What are the types of fireplaces I might find on a property?
Fireplaces can be a wood-burning open masonry fireplace, the traditional Santa-Claus entry-point, a factory built wood-burning fireplace, or an insert. The traditional fireplace is generally around 5 to 15 percent efficient, and may even cause a negative energy flow if the damper is left open with no fire inside.
Inserts, metal boxes that slide neatly into the firebox, are rated around 80 percent efficient. Inserts may operate off electricity, gas, propane, wood, pellets or coal. Non-wood fireplaces can come with faux logs that give the impression of a wood fireplace. Some inserts can heat a medium room well, others, like some electrical models, produce no heat at all. Gas fireplaces require a pilot light to start, others operate off remote control.
A professional SitePro inspector will focus on the visible areas of the fireplace, insert or wood stove during an inspection. They will look at the firebox and hearth, check for any signs of warping on the metal sidewalls of an insert, or signs and cracks in the firebricks. They also check that flammable materials are moved well away from the hearth.
Wood stoves or fireplaces should be cleaned and inspected by a qualified, licensed specialist annually. Without annual maintenance, creosote, a flammable tar-like substance can build up inside the chimney and flue, becoming a potential fire hazard. Other tips to keep in mind, include:
Vacuuming and dusting the hearth can be done weekly, but should never be done until all embers have been extinguished for at least 12 hours.
Using water to put out a fire in a wood burning stove will cause a big mess. The water mixes with the ash to form a paste that can be difficult to remove.
Avoid using any cleaner that may leave behind a flammable residue.
If you choose to clean the hearth and chimney yourself, use rubber gloves, drop cloths and keep a trash can lined with two bags nearby.
Snapshots from the Field
What’s wrong with this picture?
A.) The bottom of the fire box has to be open to allow for better air exchange.
B.) It’s possible to support a gas log unit with wooden 2 x 4s.
C.) The gas control valve should really be outside the firebox for safety.
D.) Missing fire-proof materials and the gas control valve located inside the firebox are both safety hazards. Recommend further evaluation by a qualified licensed specialist.
The correct answer is D.) Missing fire-proof materials and the gas control valve located inside the firebox are both safety hazards. Recommend further evaluation by a qualified licensed specialist.