The Lowdown on Manufacturer Warranties

It can be confusing when it comes to what is and what isn’t covered in a warranty. Nearly 100% of all manufacturers include a copy of their specific warranty in the owner’s manual for their products, accessible to the consumer at any time. Many customers don’t read their manual and assume any work done after the purchase is automatically covered under manufacturer warranty but this isn’t always the case.

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Here is a list of things manufacturers hardly ever cover under their warranty:

  • Glass, except in cases of thermal shock (see picture at left)
  • Firebrick
  • Batteries
  • Operator Error

Manufacturer warranties cover manufacturer defects only and most are pretty accommodating with their claims processes. However, they will usually stand firm on operator error, misuse and negligence. Using poor quality pellet fuel, for example, is not covered under warranty. Closing your wood stove door on a piece of wood that is too long for the firebox and breaking the glass- not covered.

Goodwill Policy

We understand that installation day can be pretty hectic and not all the information we tell you is retained, hence our Goodwill policy. Within a reasonable amount of time from the installation, Custom Hearth will send a technician out for a one-time free tutorial of the customer’s new fireplace. We will go over operations again, what is normal, what isn’t, how to change the batteries, when to call us, etc.

We ask that you always read the manual and understand that as a homeowner, there are certain responsibilities you’ll have with your stove:

Wood Units

  • Basic cleaning of the firebox and glass is required periodically.
  • Burning dry wood is mandatory. Burning wet wood (even if you think it is dry) can cause a lot of issues, none of which are covered under warranty.
  • Make sure your logs are cut to proper size.
  • Your chimney and appliance should be inspected professionally on an annual basis.

Gas Units

  • Cleaning of the glass should be done periodically. There are special cleaners for gas units designed to get the build-up that propane and natural gas can leave behind.
  • Your gas appliance should be serviced and inspected professionally on an annual basis.

Pellet Units

  • Each pellet unit will spell out in the owner’s manual the required basic maintenance the homeowner should expect to perform. This usually consists of emptying the ash bin, cleaning the burn pot, vacuuming the fire box and cleaning the heat exchangers.
  • Make sure to use good quality pellets. (We really cannot stress this enough).
  • Your pellet appliance should be serviced and inspected professionally on an annual basis.

Some tips on cleaning your glass

No matter what fuel you are burning for heat, never, EVER use an ammonia based glass cleaner to clean the glass. NEVER.

The glass that is on heating appliances goes by many names, but it is ceramic glass. Heated and the rapidly cooled and able to withstand high temperatures as well as expand and contract as needed with fluctuating heat. Ceramic glass is etched when ammonia is used on it and therefore weakened considerably. Ceramic glass is very fragile, great care should be taken when cleaning the glass and there are special products used for each fuel type.

Also note- if you are using quality fuel, your wood and pellet stove glass should remain fairly clean. If you are getting a creosote build up, either your burn habits or your fuel need to be adjusted.

Modern Wood Appliances- Just the Facts

Washington State is timber country and at Custom Hearth, Fireplaces and Stoves, we are constantly updating our education on wood heating appliances, making sure to carry the most efficient wood appliances on the market, and familiarizing ourselves with new wood burning technology. We’ve discussed unit and chimney maintenance, let’s talk about how the appliances work.

Wood Stoves and Emissions

The process is simple right? Light some wood on fire and you get heat, what could be hard about that? Turns out, there is quite a bit of science behind that oversimplified explanation which also leaves out the most important part- the appliance you’re burning in.

How does fire work?

We all know the basic Combustion Cycle:

FUEL + AIR + HEAT = FIRE

But what you might not know is that depending on which stove you use to create this process, the BTU output, quality of fire and even the amount of useable energy burned is affected. Thanks to EPA standards, all woodstoves sold in the US must meet emission standards of less than 2 grams per hour. Thankfully, Washington has always been ahead of the curve and our state minimum has been 4.5 grams per hour since 1998 for non-catalytic appliances, so meeting the 2-gram standard was not a big change for us. There is talk that the EPA will lower the emission rate even further by 2020 to mandate that all solid-fuel burning stoves sold emit less than 1 gram per hour.

