It’s late September in Charlotte 2019,, but it doesn’t feel like it when we keep topping out over 90 degrees on a regular basis. Although the heat is still here the cold temperatures will eventually arrive and with that, “burn season” will arrive. Before it does we need to make sure that our fireplaces, chimneys and wood burning appliances are cleaned, inspected and safe to use for the season.
Regardless of what you have at your home, a masonry fireplace and chimney, prefabricated fireplace and chimney, or a wood burning stove/insert, if you use it on a regular basis, it needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. Regular cleaning and inspections prevent dangerous creosote build up and ensures that the units are functioning properly. A properly functioning unit will burn more efficiently and provide you with many nights of comfort and enjoyment during the cold winter months.
Also during the inspection its important to determine if there is a water penetration issue. This can occur on masonry chimneys via cracked and eroded chimney crowns and/or brick that is very porous that allows water to soak in. On prefabricated chimneys it can occur via worn storm collar installations or a corroded “chase cap.” A chase cap (usually made of galvanized metal), covers the top of the chimney and can deteriorate after years of weather exposure. In either case it’s important to have the issue fixed to prevent further damage to the chimney and fireplace.
With regards to prefabricated fireplaces I would like to bring attention to and discuss another common problem, cracked and/or worn fireplace panels. Most prefab fireplaces come with four factory made “refractory” panels, usually about an inch thick. Due to time and heat these panels have a tendency to deteriorate and crack, the back and floor panels being the most common. Depending on the condition they may be able to be repaired with refractory cement, others should be replaced before use to prevent potential fires. See the before and after pictures below.
Regardless of the type of fireplace or appliance, it’s important to have them serviced on a regular basis to maintain the safety and function for the homeowner.