inspected to identify any dangerous condition a) at intervals not greater than 12 months, b) at the time of addition of any appliance, and c) after any chimney fire. (See Note A-188.8.131.52.(1).) 2) Chimneys, flues and flue pipes shall be cleaned as often as necessary to keep them free from dangerous accumulations of combustible deposits. (See Note A-184.108.40.206.(2).) 3) A chimney, flue, or flue pipe shall be replaced or repaired to eliminate a) any structural deficiency or decay (see Note A-220.127.116.11.(3)(a)), and b) all abandoned or unused openings that are not effectively sealed in a manner that would prevent the passage of fire or smoke.
A-18.104.22.168.(1) External inspection of enclosed chimneys and surrounding construction may require the installation of one or more access openings in the enclosure surrounding the chimney. The presence of scorched or charred adjacent combustible construction or encapsulated mass timber construction will indicate the need for further investigation of the cause of the overheating. Internal inspection of chimneys can be accomplished by lowering a light from the top, insertion of a light at the bottom or at intermediate locations, together with the use of one or more mirrors. During inspection of a chimney connected to an operating appliance, the presence of dense smoke at the outlet will indicate improper operation of the appliance, incorrect sizing of the chimney or that unsuitable fuels are being used. These factors must be promptly corrected to reduce the accumulation of combustible deposits on the chimney and flue pipe walls. A-22.214.171.124.(2) The presence in a chimney of deposits of soot or creosote in excess of 3 mm thick will indicate the need for immediate cleaning, possible modification of burning procedures, and more frequent inspections. A-126.96.36.199.(3)(a) Structural deficiencies are deviations from required construction, such as the absence of a liner or inadequate design of supports or ties. Instances of decay are cracking, settling, crumbling mortar, distortion, advanced corrosion, separation of sections, or loose or broken supports.
Complete Chimney Sweep recommends instead to simply have your chimney swept and then we're able to look over the entire system, there is no point in booking us to come and look at it only to decide whether it needs it or not.
I am getting smoke in the house (called smoke spillage), what is wrong?
Each situation is different and there is no easy answer. It is not simply that the chimney could be blocked (although it could be) but as the barometric pressure changes in the shoulder seasons the neutral pressure plane of your home changes. This causes force on the pressure in your home. A site visit and consulation would be required to assess your home and why this might be happening.
There are far too many possibilities to list but could be because of exhaust fans being used while the fire is smouldering or that your house is so tight after your recent reno of new windows and doors that the stove no longer has access to the air needed for the appliance. And on and on. A wood burning appliance is naturally aspirated which means that it requires oxygen and will take it from the space, if there is a lack of oxygen or temperature changes in the space then the pressure changes in the building as well.
It is best to call as soon as you smell smoke as this can be evidence of carbon monoxide. See CARBON MONOXIDE - Complete Chimney Sweep article on Carbon Monoxide.
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WOODHEAT.ORG and will likely answer most of your questions.
WETBC has many articles written that you may find interesting.
WETBC VIDEOS are also helpful.
FIRESMART 1.0 is a free course online to best prepare yourself and your home surrounds against fire.
MYERS CHIMNEY BLOG - Ian out of Ontario has many helpful articles.