Tips to get your fireplace / wood stove ready for fires this winter

In a recent post, we provided info on making sure your fireplace / wood stove is ready for fires this winter. And since winter has definitely arrived, here's additional info on what you should know before you light a fire in a wood-burning fireplace, a gas fireplace or wood stove.


TRADITIONAL FIREPLACE – The fire burns in a metal firebox lined with firebrick. The heat creates a draft that pulls smoke up through the throat to a smoke chamber, then up the flue, which is usually a tile or metal liner inside a masonry chimney. A flue damper regulates the draft and keeps air from escaping up the flue when the fireplace is not in use. The smoke shelf behind the damper stops backdrafts of outside air that could push smoke into the living area. Most draw air from inside the house – a grate holds the logs so that air can stoke the fire from underneath – while others draw air from the outside through an air intake. An intake damper seals the intake when the fireplace is not in use.

A heat-circulating fireplace produces some radiant heat but mainly warms air that circulates around the firebox. Some have a fan that increases the air flow. They achieve a high efficiency by enclosing the fireplace with glass doors and are equipped with an outside air intake.

GAS FIREPLACE – This type of unit is mostly decorative. Gas log sets should be used in a fireplace only designed to burn wood and should be operated with the damper always open so carbon monoxide will vent up the chimney. A direct-vent fireplace is like a wood-burning heat circulator – cool air enters at the bottom, is warmed, and rises out the vent at the top; but they expel CO out the rear so there is no need of a chimney.

FIREPLACE INSERT – These units operate more like a wood stove and fit into an existing fireplace. They operate at efficiency levels of 30% to 50% compared to a traditional fireplace. The space around the unit must be covered with sheet steel plate and sealed with a cement grout or mortar. A flue liner must extend from the unit through the top of the chimney. This improves the draft, keeps the gases hotter (which reduces creosote buildup) and reduces the risk of flue gases seeping back into the house.

WOOD STOVE – A modern wood stove is more efficient than a heat-circulating fireplace. Some only radiate heat while others also heat air passing around the firebox in convection currents. Advanced systems create conditions to burn combustible gases without the use of catalysts. With catalyst stoves, a catalytic combustor (a ceramic honeycomb) extracts heat from flue gases. Pellet stoves use manufactured pellets that are fed into the combustion chamber by a timed screw auger. Wood stoves must sit on a non-combustible hearth, which must extend at least 20 centimetres (eight inches) beyond the sides and back and 45 centimetres (18 inches) in front of it and be at least 61 centimetres (24 inches)  from side walls and 76 centimetres (30 inches) from back wall (check with your local building or fire codes). Only black steel stovepipe should be used between a wood stove and chimney. The overall run of stove pipe should be less than three metres (10 feet) with no more than two 90-degree elbows.


Remove ashes – an ash pit may need to be cleaned only once a year; a stove will perform better if a 2.5 to 5 centimetre (one- to two-inch) layer is left over the grates.

Clean the chimney – creosote can start fires, crack masonry and loosen stovepipe sections; chimneys should be cleaned when creosote buildup reaches 2 millimetre (1/8-inch) thickness.

Firebox and masonry repairs – any cracks may pose a fire hazard and should be filled with refractory masonry. Repaint masonry joints and replace broken bricks.


  • Do not burn trash; Christmas trees/wrapping or charcoal in a wood-burning unit.
  • Do not burn pressure-treated or painted wood – it can produce dangerous fumes.
  • Do not burn pine or soft wood, which can cause rapid creosote buildup.
  • Never overload a fireplace or wood stove – this can reduce air flow and combustion.
  • Old chimneys should be lined with tile or metal (ones built before 1950 do not have liners).
  • Purchase only direct-vent fireplaces rated by Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL); the Canadian Gas Association (CGA) or the American Gas Association (AGA).

This information provided by Spruceview Inspection Services Ltd. – and - serving northeast Alberta with home and commercial property inspections for more than 10 years. Bill Goodwin, Registered Home Inspector (RHI) -- a member of Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors --

Home insurance coverage is available to Calgary residents affected by the power outage

As a result of the recent electrical fire in downtown Calgary, thousands of homeowners and renters will be without power for up to a week. Square One explains to those affected by the power outage what home insurance coverage may be available to them.

