Fireplace, Wood Stove and Chimney Safety

Here in the Pacific Northwest where many people burn wood for heat there are many scary and unsafe chimneys and wood burning appliances. I would like to believe that just about anyone could guess that a chimney and wood stove or fireplace will, eventually, require cleaning, maintenance and service. That advice applies to masonry and the assorted metal chimneys.

I want to believe that people can figure this out, but that obviously is not the situation. Recently I was witness to a neglected masonry chimney. The black, oozing creosote was an inch thick and caked inside from the top clear down to the homemade, and inefficient, wood stove below. The system was cranking nothing but waste products up the chimney. Creosote is flammable, so it is important to clean and maintain a chimney.

It seems that most people with wood stoves, fireplaces and pellet stoves do not pay enough attention to them. Lots of people make the situation worse by burning green wood that is not seasoned. The average consumer might take these basic systems for granted but they are dangerous to life, limb and property if they are neglected. As a home inspector, who does not work on chimneys or wood burning appliances but sees many of them, I know that it is important to have such devices cleaned and serviced by a specialist on a regular basis. In fact the National Fire Protection Association has stated that a Level 2 chimney inspection should be part of every sale or transfer of property. The scope of this inspection is intrusive, well beyond any inspection done by a home inspector, and is performed by a trained and licensed chimney professional.