Cottage Q&A: Woodstove inspection alternatives

A woodstove set on a concrete pad in a basement By Joshua Rainey Photography/Shutterstock

Do you have any suggestions for alternatives to Wood Energy Technology Transfer inspection of woodstoves for areas where qualified WETT inspectors are very hard to get? What do insurance companies suggest for such regions?—Phil Dean, via email

There certainly aren’t any alternative certifications. “WETT is the only program in Canada,” says Zigi Gadomski, the president of Wood Energy Technicians British Columbia. But, since “it’s not a government certification or mandated by the government, an insurance company can use anyone they want.”

They can. But they probably won’t. “All companies that I know of will now only accept a WETT certification on units such as free-standing woodstoves, pellet stoves, and steel fireplace inserts,” says Bob Dixon of Mason Insurance Brokers in Welland, Ont. “It’s just a fact these days.” The folks at the Insurance Bureau of Canada agree.

But everyone gets the problem when it comes to cottages: “Understandably, the more remote a town or area is, the less likely that there might be WETT inspectors available,” says Dixon. Plus, COVID has messed up woodstove inspections the same way that it has messed up every other part of our lives. “I’ve heard that getting an inspection has been tougher due to backups and restrictions.”

We assume that you’re not willing to remove your woodstove. We also assume that you’d like fire insurance. Unfortunately, even if you wanted to, you probably can’t get a property policy that excludes fire losses caused by a wood-burning unit, says Bev Mitchell of Johnston Meier Insurance Agencies Group in Maple Ridge, B.C. “A regular market carrier is not likely to agree to that as an option. As a special risks underwriter, I see a lot of homes and cottages with woodstoves, and if the information provided on the unit indicates that a WETT inspection is required, we will give the client time to deal with the request,” she says. “In the interim, we will approach it with an extremely high deductible—for example, $100,000—to discourage the use of the unit.” But this interim arrangement only works if the woodstove is “auxiliary use only,” says Mitchell—you need a different, approved main heat source, such as a furnace or baseboard heating

If it’s strictly remoteness, not inspector availability, that is the issue, consider forking over the cash to bring one to you. (And in case it expands the pool, keep in mind that some home inspectors also have their WETT certification.) 

“I was once approached by a client who owned a private fishing lodge in a very remote area,” says Mitchell. “The main source of heat was a woodstove, and as the only alternative would be to self-insure, the client had to fly in a WETT inspector—at some expense.” 

It’s not outside the realm of possibility that a company would insure you with no inspection. But is that really what you want? “WETT is the most extensive and correct form of inspection,” says Dixon. “This is not just all about the insurance company requirements. This is about the safety of your family and friends. To me, that is always more important.”   

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This article was originally published in the May 2022 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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