Should I have a chimney liner installed?
- Stainless-steel liners
can be installed in masonry chimneys to correct internal damage caused by a chimney
fire. A qualified chimney sweep should inspect your existing masonry chimney before
your wood-burning appliance is installed.
- Masonry chimneys must
have a liner made of clay tiles, firebrick or stainless steel to be suitable. It
is advisable to upgrade old, unlined chimneys by installing a certified stainless-steel
- Air-Cooled Chimneys
Some decorative factory-built fireplaces are approved for use with chimneys that
use air flow, instead of solid insulation between inner and outer layers, to keep
the outer surface cool. Never connect wood-burning heating appliances to air-cooled
chimneys, or flue gas will cool excessively.
should I get my chimney cleaned?
- If you use your fireplace
2-3 times per week during the burning season, you should have it cleaned & inspected
annually for safety.
- Dirty chimneys can
and do cause house fires. In fact, 1 in 8 fires are due to improper maintenance
& cleaning of chimneys.
- Ideally, chimneys should
be cleaned in the spring to remove toxic odours that can enter the home.
- It takes about 1 hour
to clean a chimney properly.
- The residue from burning
fire logs is called creosote which over time forms a thick coating on the firebrick
inside your chimney. It is highly flammable if allowed to accumulate and can create
the conditions for a chimney fire if not cleaned regularly and properly.
- Many people are very
sensitive to this form of indoor air pollution.
- To ensure less smoke,
burn only clean, well-seasoned wood that has been split and dried properly. Dry
wood lights faster, burns better and produces much less smoke than "green"
wood, a major factor in creosote accumulation.
- Never burn wrapping
paper or cardboard as this may produce sparks that can ignite excess creosote in
the chimney if it has not been cleaned properly or regularly.
- Never burn garbage,
plastic, particleboard, plywood, salted driftwood or painted or treated wood.
Toxic chemicals are released which are harmful to human health.
if my fireplace emits smoke?
- Remember, smoke means
air pollution. If you see or smell smoke in your house, it usually means your fireplace
system isn't venting properly.
- Your chimney must be
inspected for blockages and to ensure the damper is working properly.
- Proper ventilation
is necessary to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the fire hot and
small. Feed it regularly with split wood and never let it smoulder. A smouldering
fire creates more smoke.
- Don't overload your
stove or fireplace. Air should move around inside for a cleaner burn.
animal nests in the chimney?
- Birds and squirrels
are the most common uninvited guests in urban residential areas because they have
adapted well to urban environments. Depending on the region where you live many
different types of animals take up temporary residence including owls, pigeons,
woodpeckers and raccoons just to name a few.
- Home owners should
always check for animal nests before using the fireplace at the beginning of the
burning season. A build up of creosote in a chimney where an animal has nested is
a very serious situation that will spark a potential chimney fire very quickly if
not first inspected for clear ventilation.
- We recommend installing
chimney caps to keep birds and animals out of chimneys.
- Bird netting and/or
bird-repellent spikes are humane ways to prevent birds from roosting on or in buildings.
are chimney nests such a serious hazard?
- cooling at top, process
inhibited, instead of co2, ratio changes c0 produced
- Contrary to popular
belief, squirrels do not hibernate over the winter. They breed twice per year, once
in late winter / early spring and again in mid-summer. They are always actively
looking for secure food resources and warm, safe lodging for their families.
- To prevent animal infestations,
open vents or holes in a chimney or roof should be repaired with 1.25cm (½")
mesh hardware cloth or sheet metal that exceeds at least 15cm (6") beyond the
hole. Check the area for loose roof vents, rotten or loose soffits, loose shingles
and have them repaired professionally.
- If the squirrel is
above the damper, you can hang a 1.25cm (½") thick rope down the chimney.
The squirrel will usually climb the rope and leave the chimney.
- Toronto Animal Services
has extensive information animal removal from chimneys at
http://www.toronto.ca/animal_services/squirrel.htm. If you wish to
consult a professional, we recommend calling Peter Pekelny at ProPest at 416-487-4179.
- We have seen many unfortunate
incidents over the years and must stress the importance of safety in the fireplace
- Never burn wrapping
papers or boxes in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite
suddenly and burn intensely. This also produces excessive smoke which creates large
build up of creosote inside chimneys.
- Use care with "fire
salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain
heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if
eaten. Keep them away from children.
- Install both a smoke
and carbon monoxide detector. Make sure the batteries work.
- Keep a fire extinguisher
- Make sure the area
around the fireplace is clear of furniture, books, newspapers and other potentially
flammable materials. Two feet away is a good rule.
Lighting the Fire
- Clean out ashes from
previous fires. Open the damper.
