Sunday, October 9, 2016

October 9 through 15 is National Fire Prevention Week

National Fire Prevention Week, sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association, was created in order to reduce fires. The Midwest Chimney Safety Council suggests fire prevention by promoting the sweeping and inspection of chimneys.

Chimney fire leads to house fire. Photo Cdorlett-fotolia.com
The Midwest Chimney Safety Council advises homeowners and building owners to have chimneys inspected by a professional chimney sweep on a regular basis- at least once per year as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. Professional chimney sweeps have the proper equipment to view the interior of chimneys in order to see potential hazards such as missing mortar joints, broken flue tiles, or large gaps which can allow toxic flue gasses and heat to escape into the home.

Professional chimney sweeps are trained to identify problems that the layman may miss.
Chimney sweeps also remove flammable creosote, debris, nests, leaves, and twigs from flues serving furnaces, water heaters, boilers, fireplaces, and gas and wood-burning heating appliances.

The history of chimney sweeps began before Roman times when people started to build fireplaces inside their homes for heating and cooking. Prior to the invention of the chimney the soot and smoke just vented out open windows, but chimneys solved that problem. 

The chimney sweeping trade died down after gas and electricity were introduced. However, during the oil crisis in the 1970’s homeowners wanted an alternative method of heating, and wood stoves were introduced in answer to the demand. As a result, the number of chimney fires increased and people became aware that their chimneys needed to be serviced by a professional. Chimney sweeps were once again needed across the country, and the trade revived.

Today professional chimney sweeps get their training and Certification at the Chimney Safety Institute of America, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, and get continuing education classes at the CSIA, Midwest Chimney Safety Council, and other related organizations. They use state-of-the art chimney camera equipment for inspections.

Some jurisdictions require chimney sweeps to be CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps, or licensed in another manner.
A list of qualified professional chimney sweeps is posted at the Midwest Chimney Safety Council website at www.mcsc-net.org.

Contact: Marge Padgitt, President of the MCSC at 816-461-3665 or margepadgitt@comcast.net for more information.


Buyer beware always have chimneys inspected by a professional chimney sweep

The Midwest Chimney Safety Council recommends an inspection of all chimneys and flues at the time of purchase of a home by a professional chimney sweep.  Home buyers may be in for a big surprise and major expense if they don’t have an inspection completed prior to closing of the sale.
Home inspectors do not inspect the interior or exterior chimney as a normal part of a home inspection. Most home inspectors do not have the necessary equipment or training to do chimney inspections, therefore, it is wise to have a professional do the job.

Unfortunately, many home buyers have found out after the sale that their chimney or fireplace is unusable. A typical inspection of a masonry chimney will reveal that the interior flue has missing mortar joints due to exposure to rain, moisture and acidic flue gasses. The older the home, the more likely there are problems.

In many cases, the seller has had a chimney fire without knowing it, and the interior clay tile flue liner is cracked and broken. Other typical findings are damaged smoke chambers, rusted dampers, missing chimney covers, poor flashing, and damaged cement crowns. Issues at the top of the chimney can’t be viewed without using a ladder, or in some cases, scaffold. Home inspectors don’t normally climb ladders or own scaffold.

The average chimney repair job runs into thousands of dollars. In the greater Kansas City area, the average relining job which involves removal of the damaged liner, scaffolding, and installation of a new flue liner costs between $8,000 to $18,000.  In a recent case, an inspection of five chimneys and eight fireplaces in one home revealed $50,000 in damages.

In a 2012 transaction in Kansas City Missouri, the seller had a chimney flue relined with a new flue liner but the installer put a liner in that was too small. Months later, when the new owner started a fire in the fireplace it smoked badly and caused smoke damage to the entire home. An inspection by a professional chimney sweep revealed that the liner installed was too small for the chimney to draft properly. Because the contract was with the previous owner, the new owner had no recourse and had to pay $14,000 to have the steel liner extracted, then the old tile liner extracted, and a new properly sized flue liner installed. Flue sizing is extremely important to the operation of the appliance and if not done correctly can cause major problems such as smoking, odors, and Carbon Monoxide back up.
If damages are found prior to closing the buyer will know exactly what condition the chimney and fireplaces are in and how to proceed with the negotiation. If damages are due to a chimney fire the seller’s insurance will cover the damages, however, it is wise for the buyer to choose the company who will do the work because sellers usually want to go the least expensive route and often hire unqualified chimney companies to do the work.

Camera inspection in progress. Photo: Hearthmasters, Inc.
A typical Level II inspection with an internal chimney camera involves running the camera through the damper and into the smoke chamber, then the flue. This type of inspection can reveal damages to masonry, mortar joints and flue tiles that can’t be seen using the naked eye and a mirror. A professional chimney sweep who has been trained in this type of inspection will be able to identify potential hazards, fire risks, and Carbon Monoxide risks.

The MCSC recommends that all flues be inspected including fireplace flues, furnace and boiler flues, and chimneys serving wood and gas stoves and inserts. If a chimney flue has an accumulation of creosote, the creosote must be removed so that the inspector can see the flue liner. Creosote is very flammable and should be removed by a qualified chimney sweep.


Visit www.mcsc-net.org or www.csia.org for more information or to find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep.  
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Marge Padgitt is a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep and NFI Certified Wood-burning Specialist. She is the CEO of HearthMasters, Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri. Reach her at margepadgitt@comcast.net. 

Cut utility bills by using wood-heating appliances


A great way to cut utility bills during cold weather is to use a wood-fired heating appliance such as a masonry heater, wood-burning stove, or wood-burning fireplace insert. 

Today’s modern wood-burning heating appliances are very efficient and clean-burning, unlike their older predecessors. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates wood stove emissions and has strict requirements that stove manufacturers must follow. This is why replacing an older, dirty burning wood stove with a new high-efficiency model is good not only for the environment, but less wood is needed to produce the same amount of heat.

Fuel costs can be significantly less than oil, gas, or electric heating appliances, especially if there is a nearby supply of inexpensive cordwood. For homeowners with their own land and trees, the concept of no cost for fuel other than physical exertion is very attractive. For those wanting to live off-grid, have an emergency heating alternative, or just lower fuel costs, the addition of a wood-burning appliance is a good solution.

Masonry heaters are arguably the best type of wood-burning appliance. They use old-world technology which is a series of channels installed inside the appliance that trap heat, then transfer the heat slowly through the mass of masonry. Masonry heaters are large and need to be centrally located for maximum benefit. The Masonry Heater Association of North America has more information on these efficient site-built appliances.

Fireplace inserts are appliances that are installed inside an existing masonry fireplace. They use a small stainless steel flue liner and can be used either with or without a blower. By installing a new efficient wood-burning fireplace insert the fireplace efficiency will be increased by approximately 75%.



For more information on fuel cost calculators visit http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/woodstoves.html
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Marge Padgitt is a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep and NFI Certified Woodburning Specialist and trainer. She is the CEO of HearthMasters, Inc. in Independence, Missouri.