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What you need to know about Fireplaces & Chimneys

How do you know that your house is the safe, welcoming place you want it to be?

Are you confident that the house you are listing on the market is free from issues that

might delay a sale or prevent it altogether? One of the home features that many

California homeowners forget to address is the fireplace. Your fireplace and chimney

can be tremendous assets, but they can also be very dangerous if not maintained

and examined through a home inspection.




Fireplaces in California

While California weather tends to be warmer, there are specific regulations that tightly

govern when you can use your fireplace and what condition it needs to be in. A home

inspection is the best way to determine if your fireplace is safe to use, ensure that

your chimney is free from obstructions, and make sure that you are not putting your

family at risk every time you light a fire. Your home inspector can also look at your

entire house to ensure you satisfy all state standards.


Why Are Fireplace and Chimney Inspections Important?

Unfortunately, some homeowners do not realize that there are problems with their

chimney until it’s too late and a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning incident

occurs. Some chimney problems can be obvious to the naked, untrained eye, like

masonry that is missing or mortar that is crumbling. However, there are many more

subtle problems that can only be detected by an experienced and knowledgeable

home inspector.


During your chimney and fireplace inspection, the inspector will carefully examine

both the exterior and interior. Many different system components will be examined,

and some of the things that your home inspector in California will be looking for

include:

● Flue blockages or damage

● Chimney leaks

● Cracking on the exterior or interior

● Creosote accumulation

● Debris or wildlife in the chimney

● Other issues that can increase your risk of a house fire or carbon monoxide

entering the home


Without an inspection, there is no way to know for certain if your family is at risk.

When you are listing your home, it’s also important to make sure that you choose a

home inspector with chimney and fireplace inspection experience. These two parts of

the home can be a serious hazard, and the buyer’s inspection might turn up damage

that you need to repair before the sale can be finalized. Getting an inspection ahead

of time saves you money and limits potential negotiation problems.


What Can Happen If You Don’t Invest in an Inspection and Regular Maintenance?

It is incredibly dangerous to use your fireplace or chimney if it has not been inspected

and if you neglect regular maintenance. Chimneys cause thousands of house fires

across the United States every year, and the most common reason why chimneys

lead to those fires is a lack of professional maintenance.

Your chimney is exposed to all of the harsh conditions outside, from moisture and

rain or hot summer sun. Over time, this can do damage to masonry and leave you

with a chimney that is structurally compromised without you even realizing it.

Additionally, every time you light a fire in your fireplace, there is a thin layer of

creosote being added to the interior of the chimney. Creosote is incredibly flammable,

and if it is not cleaned off, it can ignite.




How Can You Maintain Your Chimney and Fireplace?

Beyond scheduling preventative maintenance from a professional chimney sweep,

there are many easy ways that you can take care of your fireplace and chimney

throughout the year. To maintain your fireplace and prevent issues like house fires

and carbon monoxide poisoning, you should:

● Always open the dampers when you use your fireplace

● Have your chimney professionally cleaned every 50 burns or when your

chimney liner has 1/8” or more of soot

● Only burn wood that is properly seasoned and choose hardwoods like maple,

oak, birch, and ash that will leave less creosote in your chimney

● Make sure that you use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from entering

your living area

● Store your firewood outside of the house in a dry area that is at least 10-20

feet from your home to prevent attracting termites or mice


If you’re ready to learn more about your chimney and make sure that your family is

safe, a home inspection from a skilled California home inspector is a great place to

start.

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