Many homeowners think that chimneys do not require maintenance and last forever. However the age of a fireplace is very relevant to how safe it is to use. Most fireplaces and chimneys have an average life expectance of 30 to 40 years. Water, acids, carbon, and high temperatures all cause erosion and decay. Eventually, that breaks down the internal integrity of any chimney.
The Chimney Safety Institute reports that in the winter the biggest source of house fires are the use of fireplaces.
Approximately 25% of chimneys built between 1950 and 1990 have hazardous cracks and gaps which can result in a house fire. These often can not be detected without a video inspection. These cracks and gaps are usually repairable unless the structure of the chimney has been compromised.
In last month we have seen 2 prefabricated chimneys (built in 1990’s) which are factory built metal units, where the metal flue had rusted out. The holes in the metal created a fire hazard. These units are not repairable and can only be replaced. In both cases, the home inspector noted cracks in the refractory panels but failed to look up the fireplace to see the holes in the metal pipes.
If you have a home that is older than 25 years and you are using your fireplace and you have not had it inspected in the last 5 years, it is important that you get it inspected and cleaned as needed. The inspection should include a video inspection of the chimney flue to make sure no hazardous conditions exist. Lucky Sully Chimney Sweep includes this level 2 inspection as part of its inspection and cleaning services.