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What’s Wrong With Your Fireplace?

As winter, cold and snow approach, it’s natural to want to cuddle up with your bae by the fire.  That’s cool (or hot, depending on your perspective…or planned activities).

While you’re warming up, did you know that the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there are 22,000+ residential chimney and fireplace fires annually in the US?

When’s the last time you actually spent more than three seconds looking at your fireplace?  No, really examining your fireplace?  Would you even know what to look for?  If you’re a Realtor, are you able to intelligently discuss common fireplace issues with your clients?

Here are five common issues that we find with fireplaces.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Backdrafting
Smoking is hazardous to your health.

Unless you comfortably lounge around in a gas mask, smoke stains above the fireplace represent a serious safety hazard.  Smoke stains indicate a drafting problem, which permits combustion gases to enter the living area.

When you find smoke stains above the fireplace, you need to hire a fireplace expert who has experience to help identify the source of the stains and, even better, to make repairs to prevent the drafting.

I Slept Like a Log Last Night…

…and woke up in the fireplace. Bada bing.

The remains of Mr. Creosote.

But seriously, folks, there’s a reason this fireplace has no logs.  Because anyone in his/her right mind should be afraid to light a fire given the creosote build-up in the firebox (and damper and smoke shelf above the firebox.  Why?  Because creosote itself is combustible.

Creosote forms because of incomplete combustion, lack of open ventilation, and/or from burning wrong types of firewood (e.g., pine instead of hardwood).  If your fireplace has creosote build-up, hire an expert to clean the fireplace and to conduct a detailed inspection of the flue and chimney.

Are There Cracks in Your Facade?

Go ahead, be your authentic self!

Mind the gaps.

But seriously, folks, there’s a problem with cracks and deteriorated mortar joints in the firebox.

Cracks and deteriorated mortar joints are dangerous fire hazards.

Hire an expert to repair the cracks and refill the mortar joints. (Sense a theme developing here?)

A Cure for the Common Flue
See that crack?

Even if your firebox is kosher, there may be issues further up the structure.

Unless you can walk into your fireplace, our inspectors always get on their hands and knees and shine a light up into the chimney.  And sometimes, we find issues with the flue.

If you discover a flue liner with gaps or cracks or deterioration, it’s a fire hazard.  Hire an expert for an evaluation and to make repairs, as required.

The Essence of Efflorescence
Efflorescence AKA White Crystalline Deposits

We hate to use 25 cent words when nickel words work just as well.  Except that in this case, there are no good substitutes for “efflorescence.”  “White crystalline deposits” just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

But seriously, folks.  White deposits on the interior of the fireplace aren’t safety hazards and don’t represent an immediate threat.  But they’re not just ugly stains.  Efflorescence indicates that there is moisture penetration which eventually will cause your fireplace to deteriorate.

If you notice efflorescence, you need to find the source of the water or moisture penetration.  Hire an expert to help mitigate the source of the stains.