Installing a wood burner...... pros and cons

Looking for advice on the pros and cons of installing a wood burner in our house.

At the moment we have electric wall heaters in each room which are expensive but effective. We have no fireplace in the sitting room but was thinking of getting a woodburner installed and taking the flue out and up on the outside wall as our house is a detached one. We use the house as our holiday home and are still resident in the UK.

Can anyone one advise us on the :

  • Legal requirements

  • Costs approximate

  • Tax

  • Any issues that we need to consider

Thanks for any imput.



The cantons of France are territorial subdivisions of the French Republic's 342 arrondissements and 101 departments.

I have open fires, I love them. I burn oak. I don't like wood burners for all sorts of reasons probably to do with pyromaniac tendencies. I like candles too. I won't be at all happy if some busybody comes around telling me I can't use my fireplaces the way they've been used for 400-odd years. That said I have oil-fired central heating and electric hot water so the open fires aren't for much but general cosiness.

EU citizens can vote in all but a 'general' or national election, so yes there is actual representation if people are on the electoral register, otherwise as Véro says. The shake up is still to be implemented, it will just change what belongs in what and where, but the representatives will effectively remain the same in most cases as far as I understand.

The Canton is an electoral territorial division sending 2 representatives to the Conseil Général du Département, there are on average 9 communes in a canton. It is all being shaken up by the réforme des collectivités térritoriales now, or has just been shaken up. If you aren't French you probably can't vote, but it is still worth knowing who your representative is (I am French & I don't know what applies to foreigners in this respect).

These are the cantons for Haute Savoie, you live in one of them and should be able to use the link to find out who your members of the Conseil Général are

Annecy : CentreNord-EstNord-Ouest
Annemasse : NordSud
autres cantons : AbondanceAlby-sur-ChéranAnnecy-le-VieuxLe BiotBoëgeBonnevilleChamonix-Mont-BlancClusesCruseillesDouvaineÉvian-les-BainsFavergesFrangyReignier-ÉseryLa Roche-sur-ForonRumillySaint-Gervais-les-BainsSaint-JeoireSaint-Julien-en-GenevoisSallanchesSamoënsScionzierSeynodSeysselTaningesThônesThonon-les-Bains-EstThonon-les-Bains-OuestThorens-Glières

If the neighbours' heating installation is causing you problems, and speaking to them has had no effect, you have to proceed as follows

1) write them a letter with accusé de réception, outlining the problem and asking them to remedy it

2) get a huissier to come and make a constat of the actual nuisance caused to you by their heating installation

3) go to the mairie with all that

(if nothing is done within a reasonable time-frame, you can go for an accelerated procedure in front of the Juge des référés citing article 544 of the code civil demonstrating the abnormal and dangerous nature of the nuisance, since the Mairie has done nothing in spite of its duty to intervene under L 2212.2C of the code général des collectivités)

If you have actual smoke coming into your house, call the pompiers saying there is a fire but you don't know where it is, they will see where it is coming from and a procedure will automatically be put into effect.

There are 68 ramoneurs in Haute Savoie according to the annuaire des ramoneurs français, they must by law issue an insurance certificate when they have done the work, be it on an open fireplace, an insert, a woodburning stove, a boiler etc. You can't however, call in a ramoneur to do somebody else's installation unless they have mandated you to do so, and they will give the certificate to the owner of the installation, not to you, obviously.

Oh yes we do have cantons! I live in a village in the canton of Lalinde. See if you do not believe me. France is divided up by communes, communautés de communes, cantons, arrondissements, departments and regions. Thus I live in one of the 14 cantons of the arrondissement of Bergerac.

Swiss cantons are another thing altogether. Switzerland is a confederation of autonomous cantons and not a country. My wife comes from Ticino, which is the Italian speaking canton in the south where they have mostly different laws, regulations and so on to, for instance, German speaking Graubünden next to it, although there is also confederal law to give the cantons a unitary joint system for mainly international purposes.

However, that is all beside the point.

Anyway, the point is that if you do not get what you want from the commune, then your next step is the canton or communauté de communes and if that fails then the arrondissement (district if you like). If none of them can inform you then it is very likely they do not understand your enquiry. That you get no response from the pompiers is beyond belief, especially since you do not have to deal with the 'chief'.