What are emissions?

The dictionary term for emissions are “the production and discharge of something”. In the hearth industry, we are referring specifically to solid fuel fires and smoke. Emissions from solid-fuel burning appliances can be quite concerning. As defined by the EPA: Smoke from residential wood heaters contains fine particle pollution, also known as fine particulate matter or PM2.5, along with other pollutants including carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), black carbon, and air toxics, such as benzene. It’s these particles that EPA certified solid-fuel burning appliances are required to cut down on. This is accomplished using one of two types of combustion: catalytic and non-catalytic. Woodheat.org has a great explanation of the differences between these two systems here.

How do emission standards and clean burning appliances affect me?

The short answer is: savings. Whether you have a catalytic or a non-catalytic combustion system in your wood stove, you will be looking at a noticeable decrease in fuel consumption. This means less cords of wood each winter, less splitting and stacking, less loading the stove, less cleaning, less creosote, less everything! Everything, that is, except heat.

I’ve heard that catalytic combustor stoves are no good, is that true?

Each combustion system has its pros and cons, just like literally everything else in the world. Some pros of a cat stove are that it produces a low and slow even burn, much less emissions and virtually no smoke or creosote (if properly maintained and the wood burned is sufficiently dry).

Chances are, if you’ve heard that catalytic stoves are useless, you (or the person you were talking to) was around in the 80’s when wood stoves first started getting tested for emissions in Oregon. At this time, most manufacturers’ stoves were not passing this test. They added a catalytic combustor, and now they did! However, these stoves weren’t designed to have a catalytic combustor in them, the cat was added after the unit was designed and this led to much heartache and headaches throughout the industry.  It was only after the EPA passed its 1988 New Source Performance Standards that proper testing methods were introduced and stoves began to be designed around the type of combustion system the manufacturer was going to use.

These days, the catalytic combustor is integrated in to the design and as long as the unit is maintained, not over-fired and dry wood used, there should be no issue with its performance as it provides slow and even heat.

Are air tubes necessary in my wood appliance?

Absolutely. If your appliance does not have a catalytic combustor, chances are it has a secondary burn system consisting of air tubes and baffles, designed to move heated air throughout the firebox and “re-burn”, if you will, all of the particulates first released by the initial combustion of the fuel. The air tubes vary in size, length, width, even the air holes and the gauge of steel used can vary from stove to stove. Remember, your stove was designed and built around this entire system, putting random air tubes, (or, God forbid, no air tubes!) can result in incomplete burns, increased emissions and dirty glass as there is not enough hot air washing over the glass to keep it clean.

What about ‘hybrids’?

Some manufacturers have taken the best of both the catalytic and non-catalytic systems and Frankensteined them together to create a fire producing monster known as the hybrid. This system is exceptionally efficient, most producing less than 1 gram of emissions per hour, boasting 10+ hours of burn time on a single log, all while keeping the glass incredibly clean. These stoves are expensive, no doubt, and require care and patience when starting a fire, which needs to be nice and hot to burn effectively. The result is gorgeous, almost mystical looking, rolling flames that are unparalleled by other stoves. Next time you stop in our showroom, ask us to light a fire in one for you; we guarantee you’ll be blown away!

Zero Clearance and Masonry Wood Fireplaces

Zero Clearance (ZC) is a term used in the industry to describe appliances that are built-in to the construction of the building. These are usually metal “boxes” with metal chimney pipe extending up to the roof. More often than not, there will be a wooden chase built around the fireplace to hide the pipe and make it look more like a traditional fireplace with a masonry chimney.

Some manufacturers make ZC fireplaces that are efficient heaters; they have doors with gaskets that latch tightly, they will have a secondary burn system, usually a catalytic combustor, and even an option to use the fireplace as a central heating system.

