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2 Steps to Avoid A Chimney Fire

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2 Steps to Avoid A Chimney Fire

On January 23, 2014, Posted by , In Inspectors Corner, With 3 Comments

If I Knew Then What I Know Now.

As a Home Inspector my views have changed. I now know that certain areas in my home require closer inspection to ensure my family’s safety. The last thing I want is for my family to be harmed from something that could have been prevented.

I’ll Fix It Later…

We all have those moments of ‘I’ll do it later’ and for most of us we forget until there’s that nudge from our other half.We don’t intend to forget, but life can get in the way and things will fall to the back of our mind until later that day, on the weekend, a few months, or for some – after it’s too late.

Over the years I’ve learned – the hard way at times – that I shouldn’t have put off certain home maintenance tasks. At first glance occasional areas of my family’s home would look alright so I would move on to the next item only to find out that something was more serious than I had originally thought.

Awareness is the Key to Prevention!

As a Qualified Home Inspector my job is to point out areas of concern when inspecting client properties. Awareness is the key to prevention and I want to address buildings with wood burning stoves.

We all hear that chimneys need to be properly maintained, but many think ‘what will it hurt if I wait another year before cleaning the chimney?’  Well, we want we want to avoid a chimney fire so the point is, whether it’s in your garage or in your home the buildup of Creosote can cause severe damage and even death.

What is Creosote?

Creosote is the buildup of a tarry substance that comes from burning wood that is wet or of high moisture levels.  It takes more energy to burn wet wood so the heat/energy that will come from that fire will be much cooler than that of dry wood.  The ‘moist smoke’ that emanates will coat the chimney flue, liner and the buildup will clog the chimney cap.

Driving the Point Home

Creosote Buildup

This is a prime example of a chimney that appears at first glance to be okay, but upon closer inspection shows severe Creosote buildup. This is a fire waiting to happen! When a chimney stack can’t ventilate properly the CO2 levels can easily leak back into the home. If your detectors aren’t working properly your family start feeling ill, pass out, and in the chimney can catch fire – leading to house fire! The reality is that it doesn’t always happen to someone else….

Had the weather been different or the rooftop been not safe, even a home inspector could easily miss this. I recommend having a WETT Inspection every year or two to avoid a chimney fire and catch concerns in the early stages.

The Power of Knowledge

Gaining knowledge gives you the power to prevent accidents. For this client I recommended them having a WETT Inspection (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) along with a chimney sweep to clean and remove creosote buildup.

Have Questions or Wish to Book an Inspection?

Over the years more clients are asking if I could provide them a WETT Inspection – though I couldn’t offer it then, I will be offering this service soon!

In the meantime, if you or someone you know is searching for a Qualified Home Inspector call or email me today! Whether you’re looking at a personal or commercial property – Final Step Home Inspections is the right choice for a professional home inspection!

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3 Comments so far:

  1. This is such an important ares of home maintenance. About 10 years ago we were going about our Saturday morning and all of a sudden a fire truck arrives with Sirens blazing IN OUR DRIVEWAY. It turned out that we had a chimney fire and part of our roof was burning. Luckily, our nosey neighbour called 911 and they arrived and put out he blazed before we finished our morning tea. It could have been much worse. Since then, we regularly get our chimneys inspected and cleaned!!

  2. Herb Holst says:

    Hi John,
    Had the opportunity to witness a creosote fire in a cottage chimney stack many years ago. The creosote caught fire close to the Quebec Heater. You could see the glow slowly rise up the stack. The fear was that the ceiling and roof would catch file as the “burn” passed through. Luckily it held and the crisis was averted. Regardless, scary stuff.

    • Herb, I can only imagine how this situation made you feel! If this was a masonry chimney it would possibly have had to have been rebuilt, but if it was factory built, it would at least be a less expensive repair in comparison. When factory built chimneys are produced, they are tested to withstand 2 chimney fires for a period of 20 minutes at a time as a safety factor. Of course, in either case both situations would need a full safety evaluation of the chimney before the next use.

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