"First, it is important to look at the type of home insurance protection you have," states Daniel Mirkovic, president of Square One. "Named perils policies only protect against the types of loss or damage specifically described in the policy wordings. All-risk or comprehensive policies, on the other hand, protect against all types of loss or damage except for what's specifically excluded."

The most common risks associated with power outages, and the coverage available under most comprehensive home insurance policies, are:

  • Water damage from frozen pipes: Fortunately, temperatures in Calgary are not forecasted to drop below 0 degrees Celsius over the next week. So, there is very little risk that pipes will freeze and burst. But if they do, the resulting water damage to your home and property would be covered.
  • Fire and smoke damage from candles: Without power, many will turn to candles for both light and heat. If lit candles tip over, or come in contact with flammables, any resulting fire damage to your home and property would be covered.
  • Damages to appliances and electronics from a power surge: When power is restored, it is common for power surges to occur. If a power surge causes damages to your appliances and electronics, your policy would cover the cost of those damages.
  • Spoilage to food: The food in your fridge will spoil in 4 to 48 hours without power. For your safety, it is important that you dispose of this food quickly. Before doing so, take pictures because your policy may cover the cost of spoiled food due to an electrical outage.
  • Living expenses from an evacuation order: If a civil authority or the government evacuates you from your home, your policy would cover additional living expenses that you incur. This would typically include costs associated with staying in hotels and dining at restaurants.
  • Prevent pipes from freezing: If temperatures drop below freezing, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve and drain all the pipes. This approach is a major inconvenience if you are staying in the home, but it is the best way to prevent freezing pipes. If you are unable to turn off the main shut-off valve, then turn on all faucets and allow them to drip. While this approach may not prevent freezing, it may prevent pressure from building up in the pipes and causing them to burst.

If you suffer losses from a power outage, contact your home insurance provider to discuss what coverage is available to you. Keep in mind that you will be responsible for paying your policy deductible before any claim payments will be made. Most policy deductibles range from $500 to $5,000.

Suffering a loss and making a home insurance claim is stressful. So, consider taking these simple steps to protect your home and family during a power outage:

  • Use candles safely: If you are using candles, it is important you take precautions to prevent fires. Use sturdy holders to ensure candles do not tip over. Keep lit candles away from flammable items, like furniture and window coverings. Never leave lit candles unattended, especially when there are children or pets around. Use caution when walking with lit candles as your clothes may catch on fire. And finally, extinguish all candles before leaving your home or going to sleep.
  • Unplug all appliances and electronics: By unplugging all appliances and electronics, you are protecting them against damage from a power surge when power is restored. As an added precaution, you may want to turn off the main switch to your home's electrical panel. When power is restored and you turn on the main electric switch, wait 10 to 15 minutes before reconnecting appliances and electronics. This gives your electrical system time to stabilize.
  • Remove all food from your fridge: After 4 hours without power, food in the refrigerated section is no longer safe. Food in the freezer section should keep for 24 to 48 hours, depending on how full the freezer is. As a rule of thumb, you should throw away any food that has a temperature higher than 5 degrees Celsius (or 40 degrees Fahrenheit). Eating potentially spoiled food is simply not worth risking to you or your family.

For more home insurance tips, visit

Tips to make sure your fireplace or wood stove is clean and ready for winter


These recent cooler temperatures remind us that winter's a comin'! And that means it's time to make sure your fireplace or wood stove is clean and ready so no fire hazards or problems occur for you and your family.


Start your cleaning with the ash pit and/or firebox. It should be emptied depending on frequency of usage. This is a dirty job so wear suitable work clothes. Lay a few sheets of newspaper on the floor, place a metal bucket over the paper so you can shovel the ashes into it without dirtying the floor. Avoid dust clouds by spraying the ashes with water.


We recommend you hire a competent chimney sweeper to inspect and clean your chimney.

The flue allows smoke to escape through the chimney while the damper is an adjustable opening that controls the intake of air and oxygen into the fireplace/wood stove for combustion. They are the two elements that spell the difference between a good and an ordinary fire.

Be sure the damper locks into place solidly, can be raised and lowered easily and is not stained or covered with dust or chimney debris. When the fireplace/wood stove is not in use, the damper should always be closed to avoid energy loss.

