Chimney with fire coming out


This time of year, people who own fireplaces are probably using and enjoying them. Especially when it’s really cold like it has been recently. Here are some basic suggestions regarding fireplaces:

  • Get your chimney cleaned and inspected! When I was about five years old, we had a chimney fire. It sounded like a freight train coming through, pretty scary. Flammable creosote builds up over the years and catches on fire. It spreads quickly and the entire interior of the chimney catches fire. A huge air draft develops and makes a horrible noise as it rushes into and through the chimney. Chimney fires are common and occasionally, they turn into house fires. If you get your chimney cleaned, you probably won’t get a chimney fire.
  • There should be no combustible material within at least 6 inches of the fireplace opening. Since most fireplace surrounds are made of wood, the 6-inch clearance rule becomes important. There are also requirements for non-combustible materials in front of the fireplace.
  • There should be a flue damper which has to be open before your start your fire. Otherwise, the room will be filled with smoke very quickly. So, make sure it’s open before you start the fire. The next morning when the fireplace is cool you can shut the damper to prevent heated air from escaping into the atmosphere through your chimney.
A warm fire in the stone fireplace on a cold night

Please be aware that there are several building code nuances pertaining to fireplace and chimney installations. In addition, different codes may come into play based on your location. Consider researching the subject of fireplace installations in your municipality and make sure that your fireplace, fireplace surround, the area in front of your fireplace, as well as your chimney, are properly set up. We also suggest that you get your fireplace and chimney inspected and serviced by a knowledgeable fireplace/chimney contractor. It may just prevent a fire!

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Chimney sweep cleaning a chimney standing on the house roof, lowering equipment down the flue

Chimney Inspections on Long Island

Most people don’t realize how important chimney inspections are. But, consider the impact of a blockage in the chimney, even something as simple as a birds nest. If a blockage occurs in the chimney flue pipe servicing a gas or oil fired furnace or boiler, the implication is: carbon monoxide can be forced into the home. And carbon monoxide can be extremely dangerous and even cause death. In the flue pipe servicing fireplace, if the chimney contains creosote or other byproducts of a wood fire, a chimney fire can develop which can spread into the rest of the house and obviously be extremely dangerous

Most national certification associations recommend an annual chimney inspection to make sure that the chimney is structurally sound, and that the interior components of the chimney are in a safe condition. There are different levels of inspection:

1)    A level 1 chimney inspection involves examining all of the visible components of the chimney.

2)    A level II chimney inspection involves examining all of the components of the chimney by using special tools such as cameras and mirrors etc.

3)    A level III chimney inspection may involve dismantling portions of the chimney for even further examination.

When the ownership of a house is transferred, it triggers the need for a level II chimney inspection. From a practical perspective, it only makes sense because who knows how long it has been since the chimney inspection and cleaning took place. Thereafter, it is recommended that the chimney be inspected and cleaned if necessary on an annual basis.

By the way, if the source of heat is converted from oil to natural gas, building code requires that a metal flue pipe be inserted in the chimney for safety reasons. Without the metal flue pipe, the interior of the chimney can become deteriorated and create blockages and the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.

When performing Long Island home inspections, we attempt to determine if a metal flue pipe was installed if there was an oil to gas conversion. However, very often this cannot be determined. This highlights the need for chimney inspections on Long Island.

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