Chimney fires can be especially dangerous in a masonry fireplace. When a fire starts inside a masonry chimney, it burns at about 2000º F, which is hot enough to melt mortar and cause tile liners to cave in. When tiles fracture and mortar falls away, it provides a opening for fire to reach the flammable wood structural members of the home nearby. This is an extremely dangerous event, and the home can be engulfed in flames quickly.

   Although most people assume that their fireplace is made of brick or concrete block, only the older—pre-1960 or so—fireplaces are actually completely made of masonry.  Today’s fireplaces are manufactured from metal in a factory, assembled in the home, and then faced with brick or stone. Most prefabricated fireplaces are rated to withstand temperatures of up to 2100º F without failure but, if a factory-built fireplace does sustain a chimney fire, it should be replaced.

   Clean chimneys don’t have creosote fires. It’s that simple. Plus, an annual checkup and cleaning by a professional chimney sweep will not only eliminate the fire risk, but includes multiple other safety checks. If you are buying a property, your home inspector will examine and report on the condition of the fireplace hearth and flue, and report on any evidence of creosote buildup.

    Gathering around a crackling fire in the hearth on a winter evening is a satisfying ritual for homeowners lucky enough to have a fireplace, and regular maintenance will keep a creosote fire from spoiling the occasion.

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
©2015 - McGarry and Madsen Inspection -


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