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Inspection Insights: Wood Burning Fireplaces



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There is nothing like the ambiance of a wood burning fireplace. But like any heating system, wood burning fireplaces require yearly maintenance to ensure safe and efficient operation.

Furnace Shadow

Most chimney flues are not readily visible when you look up the chimney. Often, you cannot properly inspect the flue until it has been cleaned. It is important to get your chimney and flue cleaned and inspected every year for a number of reasons, but the two main reasons involve safety. Simply put, get the flue cleaned to avoid a chimney fire. A chimney fire occurs when the combustible deposits in the chimney (creosote) ignite. A chimney sweep can remove the creosote deposits that potentially cause fires. Second, have the flue inspected. A flue liner in good condition will help protect your home if you do have a chimney fire. An inspection of the chimney flue is not part of a home inspection. Call a trained technician to clean and inspect your chimney flue.

Old Unlined Chimneys
Fireplaces in old homes may not have clay flue liners. It is particularly important to seek the advice of an expert for these old chimneys. Unlined brick chimneys come in two varieties: single thickness (four inches of brick), and double thickness (eight inches of brick). There is little debate that a four inch thick, unlined chimney is not acceptable. This chimney should either have a liner added, or the fireplace decommissioned. Consider hiring an expert who does not offer a chimney lining service. This will give you an unbiased opinion on whether a liner is needed.

Glass Doors
Glass doors across fireplace openings reduce heat loss when the fireplace is not running. Most glass door systems added to an existing fireplace are not designed to be closed when the fire is lit. On the other hand, some high efficiency zero-clearance fireplaces are designed for operation with the doors closed. If you are not sure, ask the technician who cleans and inspects your fireplace and flue.

Wood Stove
A wood stove is more efficient than a fireplace. Modern wood stoves burn cleanly and efficiently. Like fireplaces, the wood stove must be cleaned and inspected annually.

Zero-Clearance
Today, a fireplace can be added to almost any home. A zero-clearance fireplace can be installed directly against an existing wall.



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