Other manufacturers are still making zero clearance can fireplaces. These types of appliances, as well as masonry (brick) fireplaces and chimneys are basically like having a giant hole in the side of your house. They produce little to no heat and suck the warm air from the rest of the house and shoot it straight up the chimney.

Energy.gov has a great article about different types of wood appliances and we do like how they sum up masonry fireplaces: Designed more for show, traditional open masonry fireplaces should not be considered heating devices. Traditional fireplaces draw in as much as 300 cubic feet per minute of heated room air for combustion, then send it straight up the chimney. Fireplaces also produce significant air pollution. Although some fireplace designs seek to address these issues with dedicated air supplies, glass doors, and heat recovery systems, most traditional fireplaces are still energy losers. When burning a fire, you should turn your heat down or off and open a window near the fireplace.

Custom Hearth, Fireplaces and Stoves is committed to representing the best in the wood appliance business and we have had long-standing relationships with top manufacturers for many, many years. We are passionate about wood heat and are happy to answer any questions you may have about getting a wood burning appliance installed in your home, give us a call today, 360-373-1332 for Port Orchard or 360-779-1331 for Poulsbo.

Stay warm!

Gas Units- Just the Facts: Part II- IPI / CPI Systems

IPI / CPI Systems (Electronic Ignition)

There are so many versions of this same system, it would take too long to cover them all. Instead, we will break down the basics of the electronic ignition systems, proper operations and cover some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers as well. This article is designed to educate you about the different pilot ignition systems available, it is not intended to be a user guide, an owner’s manual or to be used as a reference for homeowner repair in any way. Always call a qualified service technician to work on your gas fireplace, failure to adhere to manufacturer specifications can result in an explosion.

diagram2To the left is the pilot assembly in an electronic ignition system fireplace. Instead of a pilot tube, thermocouple and thermopile; there is a pilot hood, a sparker and a flame sensor. Instead of being connected directly to the valve, the signals these components give are directed through a control board called a module. The signal is given from a thermostat or manually to turn the pilot on and the sparker sparks while the flame sensor waits to be “rectified”. Pilot rectification is a when the pilot lights, hits the flame sensor, and the flame sensor sends the signal to the module that it is ok to open the valve and let fuel into the burner.

Unlike a millivolt or, “standing pilot”, system, the electronic ignition systems have 2 modes for the pilot light: IPI and CPI.

IPI (Intermittent Pilot Ignition) is when the pilot light is only lit when the control board gets the call for heat, either from a thermostat or from someone flipping a switch.

CPI (Continuous Pilot Ignition) is when the pilot is lit constantly. While it sounds similar to a standing pilot system, it must be understood that these are two very different processes and it is important to distinguish between them.

Both settings have their pros and cons, and there is a time where using one over the other can be extremely beneficial. However, not understanding how this system works can create unexpected issues. A majority of fireplace manufacturers have replaced the standing pilot systems with these new ones, and there is talk happening to phase millivolt systems out completely.

Frequently Asked Questions

My fireplace won’t stop beeping.

On an electronic ignition system, there are many safety measures set up to protect the unit from misbehaving. If your fireplace is beeping at you, you need to read your owner’s manual to see what the beeps could mean. Some will beep once, some will beep three times and some will do both, depending on what the problem is. If all else fails, change your batteries, it could be that your batteries are low and even if the unit is on regular electricity, the low battery will cause the module to beep.

Another reason it will beep is because of failed flame rectification. If the unit attempts to light and fails (the length and number of times will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer) the unit will go into “lock out” mode and will need to be reset before you can attempt to light it again. The most common reason for this is a Cold Weather Pilot and the easiest way to avoid this is to keep your unit in CPI once the temperature drops below 60°F.

Do I have to keep my fireplace in CPI? I don’t want to waste propane.

A constantly lit pilot light burns about 5 gallons of propane a month, hardly a dent in a large tank. If you don’t want problems lighting your stove in the winter, keep the pilot in CPI mode until it warms up.

