1. This house was built 1986, approved beforehand and
inspected afterwards as conforming to building code in
all respects including the wood stove and steel chimney.
We use it 100 to 120 days a year, have the chimney swept
every 100 days (five times in four years); the local fire brigade
has twice inspected, approved the stove and commended
our operating methods.
2. Property insurance companies have been apprehensive
about fires caused by improperly operated wood stoves for
about 10 years; for several years (in Canada) they have
charged a premium of about 10 per cent for home owners
who have a wood stove.
3. My insurer (April) asked in May to send an inspector
to check on the wood stove. He telephoned in June, inspected
in July and wrote in August a report sent to the insurer in September,
that says the stove does not conform to the current building
code in two particular respects.
4. Since then I have asked the insurance agent and the
insurance company about six questions about topics from
technical detail to policy. (E.g. 1: if we remove one inch all
around the fire-resistant panel to improve airflow, as inthe
current code, will this satisfy the insurer? E.g. 2: is the
insurer asking us to retrofit to meet the current code for
new construction, which city building and fire inspectors
do _not_ do?) In three months one such question has been
answered and none of the others.
We are being jerked around. My impression is (1) the insurance
people do not actually know anything about wood stoves, and
are relying on (2) the inspector with credentials in Wood Energy
Technology Transfer, who has taken a three-day course in stoves
and the (current) building code. The ingredient missing is that
the insurance company has not yet said, in general, what its
policy is or, in particular, what it would like us to do.
How common is this nowadays?
Well, we have a second home with a 'free standing cone fireplace' and we
recently received a notice from out insurance company that our fireplace is
not safe and our insurance will be dropped if we don't rectify the situation
within 20 days.
Background: we bought this house this past summer. I can tell by looking at
the fireplace that it isn't safe (there is a reduction in the size of the
pipe, there is no fireproof material on the walls behind the fireplace, it
is only 18" from the wall and the concrete slab thing under it isn't much
bigger than the fireplace itself). I never had any intention of using the
damn thing. About two months ago,some inspector for the insurance company
came and took pictures of it, and a couple weeks ago we got the letter.
As it happened, I had scheduled a chimney cleaning and inspection by the
chimney company for December 1st even before I got the letter.
When I called the insurance company, the underwriter that I spoke to didn't
seem to have any more knowledge than I did (in other words, none). She told
me that I had to have the fire marshall from the town inspect it and sign
off on it being to code, etc.
In the end, we are just going to rip the damn thing out since I have no
interest in using it anyway. Maybe we'll put in a pellet stove or a 'real'
woodstove in the future, but in the meantime the insurance company is
satisfied with me telling them that I am going to remove it. I'm supposed
to call them back for a reinspection once it is removed.
I'd guess that it is pretty normal for them to be worried about woodstoves,
fire is a big cause of claims, and getting rid of 'unsafe' fireplaces,
woodstoves and chimneys would help their bottom line in the long run.
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