Need Fireplace Or Stove Service, Installation, Or Repair? Call On Coeur d’Alene’s NFI Certified Master Hearth Professionals

Could you use some assistance with your fireplace, stove, or insert? I am an Idaho licensed HVAC Hearth Contractor, Washington State General Contractor, CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, F.I.R.E. Certified Inspector, and NFI Certified Master Hearth Professional (Gas, Pellet, & Wood), and I can help. No matter what make or model your fireplace, insert, wood burning stove, or gas burning heater is, you can count on me to provide top notch service, maintenance, and repairs.

I service, troubleshoot, install, and repair:

  • Gas Fireplaces
  • Woodstoves
  • Pellet Stoves
  • Wood & Pellet Fireplace Inserts
  • Chimneys & Stove Pipes

I am also here to meet your every Tulikivi Heater need.

Why You Need To Have Your Fireplace Or Stove & Chimney Serviced

Burning, whether it be gas or solid fuel, creates heat and combustion byproducts, which can include soot, creosote, moisture, and ash. This can take a toll on the stove or fireplace and can:

  • crack firebrick
  • abrade refractory panels
  • rust parts
  • clog catalytic combustors, chimney caps, fans, blowers, and flues

Likewise, buildup can reduce draft and increase fire risk, and blockages in the flue can cause house fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

That’s why it’s important that you have your hearth appliance regularly inspected and cleaned. Cleanings and inspections can keep problems at bay, reduce fire risk, prevent damage, and help prolong the service life of your chimney and appliance.

Fireplace and Stove Troubleshooting

When it comes to chimneys, stove pipes, fireplaces, stoves, and inserts, there are too many possible problems to list here, but most of them are preventable. Lack of proper maintenance is the root cause of most burning appliance and chimney issues, so simply keeping up with annual inspections, sweepings, service, and repairs can keep your system in tip-top shape.

Service & Repair

All hearth appliances, whether gas-burning, wood-burning, or pellet-burning, need regular maintenance and repairs from time to time. I can take care of it all for you. I specialize in the service and repair of gas fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves, and wood and pellet inserts, and I can make sure everything is clean, free of damage, and working properly — burn season after burn season.

Need repairs? From pilot light replacement and gasket replacement to auger replacement, I do it all. And since I am NFI-certified to work with gas-, pellet-, and wood-burning appliances, you can count on me to do the job right and to provide expert advice on upkeep, no matter what type of appliance you have.

Troubleshooting — Common Causes Of Smoky Fireplaces

One of the most common problems I get called about is smoky fireplaces.

Smoky fireplaces and smoke stains above the fireplace are proof of a performance problem. What you may not know is that soot stains are carbon particles. If you have soot stains inside your home, you have also had carbon monoxide (CO) inside your home. In other words, soot stains are not only unsightly, they can indicate that the air in your home has been compromised and contaminated with dangerous fumes.

Investigation is needed to determine the cause of the problem so that it can be fixed, but here are some of the most common causes:


The first thing to check is that the damper is opened before a fire is started. If the damper is stuck shut or you’ve forgotten to open it, the smoke will not have a way out of the chimney, and will instead come back into your home.

If a broken damper is the problem, I can replace it for you so you can enjoy a smoke-free fire once more. If that’s not the problem, you’ll want to move on to the next troubleshooting step.

Cold Flue

The next troubleshooting step would be to preheat the flue using a tightly rolled up newspaper, lit like a torch. Hold the newspaper up inside of the flue for a few moments before lighting a fire in your fireplace. You can also try blowing a hair dryer up into the flue for a few minutes before you light a fire.

The idea behind warming the flue is this: in the winter, the flue is likely cold. Because warm air rises and cool air falls, you must warm the flue in order to reverse the air flow and send smoke and byproducts up and out of the home.

Fireplace Size

Another common cause of smoke problems is fireplace size. Large fireplaces are stunning and a beautiful feature in any room, but fireplaces must be built within a general set of proper sizing guidelines.

Standard American fireplaces should be designed with a 10:1 ratio of fireplace opening to flue size (square or rectangular flues). Length x width of fireplace opening provides the fireplace size; length x width of flue tile provides the cross-sectional area of the chimney. Severe rectangles may need an 8:1 ratio, while round flues should provide a minimal 12:1 ratio, as a round flue drafts more easily.

If the fireplace opening is overly large for the size of the flue, the chimney cannot adequately remove the byproducts of combustion — the amount of air entering the fireplace must be equal to the amount of air exiting the chimney. The good news is, it’s much easier to reduce the size of the fireplace opening than it is to enlarge the chimney, and there are several ways of doing this:

  • Install a smoke guard, which decreases the size of the fireplace opening at the top.
  • Install glass doors so that the frame overlaps the firebox opening, again, reducing the size of the fireplace opening.
  • Raise the fire by laying a row of brick on the fireplace floor or using a taller fire grate or tall andirons.
  • Rebuild the firebox to the appropriate dimensions.
  • Install a fireplace insert (wood, gas, or pellet) with a new chimney liner that’s properly sized for the insert.

The Bigger Openings Of Multi-Sided Fireplaces

Because see-through or multi-sided fireplaces have much bigger openings, they almost always smoke to some extent. The flue serving such fireplaces must be considerably larger in order to carry the volume of air needed by the multi-sided fireplace.

I frequently get asked about removing the rear wall of an existing fireplace to make it a see-through to the room behind it. The problem is: a chimney that was designed to vent a fireplace with a single opening cannot handle having its fireplace opening size doubled. Even if you find a mason who will do this job for you, it’s not a good idea and never functions properly.

