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.

Chimney fire burned Rachael Ray’s home

A home belonging to celebrity cook Rachael Ray was reportedly on fire in upstate New York. Images showed the flames shooting through the roof of the home.

Fire crews were battling flames at the home in Lake Luzerne, N.Y., as the Warren County Sheriff’s Office told ABC10 the residence belonged to the television personality.

Two weeks after a devastating fire nearly gutted Rachael Ray’s home, officials finally have released a cause. The Aug. 9 blaze at her manse began inside a fireplace chimney, state officials revealed on Friday.

Rachel Ray Home Chimney Fire

Fireplace built in 1933

fireplace-1933

Old but not abandoned. This fireplace was built in 1933 restored in 76and 2015 after the flood. It was originally attached to a picnic shelter that collapsed during the flood of 2013 — at Lavern M Johnson Park.

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.

Buying a Home? Three Reasons to Insist on a Fireplace Inspection

When choosing a home to purchase, today’s home buyers have many important decisions to make. When any home being considered has a fireplace, wood stove, or flue, insisting on a thorough inspection of these features is critical, especially when buyers intend to use these features as a supplemental or emergency heat source. If your are considering the purchase of a home with a fireplace, wood stove, or flue, here are three excellent reasons to get them professionally inspected by a certified inspector first.

1. Fire Safety

Because these features deal with heat and open flames, fire safety is the most important reason to insist upon a thorough inspection. Flues for wood stoves and fireplaces often have buildups of a substance called creosote.

Highly flammable, creosote results when there has been an incomplete combustion of the wood used to make a fire, and is a leading cause of chimney and flue fires. This can happen when the firewood has not been correctly seasoned before use, or when the fire has not received the proper amount of oxygen to allow it to burn hot enough to prevent creosote from forming.  Read more

Fireplace Repair Before and After

Here is a fireplace we cleaned & repaired and shows the fireplace before the work and after the fireplace repair and cleaning.

Dirty fireplace before repair fireplace repair and cleaning after

Fire On Ice Installation

Here is one of our most recent Fire On Ice Fireplace installations.

Fireplace Repair

Check out these before and after photos of a fireplace repair we did.

fire-place-before-repair fire-place-repair-after

How can a sweep help me to maintain a safe home?

Employing the services of a qualified chimney sweep is essential for maintaining the safety of your home. A professional chimney sweep not only cleans your flue, which can prevent the build-up of hazardous creosote as well as obstruction from nesting animals and debris, but he will inspect your chimney as well. A thorough inspection of your chimney is vital in order to prevent ghastly costs and safety issues that could result from untreated damages that might be lurking in your chimney. Failure to have your chimney swept and inspected by a qualified sweep can result in:chimney-sweeper-158077_640 Read more