If the damper doesn’t open and close properly, clean it – especially around the edges – with a stiff bristle brush. To do that, you must first open the damper as wide as possible. Place a mirror inside the fireplace/wood stove in such a way as to be able to see the damper opening. Using a flashlight, light the area you wish to clean and use the wire brush to scrub the walls and sides of the damper before closing it. Use a broom and dustpan to collect any residual ashes, dust and debris.


We recommend you hire a competent chimney sweeper to inspect and clean your chimney. If you undertake to do it yourself, rent or purchase the appropriate brush. Block the fireplace/wood stove door with a blanket before inserting the brush through the flue, pushing downward and making sure you apply enough pressure to dislodge soot deposits, but not hard enough to damage the lining. When you are finished, wait about an hour before vacuuming the hearth clean. This should only be done with a designated shop vacuum.


Your job isn’t over until you have inspected the inside of the fireplace/wood stove. Use a flashlight to check the inside brick, and mortar if applicable. This is critical if you’re to avoid fires due to worn out or poorly installed bricks. If soot keeps you from performing this inspection adequately, use a solution of water and detergent to remove it. If soot stains will not go away, you’ll have to apply a solution of water and muriatic acid, which you should mix in a plastic bucket. Be sure to protect yourself with gloves, a sweater or long-sleeved shirt and safety glasses.


Clean both the inside and outside of your fireplace/wood stove. Tools list includes: ash bucket, broom, flashlight, gloves, safety glasses (for handling the acid), hard bristle brush, mirror, plastic bucket for water and muriatic acid, small fireplace shovel, spray bottle, trowel, and workshop light.

Care and caution must be taken when using muriatic acid or other cleaning products.

This information provided by Spruceview Inspection Services Ltd. – and -- serving northeast Alberta with home and commercial property inspections for more than 10 years. Bill Goodwin, Registered Home Inspector (RHI) -- a member of Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors --


Survey: 56 percent of Canadians wrongly believe the government will cover earthquake damage

According to Natural Resources Canada, there were 195 earthquakes across Canada between August 1 and 25. While most of these earthquakes occurred in the West Coast, 18 percent occurred elsewhere in Canada. Of the seven earthquakes that were felt during this time period, five were in Central Canada, one was in the Prairie Provinces, and only one was in the West Coast.

"According to our recent survey, virtually all Canadians correctly assume that earthquakes can occur anywhere in the country," states Daniel Mirkovic, president of Vancouver-based Square One. "But, a majority wrongly believes the government will provide financial assistance for earthquake damage."

Square One used Google Consumer Surveys to ask Canadians four earthquake-related questions. A total of 593 people completed the survey between August 18 and 25. The survey revealed that:

  • 90 percent recognize that earthquakes can occur anywhere in Canada.
  • 56 percent believe the government will provide financial assistance to homeowners and renters for earthquake damage.
  • 30 percent are unaware that earthquake protection is automatically included in, or can be added to, home insurance
  • 46 percent have little confidence that home insurance companies would be able to pay covered claims resulting from a major earthquake.
  • Insurance companies buy catastrophe protection from reinsurance companies. This helps spread the risk (and cost) of disasters globally.

Mirkovic indicates, "There are some misconceptions that need to be addressed. For starters, the government will not provide financial assistance to cover damages from earthquakes." The provincial and territorial disaster financial assistance programs only cover damages due to uninsurable events, like overland flooding and groundwater seepage. Since earthquake damage is insurable, homeowners and renters are not eligible for assistance under the government programs.

Canadians should speak with their home insurance providers about earthquake protection. A few policies automatically include this protection, but most require that it be specifically added. The cost of earthquake insurance depends on the limit and deductible selected, as well as the home's location. Estimates from across the country for earthquake insurance on a $300,000 house and its contents are:


Annual premium

Toronto, ON


Winnipeg, MB


Montreal, QC


Edmonton, AB


Halifax, NS


Vancouver, BC


Richmond, BC


While earthquake insurance can be pricey for those who own houses, Square One recommends it always be purchased on primary residences. It's simply not worth the risk of going without earthquake insurance. For those renting their homes, or living in apartments or condos, earthquake insurance usually ranges from $5 to $50 per year.

