Why Fireplaces Should Be Inspected Before A Home Is Purchased

Fireplaces should be inspected as part of a routine home inspection before homebuyers purchase their new property. This is a basic safety assessment. Just as a roof caving in could be a hazard, a fireplace that has improper ventilation or creosote build-up can cause harm to homeowners.
Fireplaces are one of the top three features people look for in a home, behind upscale kitchens and outdoor porches, according to the National Association of Home Builders. While new homes are usually equipped with gas fireplaces that produce less pollution in the air and are glassed in to prevent contact with the fire as well as reducing the risk of embers and wood rolling out onto floors, there are still many places that offer wood burning stoves. Most people are aware that chimney flues should be cleaned out once a year in order to prevent creosote from building up on the inside of the chimney. Creosote is a by-product of burning wood and can catch on fire. Creosote fires have been responsible for entire homes burning down.
Home inspectors will also be looking for cracks or leaks which can lead to toxic fumes entering the home. Debris that has gotten caught in the chimney, such as sticks and twigs or birds nesting in unused chimneys can cause a fire inside the chimney that can spread to the home or cause an explosion.
Blockage in the fireplace can lead to fumes being pushed into the home instead of released out. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can cause death and can leak back into a home with a chimney that doesn’t offer proper ventilation. Having a carbon monoxide alarm is essential for any home with a wood-burning fireplace. Lives literally depend on it.
While fireplaces can add a 10% increase to the value of a home, open fireplaces shouldn’t be used as a sole source of heat. While the heat close to the fire is evident, fireplaces suck up heat from the rest of the house, causing other parts of the home to remain cool or cold. Wood burning stoves are a great alternative.
A home inspector will also ensure the fireplace damper works. If left open when a fire isn’t burning, air gets sucked out of the home. A damper that doesn’t open can cause smoke and fumes to spread into the home.
For those looking at homes with fireplaces, be sure to have a trusted home inspector look at all the aspects of the fireplace during the inspection. Having the chimney cleaned before moving in is recommended unless the current homeowners can provide proof of cleaning within the last year.