Whether you bought your first home as your primary residence or an investment property, if that house has a fireplace, you’re going to need chimney and fireplace maintenance. That means inspecting the fireplace and chimney for potential hazards and possibly hiring a chimney sweep.
It really doesn’t matter what type of fireplace it is, gas, wood or coal burning, if it’s a working fireplace, it needs a clean chimney.
And if you have a chimney, you need to properly maintain it – and the fireplace – to avoid any chances of a potential disaster.
Chimney and Fireplace Maintenance
Chimney and fireplace maintenance is critical to avoiding any dangerous situations, like a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Fortunately, my husband takes care of maintaining our fireplace and chimney, so that saves us a good bit of money. He picked up the tools he needed, like a good chimney sweep brush, at auction.
We bought our house in the spring so that first fall he got up on the roof and inspected and cleaned the upper part of the chimney. Then from inside the house, he inspected and cleaned the fireplace itself.
This past winter he had to pull the fireplace insert out to repair the lining around the insert. We’d noticed the fire wasn’t burning as clean as it should and we had some buildup in the flue and chimney.
We bought an older home, built in 1969 and we weren’t sure how well the fireplace and chimney were maintained before we bought it.
And even if you’re buying a newer home, unless the seller can provide you with receipts and such, you may not know how well they’ve maintained their fireplace and chimney either.
Replacing the Chimney Liner
Yes, chimneys have liners. Chimneys may look like they’re simply made of brick and they provide a nice accent to the rooftop of any house. But they do have liners inside them, and part of chimney and fireplace maintenance is keeping those liners cleaned and maintained too.
Before you use your fireplace for the first time each winter, it’s a good idea to have it inspected and cleaned. And if you don’t know how to clean a chimney yourself, or if you don’t know how to inspect it properly, you should contract a professional chimney inspector and cleaner.
If the chimney wasn’t maintained properly, there could easily be a buildup of creosote which could produce carbon monoxide. If your house is very well insulated and relatively airtight, excess carbon monoxide can be fatal.
In fact, any blockages in the chimney could result in a dangerous fire that could destroy your whole house.
Fireplace Inserts or Wood Stoves
If you bought a house with an open fireplace, or fireplace “box,” with either an insert or a wood stove installed, you should check to make sure the installation was done properly.
If the insert was too small for the box, there will be gaps or the flue won’t be the right size for the insert or stove.
Our kids rented a house once with a fireplace. Looking at it, it was really stylish the way it was set up. On further inspection, there were loose bricks, the flue wasn’t installed correctly, and there were other anomalies.
So you could look at it, but never use it until it was repaired or replaced.
Some fireplaces are installed with a gas line and faux wood. You get the heat and it looks really pretty. But even though you’re not burning real wood, gas has its own potential dangers without proper chimney and fireplace maintenance.
If the fireplace wasn’t installed or maintained correctly, including any chimney blockages, gas fumes could easily build up inside the house and cause a damaging fire.
What Do You Know About Fireplaces and Chimneys?
If you don’t know a whole lot about fireplaces, wood-burning stoves or chimneys and you’re buying a house to live in or rent out, be sure to have a certified inspector some out to check on the installation and condition of the chimney before anyone tries to use it.
For more information about the installation and maintenance of fireplaces, wood stoves, inserts and chimneys, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
You can also do a search on the site for a certified inspector in your area.