Moving into a new home means you have a lot of things to learn and check out. One of the most important is the existing fireplace/chimney system. Before you fire up your fireplace, here are some things you’ll want to know.
The chimney needs an inspection
Whether the seller or you as the buyer arranges it, the chimney must be inspected. In fact, in most jurisdictions, it is the law. The inspection should be done by a CSIA-certified (Chimney Safety Institute of America) technician, not a common home inspector.
A real estate chimney inspection is an in-depth process that goes over all accessible areas of the internal and external chimney including components such as the chimney cap, chimney crown, roof flashing, chimney liner and more. Chimney inspectors use advanced video technology to allow them to see “hidden” areas within the flue in order to check for damage to the mortar and chimney liner. Technically referred to as a Level 2 inspection, a real estate chimney inspection also includes looking at the attic, basement and crawl spaces and ensuring that combustible materials of the home near the chimney will be safe when the fireplace is being used.
Important chimney safety precautions
After your initial inspection is finished and any issues are dealt with, you’re ready to use your fireplace. But keep in mind that chimneys require regular inspections and cleaning to keep them safe and operating efficiently.
Most fire-safety agencies and hearth organizations like CSIA recommend annual chimney sweep services to remove flammable creosote buildups and any debris that may have gotten into the flue.
Creosote causes most of the chimney fires in the U.S. each year. Both creosote and debris such as falling leaves and twigs as well as the nests of small animals will narrow the flue passage and cause smoke to draft inefficiently.
A poorly drafting chimney can make fires hard to start and maintain. It also can send smoke back into the house. Carbon monoxide, which is present in varying amounts in combustion smoke, can be fatal to humans and pets. Certified chimney sweeps have the tools and equipment to clean your chimney thoroughly and prevent excess creosote and air-flow problems.
Safely using your fireplace
You can help to keep your chimney clean and safe by following these best practices:
Burn only dry (seasoned) wood as it creates much less creosote-causing smoke.
Make sure the chimney has a flue cover or full-width chimney cap at the top to block debris.
Never burn household trash, colored paper, pressed wood, plastics, cardboard, broken furniture or anything other than wood logs. These materials release toxic gasses and make a lot of smoke.
Call a professional chimney technician immediately if you notice these signs of a chimney leak:
Water in the firebox
White staining on the chimney’s exterior masonry
Strong, unpleasant odors coming from the fireplace
Damp patches on the ceiling and walls near the fireplace
Unusual musty smells in the attic or basement
Also, contact a chimney tech if you notice signs of a chimney fire:
Odd clicking or tapping noises
The sound of rumbling, like from a distant train
Large volumes of dense, black smoke coming out either end of the chimney
As noted, have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected once a year. Fluesbrothers Chimney & Fireplace of Kansas City, KS, provides CSIA-certified chimney real estate inspections and other types of inspections, chimney sweep services and complete chimney repair and rebuilding. We’re here to keep your chimney safe and strong. Call us today at (913) 236-7141.
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