Inspection and Use of Fireplaces

Jessica submitted an offer to purchase a home. During the home inspection, Jessica’s home inspector indicated several concerns about the fireplace located in the living room of the home. The home inspector found that the chimney was not topped with the proper covering. Moreover, the home inspector found loose bricks around the base of the chimney. Lastly, the home inspector found the existence of an improper “ash dump.” Jessica asked for more information.

For many home buyers, a fireplace is an attractive feature. In connection with the purchase of a home, it is important that the home inspection include the fireplace or fireplaces located in the home. The home inspector should make sure that the fireplace functions properly and that it is in compliance with any applicable laws and/or regulations. The home inspection should include every aspect of the fireplace, from the chimney cap to the bed of the fireplace.

After the home inspection, a homeowner has continuing obligations with regard to fireplace safety. Generally speaking, a homeowner should:

  • have the fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned and inspected on an annual basis;
  • burn only dry hardwoods so as to minimize the formation of flammable build-up on the inside of the chimney;
  • always use a fireplace screen;
  • supervise young children near the fireplace;
  • not place too much wood in the fireplace;
  • never leave the fireplace unattended when it is in use;
  • maintain unused firewood stacked and covered in an outdoor location;
  • maintain a functional fire extinguisher in a location near the fireplace;
  • keep the area around the fireplace and chimney free of items and debris; and
  • if using fire logs, follow the instructions set forth on the label.

With just a minimal amount of effort and some common sense, a homeowner can enjoy using a fireplace for years!

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