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Safe Fireplace Use

Submitted by SterlingBrown on Sun, 06/09/2019 - 12:40

                                Fireplace Safety
     Wood-burning fireplaces create an ambiance it’s hard to beat with any other heating method. There’s something about sitting in front of a wood-burning fireplace with its colorful display of flame and aroma of burning wood that seems to fulfill a basic human need.
     Like many other appliances in our homes, fireplaces do require a certain degree of maintenance and the occasional inspection by a competent chimney sweep. During the course of a home inspection, certain parts of the fireplace will be inspected for operation.
     Generally speaking, a home inspection is limited to those things that are visible and readily accessible; the interior of the chimney is not typically included.  
     The major safety issue that arises from the routine use of the fireplace is
creosote buildup inside of the flu and chimney itself. If allowed to accumulate
any thickness it can become a real fire hazard. Also over the years, normal
usage can cause deterioration of the interior components of the fireplace, flue,
and chimney.  
While these are not usually revealed in the course of a regular home inspection a certified chimney sweep is trained and equipped to inspect the interior of the chimney and visible exterior portions such as where it passes through the attic and that portion above the roof line. Common faults are cracks in the flue lining, which can lead to smoke escaping from the chimney into the attic space, defective crowns or chimney caps, the actual liner, and missing components such as a chimney cap and rain screen.
     A homeowner can perform some rudimentary checks on the operation of the
doors, screens, and damper. The amount of creosote buildup can also be checked by the homeowner if they can reach up above the smoke shelf into the chimney itself. Properly outfitted with safety glasses, a mask, a screwdriver and bright flashlight, the client can peer up into the chimney and scratch the creosote. As a rule of thumb if it’s less than 1/8 of an inch thick no cleaning is likely needed. If it falls between a 1/8 and 1/4 inch, schedule a cleaning as soon as practical. For creosote buildup, over 1/4 inch the recommendation is to not use the fireplace until it is cleaned as a chimney fire could occur.
      We never recommend a homeowner attempt cleaning the chimney themselves. This would require accessing the roof to do the job properly and unless trained and equipped this is always a risky exercise.
     The National Fire Protection Association, www.nfpa.org, recommends chimneys for wood-burning appliances be inspected annually but, this will vary with usage and the items that are burned in the fireplace. Trash should never be disposed of by burning in the fireplace. Remember, some waste items that might be burnable often release toxic fumes when they are burned.
     A good starting point for selecting a local chimney sweep is the Chimney Safety Institute of America, www.csia.org, or calling 800536-0118

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Mid-America Inspection Service                       www.midamericainspection.com 218-443-3555

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Submitted by SterlingBrown on Sun, 06/09/2019 - 12:40