My fireplace went out suddenly but then came back on, what’s wrong with it?

Chances are, nothing. Many new gas appliances have a shut down requirement, usually every 24 hours. If there is no flame adjustment or other action, the module shuts the system down and reboots it just to make sure everything is working properly.

Do electronic ignition systems require electricity?

Yes. Your new appliance will run on your house electricity for the most part. In the event of a power outage, it will run on a battery backup. All of the functions on the remote and the stove should work with the exception of the blower(s).

Gas Units- Just the Facts: Part I- Millivolt Systems

Millivolt Systems (Standing Pilot)

This system is the oldest type of gas operating system. The HPBA is working on legislation to phase these types of units out, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t still run in to them from time to time. Until then, there are still some manufacturers who will continue to make gas units with these systems until they are told to stop. Here is a short breakdown of how the systems work, as well as some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers.

diagramTo the left is a typical millivolt (standing pilot) system. At the top is the pilot assembly; consisting of a pilot tube / orifice/ hood, a thermocouple, a thermopile and a sparker electrode. These are all connected to the valve in different ways, except for the sparker; it is attached to an ignitor.

The sparker does what its name implies, it sparks as an ignition source at the pilot hood so that the spark combined with gas or propane will light the pilot light. This is in place so you don’t have to light the pilot with a match.

The pilot light hits the thermocouple and the thermopile simultaneously. The thermocouple’s job is to keep the pilot lit. As long as the thermocouple is putting out enough voltage, created by contact with the pilot, it allows the gas valve to continue to send gas to the pilot tube and keep the pilot lit.

When the unit calls for heat (either by thermostat or simply being turned ON), the thermopile puts out enough voltage to open the electromagnet in the gas valve that sends fuel to the burner, turning on your fireplace!

Frequently Asked Questions

My pilot won’t stay lit, is it the thermocouple?

Not necessarily. The thermocouple is the most common part to replace on these systems, but sometimes other issues are to blame, such as low fuel or a dirty or clogged pilot hood. You should have preventative maintenance performed annually on your unit to make sure things like this don’t happen.

My pilot went out, is gas leaking into my fireplace?

Assuming your valve is fine, no. Remember, the thermocouple’s job is to let the valve know that it is ok to send fuel to the burner because the pilot light is lit. If the pilot light goes out, the valve closes completely and does not allow gas through to the burner or pilot assembly until the pilot is lit again.

I need a new thermocouple, they’re all the same right?

In short, not really. All thermocouples put out the same range of voltage, but they vary in length, the size of the tip that the pilot needs to hit, they even screw in to different pilot assemblies in different ways.  Each manufacturer uses one of several different companies to manufacture its pilot assemblies and valves. For your stove to work properly, the correct parts need to be installed by a qualified technician.

My pilot is lit, but my burner won’t turn on, does my valve need to be replaced?

Probably not. Remember, the thermopile and thermocouple work together to let the valve know that it’s ok to release gas to the burner. If there are any issues along this path of communication, your valve will not open. We service thousands of gas units every year and it is very rare indeed that the valve needs to be replaced. Be wary of any repair person who says the valve needs to be replaced but cannot explain why. Many times an unqualified person will not be able to figure out why the valve will not open and will then decide the valve needs to be replaced. The issue reoccurs because the valve was never the problem.

Chimney Inspections: What are they and why are they important?

Custom Hearth, Fireplaces and Stoves is proud to employ our very own Ty Eldred, a CSIA certified chimney inspector and sweep at our Port Orchard location who also just passed his NFI Certification exam in wood burning products.

In keeping with our education theme, we thought it would be good to break this new service down for you:

What is a chimney inspection?

The NFPA 211 code breaks chimney inspections into three levels, aptly named Level I, Level II and Level III.