Chimney Design

An exterior chimney stays colder in the winter than an interior chimney, especially in harsh climates. In order to draft properly and remove smoke from the home, the chimney must be warm enough to draw air up, so an exterior chimney, although a common design, can present drafting problems. If you’re building a home or adding a chimney, consider building the chimney on the interior of the home if possible.

Likewise, chimney flues should be built as straight as possible, as turns and offsets increase resistance in draft and slow the exit of smoke and fumes (which can cause heavy buildup and back puffing).

Chimney Height

In order to achieve proper draft, the chimney needs to be at least 3’ higher than the roof where it penetrates it, and 2’ taller than anything within 10’. This is known as the 3, 2, in 10 rule.

On chimneys with multiple flues, the flue terminations should be staggered in height (one higher than the other), to help prevent one flue from sucking smoke from the other one down into the home (this is known as flow reversal).

It’s best practice to have the chimney built near the peak of the roof, rather than on the lower side, to minimize stack effect problems. Stack effect is when there is a big difference in air pressure between the indoor and outdoor air. Warmer air inside the house rises and exits the home from the upper sections, like the roof vent or upstairs windows. Make-up air then has to come from somewhere to replace the air that is exiting.

Make-up air likes to take the path of least resistance, such as down the chimney, but if the chimney is in use, this can cause a competition between the cold air being sucked down the chimney and the smoke simultaneously trying to escape. The result is back puffing.

Negative Pressure

In my compulsive obsession to design energy-efficient, “airtight” homes, I often don’t consider that there must be means for outdoor air to enter the house so I may operate the devices I use inside it. Chimneys must pull air from somewhere to provide combustion air for the fire AND allow an updraft so smoke and fumes can exit, so air must be supplied at an equivalent rate at which it’s taken from the home. In other words, you need to be bringing in air to replace the air leaving through the chimney.

Extremely airtight homes can prevent chimneys from operating properly, especially when other air-moving devices — such as furnaces, bathroom vents, kitchen vents, attic fans, clothes dryers, etc. — are being used. Again, replacement air for these devices and for the chimney may be entering through the chimney because it has no other way in. This can cause back puffing.

A solution could be to crack the window closest to the fireplace to provide extra air for the fireplace and make sure no exhaust fans or clothes dryers are being used in your home at the same time. If your chimney used to work well and now doesn’t, consider what has changed that could affect the ability to draft — like weatherstripping, replacement windows, new siding, extra insulation, room additions, new appliances, or anything else that could tighten up the home.

Note: High efficiency clothes dryers that dry clothes more quickly can use a lot more air to operate than traditional clothes dryers.

Chimney and fireplace professionals like those here at Armour Chimney Service may be able to suggest alterations to improve or cure your smoking or malfunctioning fireplace, so have your fireplace checked by a pro if it’s not working properly. But remember, using the best principles of design for a fireplace or stove installation may not overcome the design of the house or the way that air enters it and leaves it. Simply put, we in the fireplace industry cannot solve smoke and draft problems in every situation.

Installation — How To Choose An Installer

When installing a new hearth appliance in your home, there are a lot of things to consider. For example: which fuel type is right for you and which appliance is right for you? But when making your decision, don’t forget to also consider which installer is right for you.

Proper licensing is a good place to start in your search for a qualified installer. An HVAC or HVAC Specialty License is required by the state of Idaho to install factory-built fireplaces, chimneys, and hearth appliances like wood stoves, pellet stoves, and gas-burning heaters. The Idaho Division of Building Safety maintains a website of HVAC license holders. A refined license search by HVAC license type can be done here.

The National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certification is another important certification for installers to have. If you look at the installation instructions that came with your appliance, you’ll likely see the NFI-certified logo, along with a recommendation that you have your new wood stove, pellet stove, gas stove, fireplace, or insert installed by an NFI-certified professional. You can find or verify an NFI-certified installer on the NFI website.

No matter what type of appliance you’re purchasing, you can count on Armour Chimney Service to install it right. I am also experienced and certified to install a chimney or stove pipe for your new hearth appliance. I’ll take care of everything, quickly and professionally.

Tax Deductions, Solid Fuel Tax & Emission Performance Standards To Consider

Specific states have specific rules and tax considerations for each fuel type and appliance.

Idaho — The state of Idaho offers taxpayers a tax deduction to replace old, uncertified wood stoves with new EPA-certified wood stoves, pellet stoves, or natural gas/propane heater appliances.

Washington — Washington state has some of the strictest laws regulating wood burning, and has set emission performance standards for woods toves, fireplaces, and solid fuel-burning devices. Excessive chimney smoke is prohibited by state law. Smoke is measured by the percentage of opacity (can you see through the smoke?) If the smoke is so thick you can’t see objects through it, it’s 100% opacity. Except for 20 minutes allowed for start-up and refueling, “smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.”

Furthermore, there is a $30 fee on the sale of new solid fuel-burning devices, including wood stoves, pellet stoves, coal stoves, wood furnaces, and manufactured fireplaces or masonry fireplaces that burn a solid fuel. The fee pays for wood stove education and enforcement programs. More information about the tax can be found at the Department of Revenue.

Spokane — Spokane has burn bans! When air pollution gets bad enough to threaten the public health, wood burning is prohibited. For more information and a list of exemptions, please see the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency. For even more information, see the WA Department of Ecology’s Air Quality Wood Stove & Fireplace Information page.

For All Your Fireplace, Stove & Insert Needs, Call On Armour Chimney Service

Could your hearth use a little attention? Even if all you need is a replacement fire screen, I am the one to call. I service single- and multi-family homes, restaurants, commercial properties, and apartment and condominium complexes of all sizes, and you can count on my NFI– and CSIA-certified team to provide expert, prompt service. Call me at 208-550-8474 or click here if I can be of service!


Chimney and masonry repair should be performed by an experienced chimney and venting services professional. Call Armour Chimney Service today.

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