Saturday, 3 December 2011

Keep the Home-fires Burning

Chimneys and wood-burning stoves have been the bane of our lives since we first arrived here in France. Our first chimney needed to be lined prior to use, so we were told - I am not so convinced about that now, but that's a separate issue. Anyway we had it lined and that nearly caused our house to be burned down. The builders at the time who were doing the renovations in the stables laughed and said “Well if you must employ cowboys…” OK so it was done by a friend that was not a builder and didn’t know any better and neither did we, but of course the builders knew how it should be done didn't they.

So when it came to installing chimneys for the stoves we were going to buy for the gîtes and the stove we had bought for our new living room, we asked the builders to install proper chimneys and we would have no worries. The stove installers arrived with the stove and they refused to connect it up. They condemned the whole installation. Not only
was it not conform to standards but incorrect materials (designed for low temperature gas flues not wood burning stoves) had been used, insufficient distances between the chimneys and the woodwork in the roof, lack of or insufficient insulation in the chimneys, horizontal chimney sections that could block and well - it was just pain dangerous. Who’s the cowboy now?

The incorrect materials were exchanged and installed at the builder’s expense, but we have had endless leaks in the roof where the flashing was never quite right around those chimneys and even after that we had a chimney fire which made me always very cautious of using the stove in the living room not helped by the fact that the stove made the room and chimney wall so hot we had to open the windows even in the coldest months.

Last year we got someone to remove the two gite chimney tops on the roof – leaks solved and this year we have bitten the bullet and bought a smaller, less powerful stove and had the remaining problems with the chimney sorted out. We are now nice and snug and safe. So a big thank you to our lovely stove installer and his friend, pictured carrying our old stove out of the house for ever.

Moral of this story although a chimney looks like a simple thing, you have to know what you are doing, as they say: “if you play with fire….”

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