Level I

A Level I chimney inspection is a visual inspection of all exposed components of the chimney system from appliance to roof venting. We look for safety hazards, potential future issues, code violations and other concerns. Upon completion of the inspection, the technician writes up a report which is then professionally prepared and e-mailed to you with pictures of potential problem areas and recommendations for repairs. We are qualified to handle most of these repairs, but we may need to refer you to a specialist, such as a mason, for the more complex problems. A Level I inspection is recommended to occur annually.

Level II

While Level II inspections include all the aspects of a Level I inspection, they are more in-depth, requiring the use of a specialized camera designed to attach to a chimney sweeping rod, that sends video and still pictures of the interior of a chimney to a computer. This inspection is recommended before the sale of a home occurs. This inspection can catch all the potential issues, hazards and code violations of the Level I, along with the added peace of mind that the entire system, inside and out, is in safe, working condition. Again, once the report is written up, it is professionally prepared and e-mailed to you along with pictures and videos, if applicable, along with our recommendations for repairs.

Level III

A Level III inspection includes all of the components of the first two levels, but usually requires visual inspection of interior venting components, which means removing chimneys, walls and chases to assess damage. This inspection is recommended after a catastrophic event such as a chimney fire or earthquake.

How often should I have an inspection / sweep performed?

NFPA 211 recommends having a Level I inspection done annually and a Level II inspection performed when selling your home.

Why is it important to have an inspection performed?

Many do-it-yourselfers have taken it upon themselves to do their own chimney sweeping, which is perfectly fine. However, they are often not trained to spot code violations, safety hazards, potential future issues, etc. Even if you’d rather sweep your own chimney, you should still have a professional inspect it from time to time. It is extremely easy to damage chimney liners if you don’t know what you are doing which could be causing all kinds of problems and future dangers.

We hope this helps explains our new chimney inspection service, available now at a discount introductory rate. Call today to have your wood burning appliance inspected so you’re not out in the cold this winter!

The Custom Hearth Difference

Most people are not aware that there is little to no regulation in the hearth retail industry, meaning that any person off the street can install, repair or clean your hearth appliance; be it an insert, stove or fireplace that burns natural gas, propane, pellets or wood. While there are several hearth-specific organizations that offer certifications and continuing education credits (CEUs), these are not mandated by the federal government, state government or manufacturers of hearth appliances. Some manufacturers will require factory training before a retailer is allowed to sell, install or service their products, but this is still not a mainstream practice.

At Custom Hearth, this is unacceptable. When we hear about our competitors in the Kitsap area offering “certified” installers or service technicians, we know that they are blowing smoke (see what I did there?). As noted by Jordan Whitt of the Chimney Safety Institute of America, the word certification is essentially meaningless in the hearth industry without the proper credentials and organizations behind them. Jordan gives some great tips in that article about how the consumer can do research and find properly certified technicians before hiring a company to perform service or an inspection in their home.

We take the guess work out of that. In this article, you will find links to all of our affiliate organizations, why they are important and why we encourage continuing education through their certification courses. Custom Hearth, as a company, has taken the generally accepted, however abysmally low standards with which our field is regulated and established our own code of ethics and standards of practice that we hold all of our employees to.

We find that many hearth retailers who provide service consider it more of an afterthought, something they don’t really want to do but have to do. Our attitude is the complete opposite. We have created our own trade program standards for our field technicians. Essentially, we have created a specific chain of learning and given our technicians attainable but challenging goals to work towards. We have high expectations of our technicians including standards of service and continued education requirements. All new technicians are thoroughly trained and only after a fixed number of hours are they able to work on their own in the field.

After one year of continuous field work, the technician is required to begin studying for a National Fireplace Institute exam on the fuel of their choice. This is an intense, proctored exam that can take months to prepare for, resulting in expert knowledge of everything about that hearth system. Once the technician obtains all three fuel certifications, they are considered a Master Hearth Professional. There are only a handful of NFI certified people in Washington state and we are aiming to have all of our employees join those ranks.

Another certification our technicians are able to obtain is the Chimney Sweep Institute of America certification. This is a 6-day training course in Indiana where technicians get hands-on training on how to perform Level I and Level II inspections, sweep chimneys and the NFPA 211 code. Technicians who pass the course and exam are listed on the CSIA website here.

