I am a landlord and I have just had a Landlords Safety Check on one of my properties. The gas guy (who I trust by the way) has "labelled and capped" the fire due to it failing the "spillage test". What does this mean and is it fixable. He has recommended a new fire. Unfortunately I cannot ask him as he went on a weeks holiday last night and I got his invoice and certs this morning. At present the tenant isn't too bothered as the house has CH and she very rarely puts the fire on.
It means the flue isn't generating enough updraft to suck up
all the combustion products, so some might be spilling into
the room. It's done by lighting the fire, leaving it on for
about 10 minutes to allow the flue to start drawing properly.
Then you close all the doors and windows and other closable
ventilation, switch on any extractor fans, and do a smoking
match test. Hold a smoldering match about an inch in front
and a couple of inches below the top of the fire opening,
and the smoke should be drawn into the chimney (the fire's
instructions may give more precise positioning for this test).
Presumably when he tried this, the smoke spilled into the room.
I can't imagine a new fire will help (unless it's a completely
different type). Sounds more like the flue and room ventilation
Just a question relating to my curiosity rather than in relation to the
I understand what you are saying, but rather than it being a fault of
the flue/chimney would I be right in saying that it could be that the
room isn't ventilated properly? After all, for smoke to be drawn up the
chimney it requires air to be able to come into the room. If that room
were perfectly insulated could that cause this problem?
If it were a problem relating to room ventilation what would be the
means of fixing that? Bashing a big hole in the wall sounds like one
idea but maybe I'm missing something obvious.
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First, need to check that the gas fire has the required
ventilation as specified by the manufacturer. In the
absence of the manufacturer's information, there are some
generic figures based on the power input of the fire.
I have a 6kW one, and the manufacturer's instructions
specify that this needs no extra room ventilation. It
still has to pass the spillage test though.
But the fire is in the same room, same ventilation, etc. That has not been
altered in the 4 years I have owned the property. The property has not
shown any gas related problems in the past. I do not mind changing the fire
if it needs it but I do not want to spend a couple of hundred quid replacing
the fire if it isn't going to sort it because there is a pigeons nest on top
of the chimney pot!
I don't know what sort of flue/chimney arranmgent you have, but is the
answer to simply have a chimney sweep round to do his stuff? If you
have an old chimney which was originally an open fire, maybe something's
fallen down or moved (old brickwork/soot?) to cause a partial blockage?
Given that your tenant isn't kicking off, I think your best bet is
definitely to wait till you can speak to your CORGI: not only wil he be
able to shed more light on why he failed the fire when he pronounced it
OK last year, but he ought to make some constructive suggestions as to
the way forward.
Ours failed on that a few years ago (when serviced by someone I trust - it
had "passed" fine for the two british gas services previous to this...)
It was fixed by a suitable vent being fitted in the wall. Unfortunately,
this has meant that sitting on the floor in that half of the room is really
quite chilly at times now :-/
Still, it's an ancient baxi back boiler that I hope will be finally heading
to the boiler graveyard next year and replaced by a nice new boiler up in
the loft out of the way. I can then reduce the vent somewhat.
Apparantly quite common in houses that have had double glazing fitted since
the boiler was installed (Which makes sense).
As the tenant was already living there when the test was carried out,
then presumably there was already a valid landord's certificate in force
before... which begs the question, what has changed since last years'
was done? I think there's a lot of subjectiveness about these tests -
what one CORGI will pass, another will fail. Maybe you were lucky not
to have had it failed before?
As you have CH, my suggestion would be to dump the gas fire and replace
it with an inset electric flame effect fire... I fitted one of these in
a let property (from Wickes) and it really looks quite good when
working; basically serves as a 'focal point' for the room but includes a
3kW fan heater which lets the tenant get the room warm from stone cold
in a couple of minutes if required. And no more gas
- fire's not switched on
but you get the idea.
Yes there was a valid cert in force since last years test. The same guy did
the test , he has always done my tests, so no subjectiveness there I
presume. I have spoken to the tenant this morning and she isn't bothered
about the fire at the moment so I may wait to speak to the guy when he
returns from holiday.
Could be an idea, how do these fires get the power are they plugged into a
socket or hard wired behind? If hard wired it could be a problem getting
power to it as the living room floor is concrete and I could do without the
hassle of channeling etc. Any idea of the cost of one of these fires?
I lived in a rented house for a short period between buying and the fire
there failed with the same problem. The gas man who checked it said that the
issue was probably due to a cobweb in the flue. Apparently pre cast flues
(if that is what you have) only need a very slight blockage like a cobweb in
the right place to disrupt the updraft. I moved out before the issue was
resolved so do not know if that was correct.
May help you.
Well, plugged into a socket yes, but the flex comes out of the back of
the appliance as normally you wouldn't want a visible flex trailing
along the front of the hearth. In mine, I drilled a ~15mm hole from the
outside of the chimney breast right through into the fireplace, threaded
the flex through, refitted the plug and plugged it in to a convenient
socket (which TBH wasn't there by coincidence as I'd rewired the whole
place during the refurbishment!) Socket is hidden inside a fitted
cupboard also housing the meters, as it happens.
Cost? IIRC 90-100 GBP from Wickes.
The main causes for a spillage failure would be some change in the
ventilation or flue. The appliance itself if correctly installed would
be the least likely cause.
The manufacturers may state how the spillage test should be performed,
usually in terms of the location of the smoke match. Some models state
the bulk of the smoke should be drawn into the appliance but most state
If there is also gas central heating there is little to be gained by not
replacing the gas fire as an annual certificate will still be needed.
Ed Sirett - Property maintainer and registered gas fitter.
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