- Use a fireplace grate.
- Keep glass doors open
during the fire.
- Use fireplace tools
to tend the fire.
- Build a safe fire.
- Always close the fire
screen when in use.
Do’s & Don’ts
- Never burn garbage,
rolled newspapers, charcoal or plastic in the fireplace.
- Never use gasoline
or any liquid accelerant to help start a fire.
- Keep small children
and pets away from the fireplace.
- Never leave a fire
- Don’t close the
damper until the embers have completely stopped burning.
- Make sure the fire
is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.
- When cleaning the fireplace,
store ashes in a non-combustible container with a tightly fitting lid and place
the container away from the house.
- Never burn a Christmas
tree in the fireplace.
Air on Your Mind?
In the great outdoors, of course there's plenty of fresh air.
But because we spend most of our time indoors surrounded by man-made objects like
walls, furniture, paper, plastics, chemicals, food and dust we are exposed to more
pollutants than we realize.
Many people are highly sensitive to chemical odours or ‘indoor air pollution’
and can suffer a variety of uncomfortable conditions, sometimes unaware of the cause
or source. Asthma rates are on the increase in adults and children and more
and more people are developing allergies, even if they’ve never had them before.
While the exact cause of asthma is unknown, it appears to result from a complex
interaction of predisposing factors (genetics), environmental factors that may sensitize
the airways (such as cat and other animal dander, dust mites, cockroaches) and contributing
factors (such as tobacco smoke, respiratory infections and indoor and outdoor air
Avoiding or controlling “triggers” is important in managing asthma.
In the home, where people spend a lot of time, you can reduce exposure to dust mites,
molds and other contaminants.
Of course, keeping your chimney clean is very important, here are some other things
you can do around the house to minimize unwanted health problems.
instead of dusting
- When you dust your
house with a cloth you are only spreading dust around, not eliminating it. Remember
to vacuum thoroughly in difficult to reach areas like under beds, sofas and chairs,
draperies and wood moldings.
- If you wish to vacuum
small objects without getting them sucked inside the vacuum, place an old nylon
over the nozzle.
- Wrap pillows and mattresses
in allergen-protective covers and regularly vacuum them. Place a pillow in a plastic
garbage sealing the opening around the nozzle with an elastic. Let the vacuum suck
as much air out of the bag as possible. When finished, open plastic bag and enjoy
your freshened pillows.
- When you wash your
linens make sure the water is hot (130 degrees or above) to ensure dust mites and
their eggs are eliminated.
- Deep clean your carpets
& floor surfaces once every season.
- Purchase a high efficiency
air cleaner to remove airborne pollutants.
and Stuffed Animals
- Try to avoid letting
your pets sleep in the bedrooms.
- Keep stuffed animals
and busy shelves to a minimum as these are real dust-catcher locations. If you have
lots of stuffed toys vacuum them frequently.
- Clean up spills as
soon as they happen. Mould grows easily in damp or wet areas.
- Keep humidity levels
around 50% or less with a humidifier but make sure you frequently empty the unit
to prevent the growth of mold in the tank.
and Household Productsouse
- Avoid wearing strong
perfumes and aftershave lotions. Many people are sensitive, or even allergic to
- Use paints, solvents
and other household chemicals outside whenever possible. Investigate alternatives
at a natural products store in your neighborhood.
- Whiteout and magic
markers release chemicals as well so use as seldom as possible and when they're
not in use, put the lid on them.
- Avoid using air fresheners.
They only mask odours. Using one odour to mask another simply adds pollutants to
- Do not use pesticides.
Use traps or baits and seal places where insects can enter your house.
- Throw out harsh chemical
cleaners and scented household cleaners. Use mild, unscented detergents for clothes
and avoid fabric softeners.
- Ensure that dry-cleaned
clothes have no residual odours from the dry-cleaning solvents before you bring
the clothes into your house.
- Avoid using candles
and oil lamps. They create particles (soot) that can be breathed.
- Maintain your furnace
filters regularly. Upgrade to at least pleated paper filters.
- If you have an electronic
air cleaner and you smell ozone, be aware that ozone is a respiratory irritant.
Try washing the filter more often. If more frequent washing doesn’t get rid
of the ozone smell, switch to a pleated paper filter.
- Have your furnace serviced
by a heating contractor.
- If you find that the
return air ducts are dirty, or if the ducts have not been cleaned since the house
was built or you moved in, have your ducts cleaned. Ensure that the contractor does
not spray chemicals, such as fungicides, disinfectants or essential oils, into the
ducts. Note that CMHC research shows that you should not expect to improve your
indoor air quality by having ducts cleaned.
- When you replace your
heating system, select a high-efficiency furnace.