Factory training is also a requirement of our technician’s ongoing education. We send them to every training offered by the manufacturers we sell so they can get informed on the latest products and repair techniques.

At Custom Hearth, once the technician obtains all three fuels and their CSIA certifications, we consider them a Hearth Master, someone who’s education and experience is invaluable to us, and to you, the customer. No matter who we send to your home to install or service your hearth appliances, you can rest assured that not only are the definitely the best in this area, but some of the best in the entire hearth industry.

There is a Difference in Pellet Fuel Quality

Pellet Fuel Quality

Pellet stoves are hands down one of the most efficient ways to heat your home. With inexpensive fuel and emissions often less than 1 gram per hour, a pellet appliance is a great option for those who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Custom Hearth has been selling, installing and servicing pellet appliances since the first Whitfield rolled off the assembly line back in the 1980s, and we’re still a heavy in the pellet side of the industry today.

As recently as 2015, pellet appliances and pellet fuel were not regulated by any entity or organization. With the regulations established in 2015, we are coming across more and more pellet fuel issues with the number one complaint being that no one informed the consumer about pellet quality. This post is to discuss and discard common pellet fuel myths and misconceptions to keep you better informed about your fuel and to keep your pellet appliance running for years to come!

“Premium” pellets can be anything but.

With the lack of regulation and standards in the pellet fuel industry, the label of “Premium” has been stamped on nearly every single brand of pellets for years. Unfortunately, “Premium” is pretty meaningless when it comes to selecting the fuel you want to burn in your pellet appliance. There are many different manufacturers of pellets in this area alone, all claiming to be of “Premium” quality. Pellets are made from compressed sawdust and other wood by-products, usually at a mill designed specifically to perform such a task. As stated before, there were no regulations in place on the process until 2015.

Fortunately, an organization called the Pellet Fuel Institute has established standards and a seal of approval for manufacturers of pellets who meet or exceed those standards. There is also now a requirement for manufacturers of pellet appliances to encourage consumers to use only PFI certified fuels in the owners’ manuals of said products. For more information on the mark to look for on PFI certified fuels, click here.

“Low Ash” means high other stuff.

Many pellet unit owners are under the misconception that a low ash producing pellet is the best kind of pellet. Less ashes means less cleaning right? However, there is no easy way to be a pellet stove owner and constant cleaning is the only way to maintain your stove, low ash or not. In our experience, we have dealt with many, many owners of high quality pellet stoves that have been destroyed by so-called “low ash” producing pellets. The common theory from years ago is that these pellets contained high amounts of salt. The manufacturers deny these allegations, yet their pellets are still the number one thing wrecked pellet stoves have in common. They are often the cheaper brand and readily available. And yes, they sport the “Premium” label on their bags.

We can tell you that when a customer uses sub-par pellets, their stoves can be destroyed quickly. These are two different pellet stoves, both less than a year old at the time of service, both using the same brand of pellets:

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Please note that these parts were not covered under warranty because the warranty only covers manufacturer defects; using poor quality pellets is considered an environmental factor and is therefore not a condition of the appliance itself.

Where can I find PFI certified pellets and manufacturers?

Use this link to find the most up-to-date information on PFI certified manufacturers of pellets. Use this link to search for PFI members in your state.

How can I tell if I’m using quality fuel?

If you find yourself unable to track down PFI certified fuel in your area, there is a way you can figure out what fuel available to you is the best.

  1. Buy 5 bags of whatever fuel you are considering.
  2. Thoroughly clean your pellet stove before running these 5 bags through them.
  3. After you’ve cycled the 5 bags through, clean your stove again. Pull out the ash bin, the firebacks and the burn pot. Make note of ash content, clinkers, unburned pellets and signs of potential damage.
  4. If you’re satisfied, continue to use the same brand. Be sure to clean your stove every 10 bags of pellets or so and keep an eye on the potential problem areas noted above. Be aware that steel burn pots can take longer to accumulate damage than a cast iron one, but poor quality pellets will destroy either if given enough time.

