Hello my fellow Arizonans, well we have made it to November! And with that comes the long awaited “cooler” temperatures. As I was out trick-or-treating the other night with the kids I saw many families out in braving the freezing cold 60 degree weather and a few of them even had some sort of fire pit/ chiminea burning (I am assuming to avoid frostbite from the sub 70 degree temperatures). This made me think that it’s a perfect time to discuss fireplace/ chimney safety and what you as a home owner can do to help ensure you and your family stay safe this holiday season.
Use Common Sense!!!!! Most of the fireplaces I see during home inspections in the metro Phoenix area are NOT designed for large fires, or fires that actually heat the home, the typical central Arizona fireplace is functional, but mostly designed for what I call “aesthetic fires” so PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO HAVE A BON-FIRE IN YOUR SMALL AZ FIREPLACE!!!!
“Typical” use of a metro phoenix fireplace
Alright, now that that is out of the way, here are some quick tips I have for you-
First things first! Open up those eyes of yours and take a look around! Go outside (don’t worry, it’s safe, it’s no longer 114 degrees!) and do a visual inspection of the outside of your chimney and the surrounding area. A few things to look for are:
- Take a look at the area surrounding the chimney and cap, make sure vegetation is trimmed back to help ensure your fire stays where you want it- IN your fireplace.
- Look at the top of the chimney, there should be some sort of metal rain cap installed, most of them also serve double duty as a “spark arrestor” by adding a metal screen to catch any small embers that may have risen up the chimney. If there is no rain cap/ spark arrestor installed you should have one installed and your chimney inspected prior to use. (Moisture damage and pest nests pose a big risk to chimney/ fireplace operation and safety)
Rain cap/ spark arrestor
- Last but not least, take a look at the chimney it’s self, it should not be leaning/ deteriorated in any way or show signs of moisture damage or pest activity, if any of these conditions exist call in an expert as soon as possible to make repairs as needed.
Next we will take an interior look at your fireplace/ chimney; below I’ve listed some of the more common things to look for:
- Just like on the exterior we are going to take a look around for any visible signs of moisture penetration/ staining or deterioration/ damage, if any is present it’s time to call in a professional!
- Now for the interior of the fireplace. Check the brickwork for wear and breakage. Check the damper. It should open and close easily, without binding on anything. Look up into the smoke chamber, above the damper. Does the smoke chamber look clean, or sooty? If there is any amount of soot up there, or if you haven’t had your chimney cleaned recently, have it checked and cleaned if necessary. HELPFUL HINT: to get a better look at the interior of the top of the fireplace and chimney you can use a mirror and flashlight or better yet, just aim a digital camera up there and snap a few pictures and examine them from the comfort of your couch (this is my preferred method!) Once again, if any areas of concern are visible you should contact a licensed contractor to make repairs.
Nice view of interior of fireplace taken with my camera
There you have it! 15 minutes of your time to help ensure your world is a safer place. And as always, this is just the tip of the iceberg, so if you have any concerns or questions or if you need a great referral for a contractor who can service or repair or service your fireplace or chimney please feel free to contact us any time!
Most manufacturers and builders recommend chimneys and fireplaces be checked/ serviced annually by a qualified, licensed contractor. Please consult your purchase literature for further information on service recommendations.