Buying a woodburning stove... a cautionary tale

Hi. Having bought a woodburning stove and paid for the installation from a purportedly reputable company in Bergerac, (English owned), it has almost caused our house to go up in flames! Melted walls, charred ceiling beams, Purchase here at your own risk.

We approached the said company days later for help and advice, and were offered no assistance whatsoever, so had to employ a builder to come in and rectify the situation by building a firebrick wall behind the flue and a concrete plinth between the ceiling beams at a massive expense. The said company has since told us that there are NO regulations in France how woodburners are installed, but this is not what a seperate builder and heating engineer (who used to fit woodburners) have advised.

Purchase your fire at your own risk, and pray that you have adequate house insurance.

For further details of this company, please PM me and spread the word.

Wow, thank you Ian for your cautionary tale. This is one of the first things we are going to install in our new French House in St Martin de Beauville.

I do have a friend locally who will carry out the work but I will certainly ensure that the regs are complied with.


Don't get too ambitious Graham as you'll have nothing to look forward to. Filthy Rich is good for now. We'll progress to zillionaire later if you're a good boy :-)

Cheers Brian. I've got a tub of DMO powder stuff which one is supposed to chuck on every 10 fires. I'll try that & see if it helps.

I'm pleased you are pleased Grahame although the key words of my tongue in cheek comment were "all the time". Mind you, looking at your photo with you all wrapped up, maybe it's necessary in your neck of the woods :-0

Not sure about shops but for artisans you should ask to see their Chambre de Metier card and a copy of their insurance. No guarantee of quality but at least to obtain these papers you have to jump through a lot of hoops and it gives you proof of qualification and insurance. Having acquired both of these for my husband and myself, it also indicates professionalism and determination for foreigners tin France.

Bl**dy memory. First I forget things, then to top it up I forget what they're called.

If you go to the average DIY place and in the section where they have bits and pieces for stoves, chimney sweeping equipment and all, there should be packets of 'stuff' that does something or other to keep the flues clear(er) called Disprosane, plus there are the good old bûches ramoneuses.

Our insurance man pal, not exactly impoverished and with his OH working in the local trésorerie with a salary... say no more, has probably lots of charme (hornbeam) which does not make much soot at all. Unlike the rest of us, I doubt their stoves are 24 hour a day affairs, so probably you are right. We use oak for overnight and pay the price.

Depending on local regulations though, rather than insurance companies, national law actually does demand once a year, some departments twice a year, for which the certificat de ramonage is required from OPQCB registered sweeps. We can safely say that insurance companies may not mention it but have us by the short and curlies :-(

I clean myself twice a year at least, did it before we lit up this autumn. This year we shall have the sweep, a real one, partly because he can get the right firebricks and we need a couple replaced. He doles out 'official' certificates with his details including his OPQCB number and loi this and that across the bottom. There again, he is in the middle of a town with a kind of shop front and if he was not the real McCoy I doubt he would be in business more likely the local 'porage'.

"Closing note, he added that in his house where they have two wood burners, the sweep comes every two or three years... "

Judging by the amount of "stuff" I remove when I sweep my lined chimneys he can't use his very much or has a secret I would love to know. Mind you, as he is an insurance agent he is probably minted & runs his fuel fired central heating all the time.:-) Brian, you once said you used a "product" or something to keep your chimney clean but didn't respond when I asked you what it was. Care to respond now?

Regarding the sweeping, I do my own, normally twice per season & wouldn't trust anybody else to do it. That way I know I'm unlikely to have a chimney fire.

Our insurance agent, being part of our social group and all, was asked this question on the back of an earlier SFN question on the same. He said that it is not and the only thing about it is that if the sweep leaves his certificate/piece of paper, whatever you'd like to call it, then we are covered. He also pointed out the fact that probably well over half the people calling themselves sweeps are nothing of the kind and the scribbled bit of paper is more likely to bring the insurance company to the conclusion that they do not have a claim they can pay out on. Closing note, he added that in his house where they have two wood burners, the sweep comes every two or three years...

Hi Grahame, I rely on SWMBO to tell me this as the contracts are in French. The reality is that we forget that insurance companies are NOT in business to protect us, but to protect their profits. They are not altruistic in any shape way or form, and if there is anyway they can minimise or refuse a payment then they will.