As John says, the installation is wrong. If you have external tar of what is at the top of the flue burning rather than what is immediately above burning wood then the problem is so serious that the wood burner and installation should be immediately condemned. In the event of a fire the insurance company would not pay out a bean. Our regular (annual) sweep burns off excess tar and looks to see if it is heavily deposited more than a metre above the firebox, which it never has been. He looks at the top of the stack from the ground. Naturally there is always some tar in the flue and a bit that 'dribbles' over the edge of the stack but which is normally washed off by rain during the non-burning months. He is a fully trained heating engineer who does not only sweep chimneys but maintains other systems. If there is not at least one such person in at the very least your arrondissement then probably the insurance companies are laughing because it is somewhere they are not paying out money for what must be many chimney fires for lack of chimney sweeps and thus the certificates they provide to cover the demands of the insurers.

We do not have cantons in France. That is a Suisse designation. As to district, do you mean departmente or is there anoer juristiction?

Thanks John, there is wisdom in your reply.

My problem is that I need to find somebody to remove the creosote, as the local guys insist it is not a problem despite that they have never been up onto the roof to take a look.

There is a lot of ignorance here abouts. When I can live with it I do, but this is an issue about which I care, for both health and safety reasons.

I am not the owner of the poele. I live above the perpetrators, and their smoking creosote is entering my home.

There is an obstinence to acknowledge the problem so I am looking to fix it myself.

So back to first questions-how to find a company willing to fix it. The installer denies responsibility, owner the same.

I am threatening to call pompiers, but as the chef is cousin to the “perps” you can imagine the results.

I might call the insurance, but imagine that scandal when it is revealed that the stove is substandard and the ramoneur not certified.

Elizabeth, if you have a tar build up your stove isn't burning the fuel properly or you are burning wood that is too wet.

Good quality highly efficient stoves and gassification pellet stoves burn the creosotes in the wood and that give up to 30% increase in the heat output for no extra money.

Unfortunately in france the Flam Vert sticker appears on all sorts of old crap stoves, many of which haven't changed since the day they were cast last century.

That is the fault of france and they will have to pay the fines for not reducing the emissions and choking the people.

Open fires should be banned as garden fires are. All log burners less than 80% efficient should be taken off the market and it should be incentivised to trade in your old stove for a more efficient clean burning version.

In the UK we have legislation and only clean burning stoves passed by DEFRA are allowed in cities and towns.

What do you base this incorrect info on?

Yes, fuels that are used commercially do have the same chemical composition as wood, except for nuclear and hydro.
However, the industrial facilities have scrubbers and filters and must conform to regs and inspection which individual residential stoves do not.
Yes, soot can be brushed away, but tar/bitumen must most likely be burned off and local providers do not seem to have expertise in this.
You may not believe that a ramoneur does not provide a certificate, but it is correct.
Now, I need to contact a ramoneur who does know how to do this work, and the reason I have contacted SF is because I have explored many avenues to gain information, with, so far, no luck.
I hope somebody can provide a resource.
For example, how do you contact an office departementale for such guidance.
When I tried to report a chemical leak in my community I made many phone calls looking for a poison control emergency number, including the obvious emergency numbers.

Thanks so much for this link.
After a brief glance I am sure it will be valuable now and in future.

I am stunned by you not being able to find a local ramoneur who can give you the 'certificate'. If the mairie is that bad, then ask you district or canton's people.

As for the soot getting hot, turning red and so on, you have a problem. We have a sweep who uses something like a blow torch to loosen tar build up, but soot itself brushes off. If external tar is burning then your flue is not safe because that would imply that it is not just tar particle smoke leaving deposits but that the fire itself is burning in the flue. It takes quite a high temperature for the tar to burn externally.

Incidentally, oil heating produces far more carbonates, costs more, uses more energy and materials to source, refine and then deliver than wood according to all scientific studies. Electric heating is excessively expensive in France and unreliable in some areas (we, for instance, lose power very often) and gas is only efficient and economical if you are on a supply line rather than buying bottles. It also produces carbonates. It appears we are in a 'swings and roundabouts' situation.

As for bans on stoves and open fires, well coal burning sure is. I remember moving to London in the early/mid-1950s and the legendary smogs where one could extend their arm and not see the tips of their fingers - and I was eight years old! Coal burning was banned by the mid-1960s but wood burning has never been banned but regulated. In Paris too. Bear in mind that several European countries are still producing electricity by burning coal and a few using general garbage from the dumps. Neither is any healthier than wood.

What is WBS

You could try Rootstock

How do you find an expat business search.
Had no luck so far with my usual trails

I hope as you read all the advice that you will decide against this method of heating.
Soon it will be banned.
Your health is also at risk.
The pollution pouring into this village is very visible when there is a weather inversion.

Carbon Kills.
The smog is returning due to wood urners.
Pollution worse than from lead fuel car emissions.