Older homes are a pleasure to live in because of their craftsmanship and character. One of the drawbacks to older homes is that many do not meet modern building codes. If your home was built 50 years ago or earlier, it is very likely that the fireplace and chimney are not up to code. Using your fireplace without having the chimney inspected by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep could pose a serious risk to your safety. Lighting a fire in an old fireplace that has not been brought up to code could lead to a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
There are two primary reasons why using a fireplace in an older home is risky: older homes are less likely to have a chimney liner and are more likely to suffer from pyrolysis.
Risk of Using a Chimney Without a Liner
Many homes built before the mid-1950s do not have chimney liners because they did not become a standard requirement until later in the 50s. Today, most local building codes require that a chimney have a liner because it is the most important safety feature to prevent carbon monoxide exposure and house fires.
A chimney liner protects the walls of the chimney from the high heat, corrosive chemicals and toxic gases, like carbon monoxide, that are produced by the fire. Without a liner, the chimney walls are more likely to become chipped or cracked over time. This creates opportunities for hot embers and carbon monoxide to slip through these cracks sparking a house fire or exposing you and your loved ones to a dangerous toxin.
Many home insurance policies will not cover damage caused by a chimney that is not lined. The worst time to find out that your chimney does not have a lining is when your insurer denies your claim after suffering a house fire that originated in the chimney. This is one of the reasons why it is important to have your fireplace and chimney inspected by an experienced, professional chimney sweep before you use your fireplace for the first time.
If your chimney is not lined, a professional chimney sweep can help you find one that is the correct dimensions and fits your budget. Along with protecting your home, investing in a chimney liner will also improve the heat efficiency of your fireplace.
Risk of Using a Fireplace with a Chimney that is Not Up to Code
When wood is heated at high temperatures over time it will decompose. This process is called pyrolysis. It can take place over 50 to 100 years. Pyrolysis is most common in old homes because many were built before building codes were created that established the safe distance between the chimney’s masonry and home’s wooden beams.
The absence of a chimney liner also increases the risk of pyrolysis since liners insulate the chimney so that the bricks, and nearby wood, do not get as hot.
Pyrolysis is the second leading cause of house fires in old homes with fireplaces. Ensuring that your chimney has a well-insulated chimney liner is the best way to prevent a house fire if your home has pyrolysis.
Don’t risk your safety by using the fireplace in your beautiful new, older home without having it inspected first! An experienced chimney sweep that has been certified by CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) will crawl into tight spaces and take a look inside to ensure your chimney is safe to use.
Give us a call at Chimney Solutions Indiana to set up an appointment for your inspection!