Many who don't buy earthquake protection have little to no confidence that home insurance companies will be able to pay covered claims resulting from a major event. The reality is that numerous earthquakes and other disasters occur around the world each year. Insurance companies factor earthquakes into their prices, building reserves to pay for resulting claims. Some of the other things that help ensure insurance companies are able to meet their commitments:

  • Insurance companies are heavily regulated by both provincial and federal governments. Among other things, these governmental bodies supervise the solvency of companies.
  • Insurance companies must be members of the Property and Casualty Insurance Compensation Corporation (PACICC). If an insurance company fails, PACICC will automatically respond to all valid claims for participating members. PACICC is similar to the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation, which protects savings in case a bank fails.

Square One recommends that all Canadians should take steps to prepare for an earthquake. Exploring earthquake insurance options should be one of those steps. To learn more about earthquake insurance, talk with an insurance provider or visit

Tips on optimum air conditioner usage

Given our HOT summer temps, many are using an air conditioners in their homes. Here's important info to know to ensure your A/C is running at optimal operation.

An air conditioner controls and regulates humidity and temperature, and filters, cleans and re-circulates the air within a house. A unit that is too small will run continuously without sufficiently cooling the area. A unit that is too large will cool the area quickly and shut off before sufficiently removing moisture from the air.

In a split system (most commonly used for residential purposes), the compressor-condenser is located outside and the evaporator coils are located in the house either in the attic or inside the warm-air plenum of the furnace. The compressor-condenser is connected to the evaporator by two copper pipes – the smaller pipe is the liquid line which carries the high-pressure liquid refrigerant from the condenser to the expansion valve. The larger pipe, or suction line (which should be insulated), carries low-pressure gas from the evaporator coils to the compressor.


  • Do not operate the system at temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius).
  • Do not operate unless the compressor has had power for at least 24 hours.
  • Do not locate the condenser coils in direct sunlight.
  • Clean the condenser coils at least once a season.
  • The unit should be placed on a level slab on grade or mounted level on the outside wall.
  • There should be a clearance of 137 centimetres (54 inches) above and 38 centimetres (15 inches) on all sides of the outside unit.
  • Clean the air filter every month during the cooling season.
  • The condensate drain should have a U-shaped trap (especially if connected directly to a waste pipe or floor drain).
  • Signs of rust and mineral deposits around the plenum may indicate a clogged condensate tray/drain or faulty installation.
  • Frost on a low-pressure line indicates a deficiency in refrigerant or dirty evaporator coils or insufficient air flow through the evaporator.

This information provided by Spruceview Inspection Services Ltd. – and -- serving northeast Alberta with home and commercial property inspections for more than 10 years. Bill Goodwin, Registered Home Inspector (RHI) -- a member of Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors --

Tips for cleaning and organizing your fridge

I personally know that once-in-a-while my refrigerator gets out of control. Old food can be left for weeks (yuck).

However there is help from our friends at Check out their tips for cleaning and organizing the fridge in your home.

Click on the link below to read more:

Things to know BEFORE choosing a paint colour has an excellent blog explaining the different paint types. A must read for anybody about to tackle a paint project in the near future.

For a direct link to this article, simply click on the link below:

Tips for organizing important home documents

As blogged on, it happens to all of us. We start searching through important documents for something specific and quickly realize we’ve managed to accumulate mounds of documents, receipts, forms, pamphlets, brochures and notes.

Keeping your financial documents in order is key to simplifying your life.  There are many different ways to organize important documents, however, the question remains – what documents should we keep on-hand at all times and NEVER throw away and which are ok to keep for a while and then toss out?

To read more, click on the link below:

Tips for watering plants while on vacation

If your home is full of plants like ours, you will appreciate these tips on watering your plants while away on vacation.

Courtesy of Coldwell Banker, click on the link below to read:

Tips for winning a bidding war on a home

As blogged in, in many hot housing markets, bidding wars have been breaking out on a regular basis and some house hunters are getting beaten out time and again.

But it's not always about who has the most money. Sellers will accept lower offers if it means less hassle.