A pellet heating appliance is a huge investment. We hope these tips and links are able to help educate our customers in to making a well-informed decision about the fuel they choose to burn in their unit. Feel free to contact our Gorst store with any questions or tips. We love to hear about fuel sales or specials, or brands we may not have heard of before, so we can share that information with our customers.

Don’t forget to have the Annual Preventative Maintenance performed on your stove, which can help keep on top of any potential damage to come. Our factory trained technicians have loads of experience spotting the beginning signs of poor quality pellet fuel damage and this service can wind up saving you hundreds of dollars in the future!

Thanks for reading and, as always, stay warm!

What to know when remodeling

Building a new house or remodeling?

What you should know about fireplaces.

Building a house is one of the most exciting yet overwhelming tasks a person can undertake. Whether you’ve opted to build it yourself or have hired an architect and contractor, chances are you’ll be looking to install a fireplace or freestanding stove of some kind. From concept to completion, Custom Hearth can help you choose the best appliance to fit all of your new home’s needs; square footage, placement and clearances. We are always excited to be a part of the home building process and based on over 30 years of experience working with contractors and builders, we have compiled a short list of tips and tricks to make the installation process as smooth as possible:

Get us involved early and often.

Far too often we have customers come to our showroom after framing has been put up for the new home. Trying to find a unit that will work in the already established configuration of walls and windows can be tricky. While we always strive to do our best, it can be challenging to get the unit you want in the space that you want. There are many aspects to consider including the size of the unit, required clearances to combustibles, hearth requirements, venting and so much more. Fireplaces are not one size fits all and each manufacturer will have their own guidelines and safety requirements.

The best time to start shopping for a fireplace or stove is right at the start of your project. We can work with your architect and contractor to implement the dimensions of the unit in to the plans of the house, alleviating many headaches and potential roadblocks in the building process. Besides, the fireplace is the focal point of any room it is in and everything should be built around it, not the other way around.

Research what you’re buying.

When you put your project design in the hands of a contractor or architect, you are potentially at risk to get a cheap, inefficient eyesore installed in your beautiful new home and no one wants that. Contractors and builders are under enormous pressure to be cost-effective and to our dismay, the fireplace often takes the brunt of “budgeting”.

A very common technique used by many architects is to have an open wood fireplace with a gas log set installed, to give the room an “open” feel to it. This is one of our least favorite options for new construction and remodels, which has proven time and time again to be problematic for a number of reasons, least of all they are a huge waste of your money, no matter how “cost effective” they might seem at first. The warranty on log sets is often only one year (depending on the manufacturer) from the date of installation and the life span is not much beyond that anyway.

To avoid this annoying and (eventually) costly tactic, see above: Get us involved early and often.

Installation needs to be done by us.

In the front of each installation manual of any heating appliance, it clearly states that installation should be done by a certified professional. Unfortunately, in the hearth industry, that means next to nothing. However, there are serious potential consequences for installing a unit yourself or trusting your builder to do it. When you have an unqualified person install your new unit, there is potential for all sorts of issues due to ignorance; such as an unsafe installation and failure to meet required clearances which lead to fire hazards and failed inspections. Another serious consequence is the voiding of the warranty. We have in-house installation and service teams that are all factory trained and working towards certifications that know the units we sell inside and out.

One of the biggest reasons people opt to have an unqualified person install the fireplace is pressure from the contractor to have it installed as soon as possible. We are a small, family owned company and our installation calendar can be booked over a month in advance in the winter time, which we understand can be daunting. To avoid this, see above: Get us involved early and often.

At Custom Hearth, we are fully prepared to work with you, your architect and your contractor from the beginning concept drawings to the final, finished project in your new home or remodel. We want to be involved in the process as much as possible and are always happy to answer questions and give advice on the best course of action to get you the appliance you need and the look you want.