Stove Baffle-Throat Plates a Chimney Sweeps View

 

This article will cover the following.

  • The Busy Sweep Season & Common Chimney Problems

  • What is a Throat/Baffle Plate?

  • The safety issues and drawbacks of badly fitted Throat/Baffle Plates

 

After such a hectic past few months rushing around trying to fit all our last minute customers in, the New Year always starts at more of a steadier pace. With everyone returning back to work and feeling slightly poorer after the festive season, having the chimney swept is no longer the top of the priority list for the majority of people.

This Warping of the throat plate is most often caused by soot, ash and chimney debris accumulating over time

The Busy Sweep Season & Common Chimney Problems

With many years of experience within the Chimney sweep industry myself and the ladies who work for me have come to expect this, and over time I have managed to secure a number of maintenance contracts that helps to keep us plodding along until the Spring when our customers have finished having regular fires and start to think of the spring cleaning.

A number of our sweep jobs in the first few months of the New Year consist of problem chimneys! With customer’s ringing to say they have a room full of smoke as their fire is down drafting when they first light it (normal caused by a change in the weather) to people ringing after having a soot fall or chimney fire as a result of not having their chimney swept for the last 10 years! I could list a long long list of issues but one that has been highlighted more recently as being an issue within the industry is with Baffle and/or Throat plates within the increasingly popular wood burning and multifuel stoves.

What is a Throat/Baffle Plate?

With there being such a diverse range of designs and manufacturers of wood burning and multifuel stoves it is no surprise that although they follow the same design concept they are all very different in the way the Baffle/Throat plate is secured within the stove, each varying design with its own quirks! Some being wonderful and straight forward to remove while others require a great deal more patience and a knack.

Even the name is not straight forward, I had always known this plate as a Throat plate as the Parkray and Charnwood room heater (I swept so frequently swept when I started my sweeping career) had ‘Throat plate’ cast on to them but I am also very aware that many manufacturers instruction booklets and people in the industry know the plate as a ‘Baffle plate’…truly baffling.

For the purpose of this article I shall continue to refer to it as the Throat plate. Throat Plates

The material in which the Throat plate is manufactured from also differ from stove to stove. The more modern fire brick plates over time can wear and crack. Often when we arrive these have hairline cracks and when it comes to removing the plate to gain access to sweep the chimney they can break apart on removal, not good news for the sweep or the customer. We have taken to having a good inspection first and if this looks like a possibility then we make sure the customer is aware and happy for us to go ahead.

Then to the more traditional cast iron Throat plates, they are certainly sturdy but have issues with warping and bowing out of shape. This can be quite a problem for us sweeps as when we arrive and the plate is warped out of shape it is firmly wedged into place, we are then occasionally unable to remove the plate at all, or at other times we have to spend a great deal of time trying to remove it at various different angles, again not good news for the sweep or the customer. This Warping of the throat plate is most often caused by soot, ash and chimney debris accumulating over time upon the throat plate which is then left to sit there, when the intense heat and gasses are added in to the equation, issues then arise.

The Safety Issues and Drawbacks of Stove Throat/Baffle Plates

This particular subject is also a massive safety issue, if these deposits are left to build up it can cause a blockage within the base of the fluepipe, not allowing the gasses to escape into the flue and chimney, therefore backing up in the stove and spilling into the room where the appliance is installed this can cause smoke damage aswell as a carbon monoxide risk.

Easy and regular removal of the plate is neededThis could all be very simply avoided or certainly reduced by the throat plate being regularly removed and cleared of all deposits, with manufacturers, installers and sweeps alike recommending this to be done, but there seems to be a variation on how regularly, some saying at least every year with others recommending much more frequently from monthly to weekly.

Although this all sounds very straight forward it seems to be a little known fact amongst stove owners. Not too surprising when there does not seem to be a set well-known and publicised industry standard.

For the customers who are aware and willing this is not helped by the complex designs in some stoves making it tricky for an experienced sweep, so to expect an everyday household stove user to be able to happily dismantle and reassemble the various components is quite an ask especially as some appliances are a lot like a large jigsaw puzzle.

Traditional Range CookersOther plates we come across are have been bolted in to position with the bolts being firmly ceased, these were definitely not designed with sweeping or regular removal in mind. These are impossible to remove without taking more drastic action. Occasionally in these cases where the throat plate is not easily removable we are pleased to find an access panel in fluepipe or chimney breast to gain alternative assess for sweeping. But then the throat plate still needs clearing of debris and there is not always a great deal of space to be able to get flue brushes and vacuum attachments in to be able to guarantee this is all clear to the standard we would like.

So in conclusion regular sweeping and servicing of the appliance will help to reduce issues with the throat plate becoming caked with chimney matter and potentially becoming very dangerous, as well as issues with it becoming misshaped, inefficient, cracked and damaged, needing a potentially costly replacement part.

The frequent cleaning of the throat plate and or baffle plate should certainly be made a lot clearer to the customer by repetition from the Manufacturer’s instructions, the installer fitting the appliance and by the chimney sweep, all helping to protect the customer by relaying the same information, as the old saying goes ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’. If all manufacturers could also keep in mind that easy and regular removal of the plate is needed, hopefully over time this will become a well-known fact and industry standard.

I would like to add that not all stove models and makes are tricky and awkward with some being very well thought out pieces of design.

Throat PlatesEnding on a High note whilst still on the subject of regular maintenance, myself and Val Sweep who works for me were lucky enough to be asked to attend two old Victorian terrace houses in central York that were being refurbished and turned into offices. In the cellars of these two properties were the traditional range cookers, one of them also still having the old copper (set pot) intact. Truly beautiful pieces of forgotten history, hidden in the cellars that had most definitely not been regular maintained and were thick with rust and corrosion from the damp. They were in a very sorry state but thankfully the company had decided to keep them and had asked us to sweep and refurbish them back to a state resembling their former selves. We were most honoured and spent two days in full on-site PPE, enthusiastically sanding, scrubbing and polishing and after a great deal of elbow grease our hard work paid off. I could have easily got carried away in the detail and spent weeks aiming for perfection but with the work we have put in will help preserve these beautiful ranges for hundreds of years to come. We truly love the diversity of our work.

 

Katie Sweep

 

 

Read more from Katie Sweeps Diary https://www.fireplace.co.uk/chimney-sweep-diarist/59

 

 

 

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