To learn some tips to win that bidding war on the home of your dreams, click on the link below:

Doing a kitchen reno in the near future? Here is your guide

As blogged on, homeowners make the decision to renovate a kitchen for many reasons — the kitchen may be outdated, they dislike the design made by a previous owner, they need more space, etc. But for whichever reason you had for renovating your kitchen, one simple idea comes to mind: "to minimize the bad and maximize the good." This quote, taken directly from the blog Manhattan Nest, is a great philosophy to keep in mind when designing and creating the kitchen of your dreams.

To read the rest of this blog, click on the link below:

5 simple DIY "green" home projects to celebrate World Environment Day

Tomorrow June 5 is World Environment Day. There are a number of things you can do at home to help the Earth and save money at the same time. However, many people shy away from “do it yourself” projects because they are concerned about the effort and skill needed to successfully complete the job. DIY home improvement does not have to be difficult. These five ideas are perfect weekend jobs that even newcomers can dig into.

As blogged on, click on the link below for your green DIY projects for your home:

Step-by-step tips for installing a ceiling fan

As blogged on, there is nothing worse than walking from the hot outdoors into the hot indoors – running the air conditioning during the late spring and summer months almost seems like a necessity to keep the home cool and comfortable. But, running window units and even central air can be expensive and inefficient. Installing ceiling fans throughout the home can often help circulate cool air and increase the energy efficiency of the home throughout the warmer seasons.

To get step-by-step instructions for installing a ceiling fan in your home, click on the link below:

Unscheduled Home Repairs: Are You Financially Prepared?

As blogged on, financial experts recommend that homeowners set aside from one to three percent of their home value every year to pay for routine maintenance and as a reserve fund for an emergency repair. For a $300,000 home, that means you should have savings of $3,000 to $9,000 that you can access for home projects. You can estimate how much you may need based on not only the current value of your home, but also the age and condition. Clearly, a new home can be less likely to need major repairs and replacements than an older home that has not been recently renovated.

To read more on this important topic, click on the link below:

Home energy saving tips

As blogged on, conserving energy is something all homeowners should try to do. Energy conservation can help to reduce power bills while also improving the environment. Conservation is not complex. There are several ways to conserve energy at home.

To read these tips, click on the link below:

5 ways homebuyers make real estate agents crazy

As blogged on, the process of buying a home can be long and challenging. It can be stressful for both buyers and their real estate agents. Through it all, it's helpful to understand that, though agents are there to support you, they can't be all things to every buyer. From time to time, a buyer can unintentionally make the buying process more difficult, much to the agent's frustration. Here are five ways buyers create stress and complications not only for their agents but for sellers and even themselves.

To read more, click on the link below:

6 Low-cost and easy ways to increase curb appeal to your home

If you can maximize your curb appeal to your home at little or no cost, why not go for it? Perhaps one of the easiest ways to increase the value of your home right before you put it up for sale.

Check out these six low-cost curb appeal upgrades as blogged on Click on the link below to read:

5 Awesome reasons to install a fire pit on your property

As blogged on, home improvement projects would be an awesome way to increase not just the beauty but also the value of your home. In major household overhaul projects, it would be necessary to have mini excavators which can help especially when digging is part of your project. One fine example of an addition that would be perfect for your yard is a fire pit which may or may not require some digging. These fire pits are not just perfect when the weather is chilly but it can be great for year-round family events. Here are some ideas on what you can do with fire pits to enhance your living space.

To read the rest of this blog, click on the link below:

4 Things that homebuyers should never reveal when negotiating on a home

There are some common-sense things a homebuyer should never reveal while they are negotiating on a home. Keeping your cards close to your chest will only help you get the best deal possible.

Here are a few tips from a blog on To read, simply click on the link below:

51 Budget backyard DIYs that are perfect for entertaining

As blogged on, we Canadians spend most of the winter months in our homes so when summer arrives we are ready to spend extra time outdoors.

Why not make your backyard an oasis for entertaining. Here are some great budget DIY suggestions to spruce up your summer enjoyment.

For photos and to read this blog, click on the link below:

Are you organizing or do you know of an upcoming event that would be of interest to Alberta home owners? Examples include tradeshows, farmer’s markets, homeowner seminars, etc.

Click here for a free job posting!

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