This is common to all countries. For example in Australia I had a tree fall on my house during a violent storm. My insurance policy was quite clear about 'damage caused by falling trees' so fair enough? Well, no it wasn't, as the clause said nothing about covering costs for the 'removal of the tree', which as it was an 80 foot pine (inherited when I bought the place). Neither did it say anything about damage to neighbours property, which fortunately didn't happen, but only became obvious during the argument with them.

The point I make is not what IS written, but what is often NOT written. An insurance policy is a Legal document, and how many of us are trained to understand these things?

If it isn't written in detail, then no 'reasonable assumptions' can be made.

Yes, I suppose I should do it myself and then pay someone to come and do it again and give me a certificate. I'm annoyed just thinking about it!

James I think we have all had these experiences. As in all things there are the good, the bad and the mass in between. My French wife always insisted we support the 'artisans' and I have always tried to support the little guy in business, in the often mistaken view that they would take more care and even value my business. Now I am more cautious, and only use those personally recommended to us - although even that doesn't always work.

Not sure about your insurance status by doing the job yourself, but at least hopefully that wouldn't be an issue as no-one (theoretically at least) would take more care of their property than the owner.

We had a 'pro' chimney sweep team come in and do it once. They left the place in a right mess afterwards, didn't reinstall the register plate and upon closer inspection, hadn't swept it sufficiently. I did get a certificate though. I do it myself now!

My understanding about chimney fires is very clear. Unless your chimney is cleaned every year by a registered 'ramoneur' - who provides an official receipt for the work then any fires and damaged caused are NOT covered by Insurance. This includes those who turn up on the doorstep offering the service AVOID,AVOID, AVOID!

A good thing about this, apart from the obvious, is that officially registered people will often discover a problem to be addressed before the fire season gets underway. That is also well worth remembering when buying a house - always check the receipts for work done.

It is very easy to criticise people for using a “cowboy” company and even easier to criticise those who use English people who have set up as artisans in France. However, having lived here for 11 years and used a number of very highly recommended French, Dutch and English artisans, there are good and bad regardless of nationality. The worst we have used was a French Roofer who came very highly recommended by 3 other French friends of ours, I have never met such a bunch of absolute amateurs in all my life and in the end we effectively kicked them off site and even our friends said the work done was terrible (and they all apologized for recommending them). On the other hand we used a French company to install our Fosse and their team of young guys were extremely experienced and very professional, it was amazing watching them. We used an English owned French Company to install our Wood Stove and again they were very good indeed. So to be honest, recommendations and research do not mean a good or professional job will be done; neither is nationality a pointer as to the standard of work that you will get. This is why in the end we decided that I would build our new extension myself, because I can guarantee that the work will be done to a standard that I am happy with (she who speaks thunder may disagree though!!!).

Kind Regards, Mike L

I thought the following may be of interest:

My woodburner was supplied and installed without a manual. I googled Bernard Davis Stoves, who it transpires are a reputable UK company who had dealings with a company in France in the past. I emailed him to ask for a manual giving him the low down on our story. He replied promptly and said that he regrets the dealings he had with the French supplier as he has had numerous complaints. It would appear that the installation is the major issue here as there are many unqualified installers fitting these stoves. Part of his email I display below:

"I regret that your supplier continues to use the name of Bernard
DAVIS to advertise stoves which might or might not be genuine BD&Co ones. I
have considered writing to him to demand that he ceases to use Bernard Davis
Stoves in his advertising but I am certain that I would, at best, be ignored
and, at worst, be a recipient of some invective. I am also sure that my
approaching the advertiser would be equally fruitless."

I have researched English law concerning 'Passing Off'' states: It states:

'no one is entitled to the use of any word or name, or indeed in any other way to represent his goods as being the goods of another to that other's injury.'

If you are purchasing a stove at a great price, no problem, if you are arranging the instalation yourself, again, no problem, the issues are with the installation which do not seem to comply with current French regulations which are covered in great detaiil by other posts

Remember, if you get the installation wrong, you could be putting lives at risk.

When I take a 'peek' occasionally I've noticed the same. My friend (referred to above) has said that too many threads are closed down because of 'disagreements' anyway let alone reasons like this. So, no debates tolerated, hardly discussions then if all is based on consensus only.


My point, which I didn't make clear Brian, was that new postings in general seem to be declining on AI with much the same people posting the same or very similar "discussions".

I hope they are heading this way then!

A new thread was started by someone this morning on AI concerning the same company. Lasted about 3 hours, but this time they didn't just delete posts, they took the whole topic down!