A1 Flues
A1 Flues


Are chimney and flue standards up to the Mark?

A1 Director John Hamnett's article in the latest edition of H&V News asks Are chimney and flue standards up to the Mark?

Here's the article in full.

As the UK government triggers Article 50 and formally starts negotiations to leave the European Union, John Hamnett from A1 Flue Systems ponders the future of the standards that UK flue and chimney manufacturers will have to work to, moving forward.

Let’s be honest: the vast majority of the UK flue and chimney market still hasn’t got to grips with the mandatory, EU-wide CE Mark for manufacturing standards that came into force in July 2013.

So what happens next is anyone’s guess. One thing I do know is that there will be some sections of our industry that will use the fact that Theresa May has fired the Brexit starting pistol as an excuse to tell their customers and contractors that the CE Mark no longer applies (probably to mask the fact that they never achieved the required level of compliance in the last four years).

I also know that they’d be completely and utterly wrong because whether we like it or not, the CE Mark is here to stay – possibly for years after Britain has left the EU for three reasons.

The first is that the introduction of the CE Mark was such a Herculean task for the construction industry and it’s taken years to be implemented, so there’s no appetite for another seismic change again soon. Before I go on, I must point out that in our experience, it’s very clear that the CE Mark has not been bedded in effectively, as we come across specifiers and QSs all the time that still don’t really understand the fine print. They are continually being hoodwinked by firms using a one-size-fits-all CE Mark certificate that isn’t worth with the paper it’s photocopied on.

The second goes hand in hand with the first in that a sizable chunk of UK flue and chimney firms import the bulk of their pipes and components from Europe, so, whether they like it or not, they will still be trading in CE-Marked products.

So it appears to be a case of “stick to what you know” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. That’s fine – but the problem is that parts of it are already broken.

Take free-standing chimneys as an example. For years before the CE Mark, they were covered by BS:4076. It was a good standard and everyone in our industry knew where they were with it, but under the umbrella of the CE Mark, it was superseded by BSEN 1993-3-2 (this being the Eurocode for the design of chimneys). But the problem is that it is not a standard because it remains incomplete (mainly due to the fact that one of the world’s foremost experts on steel chimneys was at the forefront of developing the unified Eurocode but sadly passed away before his work was finished). The industry is already having to work between two codes, and it’s causing havoc on Cat III design checks.

The third, and most damning, point is who is there in the UK to pick all this up and create a set of standards and legalisation? The answer is nobody.

I’d love an organisation like the British Standards Institute (BSI) to move on from being a body that simply sells you a standard and audits the paperwork to becoming a bastion of British Standards that are revered around the world as the very highest standards of manufacture. And, equally importantly, it’d have the teeth to bite those who wilfully ignore the standards.

It could also spread its influence wider into areas such as the legalisation that I mentioned earlier. The first thing it could address would be the Clean Air Act, as parts of it just haven’t moved with the times – and it needs to.

This is best illustrated by the advances by boiler manufacturers with the new generation of condensing boilers, double stack boilers and CHPs. You can also include the diesel generators that have catalytic converters to give an overall picture of more-efficient, less-polluting boilers – which means that the termination heights of chimney systems do require a complete review, as in most cases they should be lowered.

Brexit is giving us a once in a generation opportunity to set new standards for flue and chimney manufacture, but will the UK think ‘big picture’ enough to take it?