Is your fireplace safe?

Most people seem to think their fireplaces are safe, even though they have not had them cleaned or inspected for years, or even decades. This may not be the case. Over 15,000 home fires a year in the U.S. are attributed to fireplaces and chimneys.

I did a random survey of properties where we cleaned or inspected the chimney and fireplace during a 5 day period last October.

  • 7 if 23 properties inspected were in good condition and only needed cleaning.
  • 7 of the 23 properties had cracks in the flue that were a fire hazard and which required the chimney to be relined.
  • 9 of the properties had other issues such as cracks between bricks that needed repair, cracks in the chimney crown, missing caps/spark arrestors, or faulty control modules on a gas fireplace.

Our recommendations are that if you have a masonry fireplace that is over 25 years old, it is probably a good idea to get the chimney inspected with a video inspection as there is about a 25% chance that you have cracks in the flue which are a fire hazard.

Even if you have been getting your chimney swept regularly, if the chimney sweep has not done a video inspection of the flue, you might still have a fire hazard. Last fall, Rachael Ray (TV Host) had her house burn down because of cracks in the flue, even though she was getting the chimneys swept regularly.
Many sweeps only do a visual inspection or at most use a hand held mirror. These techniques are only effective in very short chimneys. We used to charge extra for video inspections but now include those with all inspections or cleanings.

It is also recommended that all fireplaces/chimneys be inspected when a home is being sold. If you are a buyer, you don’t want to find out that the fireplace or chimney needs major repair work after you close escrow.

All properties with Rampart General Precast fireplaces (built from the 1960’s to mid 1990’s need to be inspected as they are prone to cracking in the fireplace and the flue. If you can see long vertical cracking on the outside of these fireplaces, get the cracks repaired immediately before the damage becomes more extensive, as sometimes the only repair is to tear down the chimney.

Very Dirty Chimney

Very, very dirty Chimney after chimney fire! Then you can see what it looks like after we cleaned it.

Dirty chimney before and after sweeping

Why you should only used a licensed and insured chimney sweep

csiaMany chimney sweeps are not licensed, bonded or insured.  Sometimes companies hire “subcontractors” who also have no insurance or licenses.  It is not illegal for someone not to have a license if the work they do is under $500, however, there is a danger in having someone climb up on your roof with no insurance.  The danger is that if they fall and get hurt, they can sue you.

Today, a customer told me that he had a friend who had a chimney sweep fall from his roof and die. This was 15 years ago.  The homeowner was sued.

So before you let anyone climb on your roof, check if they have insurance.

Why all pre-cast chimneys should be inspected prior to close of escrow

pre-cast chimney on roof

Here is a quote from a property inspection report done  by a property inspection company last week on a home in Lake Forest:

“Pre-cast concrete chimneys were built in factories and then trucked to a site and erected, as distinct from masonry chimneys that are built on site with individual bricks and mortar.  In this respect, pre-cast chimneys are unique.   However, like all masonry chimneys, they are vulnerable to seismic activity, but unlike masonry chimneys they are also subject to cracks that are induced by the interaction of moisture and a chemical additive that causes the reinforcing steel within the chimney to expand and crack  the chimney walls.  Such cracks can be small, but they are nonetheless subject to stringent repair methods.  However, if any crack penetrates the chimney wall it may be difficult to repair the chimney without costly repairs or replacement or possibly relining the chimney. For this reason, we recommend that all pre-cast chimneys be further inspected/video scanned or certified by a specialist before close of escrow.”

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It pays to inspect your fireplace early

Dirty fireplace before repair

It’s recommended that chimney’s are inspected every year. Almost everyone waits until the fall, so it’s difficult for the chimney sweep to service everyone well.

It really makes a lot more sense to do them at the end of the burning season in the event there are any repairs that need to be made before the unit may be put back into operation.

The last thing you want to hear the week before the big holiday party is that there are repairs needed to your fireplace before you can use it.

Watch a Chimney being Cleaned

Here is a before and after video of a chimney being cleaned in Costa Mesa, CA.

BEFORE

 

AFTER

Dirty Chimney Cleaned

Here is a before and after of a very dirty chimney we recently cleaned by chimney sweeping. What a difference!

dirty chimney before and after

Dirty Chimney cleaned in Lake Forest

Here is a dirty chimney we cleaned in Lake Forest, Ca. If your chimney looks like this (before pic) give us a call!

dirty chimney before & after pictures

Chimney Repair

Chimney repair before, during, and after.

chimney-repair-during chimney-repair-before chimney-repair-after

I use a gas furnace, do I still need to clean my flue?

While most homeowners are aware of the need to clean and inspect their flue if they use a wood burning fireplace or stove, many are not aware of the importance of cleaning and inspecting their flue when gas furnaces and other gas heating appliances are involved.question-mark-358143_640

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