Thursday, September 7, 2017

There's a Nip in the Air...

You can feel the seasons changing.

With the coming of Fall, your mind turns to Home and Hearth.

My mind turns to inspecting fireplaces!

Most modern fireplaces - whether they're wood burning or Natural Gas - are pretty safe and trouble free. As a Home Inspector, the type that gives me the most issues is a wood burning fireplace that has been converted to gas.

These are popular because they are relatively inexpensive and, if you're handy, fairly easy to install. But all too often I'm inspecting a home where these logs have been installed by someone who is less than handy, and the result can be disasterous.

I find the gas line is frequently pulled in through the wall of the firebox by way of a jaggedly punched hole. This is a recipe for disaster. Flames or super-heated gasses can be drawn back through the hole and start a smouldering fire inside the wall cavity that may not ignite into a full blown fire for hours or days! That pipe line has to be sealed tight!

Another common issue is the damper on the original fireplace must be clamped into the "open" position. This prevents dangerous Carbon Monoxide gas from coming back into the living space. A wood fire would warn you that the damper is closed by causing the room to fill with smoke, but that doesn't happen with gas logs.

An Automatic Damper
  for Gas Log Fireplaces
A big down side of your damper being locked open is that precious warm air (and the money that heated it) flows out of the house through the chimney whether there is a fire or not. This will create cold drafts throughout your home as well.

Not exactly the "snuggly fire" scenario you had in mind, is it?

An option that will help is having an automatic damper installed. This little wonder will set you back a few dollars, but by sealing off the chimney when not in use, you'll save money in the long run through lowered heating costs.

A better option may be to have a Glass Front installed.  The best kind is a sealed unit, but you will have to allow for combustion air for your gas logs to burn.  A more affordable (but less efficient) option is purchasing a glass door that is opened while the fire is burning, but closed when the fire is out to keep unwanted drafts to a minimum.

Before you settle in for a romantic evening of hot cocoa and cookies, make an appointment with a fireplace specialist to make sure your fireplace is ready for the season. There's a lot of options out there for a safe and cozy fireplace, and the first step is to know your fireplace is a safe one. 

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