Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


Is burning wood considered "Green?"

     In the 70's, wood-burning stoves were all the rage---and at that time, they probably would have been considered "Green."  In fact, I had a Jotul 602 that was green---I loved that thing.  Today I rarely see wood burning stoves and when I do there is usually some issue with them. 

     It seems that there is a strong correlation between people who like wood stoves and people that are "do-it-your-selfers."  Independent thinking, self-abusively hardworking types love these things---and all they entail (the chopping, the splitting, the storing---and the melting the bottom of your shoes when you come in to warm your feet up).  Whoops, did I say I used to love mine?

     On an inspection the other day I came across an installation that looked fairly good in the living room.  It wasn't until I got in the attic that I found what could have been a bummer for the owner and/or my buyer.  Perhaps a bummer for me too had I missed it!  If you look carefully at the picture you will see where the section of pipe that runs through the roof is sitting on top of the piece in the attic----and offset-slightly.  See the smoke marks where smoke/heat has been entering the attic? This is why I LOVE my job!

bad connection

















     Apparently the roofers took the chimney apart when they re-roofed the house and didn't get it back together properly.  Perhaps they should have brought in someone that knew as much about wood stove chimneys as they did about roofs. 

Charles Buell 

     PS, for those of you that are new to my blog (or for some other "unexplained" reason have never noticed)sunsmile all  pictures and smiley-face inserts (emoticons) have messages that show up when you point at them with your cursor.

sign me up





picture logo

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Seattle Home Inspector


The Human Rights Campaign   QR code for Charles Buell Inspections Inc


WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board

Comment balloon 15 commentsCharles Buell • April 21 2008 09:34AM


I have a woodstove that I use to off set the cost of LP Gas heat at my house , and the thing about wood is you get the work out to deal with it, and the heat from it when you burn it. I enjoy cutting and splitting for the execise and the wood is free from my land so it's doubly good for me.
Posted by Steve Loynd, 800-926-5653, White Mountains NH ( Alpine Lakes Real Estate Inc., ) about 12 years ago

Andrew, thanks for stopping by.  I agee with you that fireplaces are not a very efficient way to heat a home----will generaly suck more heat out than they give off.  The Jotul is an amazing stove.

Steve, it is like the old saying:  "it warms you twice---one when you cut it and once when you burn it."  (I always wonderedwhy they left out, hauling, splitting and stacking:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 12 years ago

Twenty years ago we used to heat exclusively with wood. Our wood source was the farm we owned. The state ag people came out, did a study (uninvited) and said our wood was mature and subject to disease. They then asked us to select trees for harvesting. The loggers basically took the trunks. We had abundant supply of large limbs there for the taking.

Fast forwarding, I am a city dweller. I have no source for wood. However, my step-son just purchased 14 cords for his barbeque restaurant. I think he said he uses old orchard wood exclusively (orange and pecan are a couple I think I remember). I wonder how many more years he will be able to get this type of wood. It's something to think about.

The way I look at it, wood is only "green" if it is disposable as in the above situations. Cutting a healthy living tree is not "green" IMHO.

Posted by Vickie Nagy, Vickie Jean the Palm Springs Condo Queen (Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate) about 12 years ago

Wood heat is in my  opinion more of a romantic heat source than a practical or even a green one. Given that we have burn bans due to the excess wood smoke in our area it makes me wonder just how green it is. That being said a fireplace sure does add a lot of character to a home! 



Posted by Scott Cowan (RE/MAX Professionals) about 12 years ago

HHHmmm, I've learned over the years that roofer are alot like plumbers .... neither ones seem to be too concerned about their effects on other parts of the house, as long as they get their job completed, that is all they need.

Sean Allen

Posted by Sean Allen, International Financing Solutions (International Financing Solutions ) about 12 years ago
I don't like wood heat, too dusty and it bothers my allergies!  YOU ARE THE BEST HOME INSPECTOR, ANY CHANCE YOU MAY MOVE TO SEARCY, ARKANSAS?        
Posted by Mary PAUL, ABR, CRS,GRI, e-PRO, (RE/MAX Advantage Realtors, Searcy, AR) about 12 years ago
Another great catch Charles.  Thanks for sharing.  Is there the proper clearance to combustibles there?
Posted by Joseph Lang, Home Inspector, Southern California (Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection) about 12 years ago

Vickie, orchards are a good source of this type of wood because the trees have a "productive" life at the end of which they start a new orchard.

Scott, we can't get caught liking a good romantic fire can we?:)

Sean, you definately grabbed onto one of the key points I wanted to make.

Mary,---but what about the "romance?"

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 12 years ago
Hi Joseph, you snuck in there when I was posting.  In answer to your question---most likely not.  I called for complete evaluation/repair prior to use. Definately not where the pipe isn't even connected:)
Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 12 years ago

Charles, I really miss my wood-burning stove.  I have been checking into pellets stoves here lately to help augment the rising cost of natural gas used for heating.

I do understand which are talking about though with the do-it-yourselfers. 

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) about 12 years ago
My husband and I just bought last year a soapstone wood burning stove.  We love it!   Our chimney though is set off from the roof, so the issues you bring here wouldn't be a worry for us when we go to replace our roof.  Thanks for the heads up.
Posted by Alan Burwell (McHugh Realtors) about 12 years ago

You are probably familiar with the old fireplace inserts, also from the 70's.  We had one then and have one now.  The difference is that in that house we believed in using it.  Cut the wood, haul it in, burn it, clean up the mess, start all over again the next day.  WORK, WORK, WORK!

We built our new house and HAD to have the fireplace and insert.  However this house is so energy efficient that we haven't used that insert in probably 15 years.  It is just there to decorate around.  No telling what a home inspector would find in the chimney.

Nice blog, as usual!!

Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) about 12 years ago
Hi Charlie,  I heated with wood for the majority of my adult life; usually getting my firewood from old clearcuts.  Now that I am well into my sixties I have no desire to heat that way.  I do have a direct vent gas fireplace that gives me the romance.  In terms of green, I don't believe that there is a wood burner that doesn't put out tons of carbon.  By the way, the class is going well.  I think I have them pretty well softened up for you.
Posted by David Helm, Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp (Helm Home Inspections) about 12 years ago
David, I definately have a "been there, done that" attitude about heating with wood.
Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 12 years ago

Michael, let me know what you think of the pellet stoves.

Kathy, I have seen those soap stone stoves too.  They still don't split and stack the wood though---yet:)

Barbara, I hear that story over and over again from all of us old hippy-back-to-the-lander types from the 60's!


Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 12 years ago