Installing a new factory-built fireplace to bring better heating to your home than a current open masonry fireplace is a smart move. But like with all fire-based appliances, there are some potential dangers you should be aware of beforehand.
Today’s pre-made fireplaces are built much safer than those in past decades. As to efficiency, the EPA makes sure they adhere to the highest standards. What follows are some of the ways that factory-built fireplaces still may present a danger in your home.
Fireplace safety can be compromised when the unit is improperly installed. This usually happens when the work is done by someone who lacks the necessary knowledge and tools.
Both gas and wood fireplaces have various components that must be checked during installation to ensure they’re working properly. This is especially true where venting systems are concerned. A typical “handyman” or someone even less experienced may not know how to perform necessary safety checks.
Installed too close to combustible materials
Beyond making sure every part of the new factory-built fireplace is in good working order, the location of the installation must be chosen wisely. Modern fireplaces made by top manufacturers are built to be safe in “close proximity” to sheetrock, beams, insulation and other materials of the home – but “close proximity” can mean different things.
Fireplace manufacturers specify how close to combustible materials their units can safely be installed. It’s the responsibility of the installation technician to know these specs and place the appliance accordingly. Ignoring this step can result in damage to the home and possibly a devastating house fire.
Not cleaned and inspected regularly
Any fireplace can become a danger to a home and the people living in it when it isn’t inspected, cleaned and maintained on a regular basis. For a gas pre-built fireplace, you should schedule an annual safety inspection by a certified professional and have any needed repairs taken care of promptly. Gas fireplace maintenance includes basic cleaning according to
the manufacturer’s instructions.
For wood fireplaces, flammable creosote needs to be removed from the venting system at least once a year. Only a CSIA-certified chimney technician should do this job. Wood pre-built fireplaces also require annual inspections to check for signs of malfunction and component damage so repairs can be made.
A neglected fireplace can quickly become a dangerous fireplace, because many of the issues that may arise are ones the homeowner normally won’t be aware of until a serious problem exists. This is why regular inspections are so important.
Real estate fireplace inspections
Finally, if you’re moving into a new home that has an existing factory-built fireplace, you’ll want to make sure it has had a Level 2 inspection. This inspection is standard when a home is being sold and is often referred to as a real estate inspection or video chimney inspection. A Level 2 chimney inspection should always be performed by a certified fireplace technician, not a general home inspector.
By being aware of the guidelines above, you’ll be taking all the right steps to get the most enjoyment and longest life out of your gas or wood factory-built fireplace.
Fluesbrothers Chimney & Fireplace of Kansas City, KS, is available year-round to help with all your fireplace and vent system needs. We provide CSIA-certified chimney and vent cleaning, fireplace and chimney repairs and complete inspections for all types of factory-built and other heating appliances. Speak with an expert today at (913) 236-7141.
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