- Change bedding frequently
and vacuum the mattress at the same time. Replace pillows once a year or more often.
- Use as few carpets
as possible in your house. Carpets are good dust collectors, as are soft furnishings
- Dust mites need humidity
above 55 per cent to grow. Reducing the humidity in your house to less than 45 per
cent helps prevent dust mites.
Contamination from common household chemicals can be a threat both to people with
asthma and to people who do not have asthma.
- Do not paint or renovate
when the house is closed up. Use only new, low-odour paints and check that the paint
is not spoiled before using.
- Test paint before using
it to make sure it does not leave a residual odour. See CMHC’s Building materials
for the environmentally hypersensitive for information about paints.
- Remove sources of chemical
odours, such as perfumes and furniture made of particleboard, medium-density fibreboard,
plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) from your bedroom.
- Use hardwood furniture
and flooring made of solid hardwood rather than pressed or laminated wood.
- Do not store paints,
lacquers and solvents inside your house.
- Plants are a notorious
source of mould. Keep them well ventilated and slightly underwatered in clean debris
- Take care of your plants,
and make sure there's a tray under them to catch any leaks from over watering. If
your plant is sick, get professional advice. Do not treat it with chemicals.
Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) as
a colourless and odourless gas. Because you can't see, taste or smell it, it can
affect you or your family before you even know it's there. Even at low levels of
exposure, carbon monoxide can cause serious health problems. CO is harmful because
it will rapidly accumulate in the blood, depleting the ability of blood to carry
Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?
Carbon monoxide is a common
by-product of the combustion (burning) of fossil fuels. Most fuel-burning equipment
(natural gas, propane and oil), if properly installed and maintained, produces little
CO. The by-products of combustion are usually safely vented to the outside. However,
if anything disrupts the venting process (such as a bird's nest in the chimney)
or results in a shortage of oxygen to the burner, CO production can quickly rise
to dangerous levels.
The burning of wood, kerosene, coal and charcoal produce CO. Gasoline engines produce
CO. CO production is at a maximum during the startup of a cold engine. Starting,
then idling, your car or gas mower in the garage can be dangerous. The fumes that
contain CO can enter a home through connecting walls or doorways and can quickly
rise to dangerous levels.
How Can I Eliminate Sources of CO in My Home?
The most important step
you can take to eliminate the possibility of CO poisoning is to ensure that CO never
has an opportunity to enter your home. This is your first line of defense. Review
this list to minimize the risk of CO in your home.
If you live close to a
road with heavy traffic, outdoor carbon monoxide levels can affect your indoor air
quality, especially during rush hour. Such levels should not set off a CO alarm,
but slightly elevated CO levels might be observable on some types of CO detectors
with a digital display.
- Don’t idle your
car in your attached garage. To minimize contaminants from vehicle exhaust from
getting into your house, seal all apparent leaks on the wall between the garage
and the house. Keep the garage doors open after you put your car in the garage or
do not use the door between your garage and the house.
- Have a qualified technician
inspect and clean fuel-burning appliances yearly, before the cold weather sets in,
to ensure they are in good working order.
- Have a qualified technician
inspect chimneys and vents yearly for cracks, blockages (e.g., bird's nests, twigs,
old mortar), corrosion or holes.
- Check fireplaces for
closed or blocked flues.
- Check with a qualified
technician before enclosing heating and hot water equipment in a smaller room, to
ensure there is adequate air for proper combustion.
- If you have a powerful
kitchen exhaust fan or downdraft cooktop, have a qualified technician check that
its operation does not pull fumes back down the chimney.
- Never use propane or
natural gas stove tops or ovens to heat your home.
- Never start a vehicle
in a closed garage; open the garage doors first. Pull the car out immediately onto
the driveway, then close the garage door to prevent exhaust fumes from being drawn
into the house.
- Do not use a remote
automobile starter when the car is in the garage; even if the garage doors are open.
- Never operate propane,
natural gas or charcoal barbecue grills indoors or in an attached garage.
- Avoid the use of a
kerosene space heater indoors or in a garage. If its use is unavoidable provide
combustion air by opening a window while operating. Refuel outside after the unit
- Never run a lawnmower,
snowblower, or any gasoline-powered tool such as a whipper-snipper or pressure washer
inside a garage or house.
- The use of fossil fuels
for refrigeration, cooking, heat, and light inside tents, trailers, and motorhomes
can be very dangerous. Be sure that all equipment is properly vented to the outside
and use electric or battery-powered equipment where possible.
- Regularly clean the
clothes dryer ductwork and outside vent cover for blockages such as lint, snow,
or overgrown outdoor plants.
- Reduce or eliminate
the use of fondue heaters indoors.