3 Mistakes Homeowners Make regarding Fireplace Safety

Scott JacksonComment

Without realizing it, many homeowners create hazardous situations related to the use of their fireplace. Don’t light your fireplace again without making sure that you aren’t making any of the following mistakes which could lead to life-threatening situations:

Mistake #1: Using a fireplace that hasn’t been cleaned or inspected recently.

A report on U.S. fires in 2009 found that about 59,000 house fires were related to heating equipment. Of those fires, 55% of them were caused by using a fireplace that wasn’t clean or properly maintained. There are many potential issues which can interfere with the safe use of a fireplace, some of which can be difficult for the untrained eye to spot. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recognizes these hazards and recommends that a chimney and fireplace be inspected at least annually.

Using a fireplace is a dirty business. Creosote, a flammable tar-like substance, is deposited in the chimney lining every time logs are burned. It’s possible for the creosote to catch fire because of a hot spark or ember. A chimney fire is extremely hot, very dangerous, and can do serious damage to the chimney and flue. If the flue becomes damaged, the combustible parts of the house near the chimney are highly susceptible to catching fire. Home blazes caused by chimney fires usually spread rapidly because of the intensity of the heat.

When one of our professional chimney sweeps inspects your home, the flue is checked to be sure that it is intact and the creosote buildup inside isn’t significant enough to either obstruct the chimney or start a chimney fire. The chimney is also checked for other possible obstructions. There are more than a few potentially dangerous situations that are checked so that the homeowner’s safety when using the fireplace can be assured.

Mistake #2: Hiring a chimney sweep because of low prices without checking the legitimacy of the company.

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation has advised homeowners to be cautious because of an outbreak of chimney cleaning and repair scams. Con artists sometimes take advantage of the unregulated chimney sweep industry and lure homeowners into their scams in which extremely low prices for chimney maintenance are offered via phone solicitations, door-to-door sales pitches, and other types of advertisements.

Once they have had a chance to look at your chimney, scam artists routinely make false claims about expensive repairs that are immediately needed, to prevent fires or deadly carbon monoxide leaks. They will accept your money for these costly repairs, and then what they usually do is take the money and run. If they do work on your chimney, there is a chance they will do more harm than good. Though the industry isn’t regulated, there are building code requirements which apply to the chimney; fake chimney sweeps aren’t equipped to do repairs that are up to code. Also, if a fake chimney sweep supposedly cleans your chimney, you can’t be sure your fireplace is safe to use.

Before hiring a chimney sweep:

  • Make sure the company is an established business with a good reputation within the community.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau to see if there is any information about the company.
  • Make sure he or she is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), a designation which serves as proof that the person has proper training and experience for the job.

Mistake #3 – Failing to install carbon monoxide detectors in the home.

Even when a chimney has been routinely inspected, unexpected situations can occur which could cause carbon monoxide to enter the home in large amounts. Known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is not detectable until dangerous physical reactions are manifested. The toxic fumes have no smell and are invisible. To avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide which can occur through the use of a fireplace, simply install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home.

All of our chimney sweeps are certified professionals and will give you a true assessment of your chimney’s condition. Our customers always get the VIP treatment because we want the ongoing privilege of helping you keep your chimney and fireplace safe.