Chimney Dangers with Older Homes

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The Philadelphia area is full of amazing old architecture. Some of the older homes in the area are magnificently restored, down to the last minute detail. That’s one of the reasons I love living here and working with homeowners to ensure their safety and the safety of their homes. Today’s blog post is going to focus primarily on old homes, chimney problems that often arise, and how they may be avoided with proper maintenance and work. Let’s get started!

Buying an Older Home in the Philadelphia Area

The charm of an older home is often difficult to pass up. You know it will require some work, but you can easily see so many examples of restored homes, that it quickly becomes a new quest. A home inspection will reveal a lot about the condition of the home. Make sure to request a chimney inspection from a chimney sweep as well, because a normal home inspection does not cover a thorough chimney inspection.

Chimney Risks in Older Homes

Chimneys that are 50 years old or older carry several risks that newer chimneys do not. Pyrolysis, lack of lining, and structural instability are only a few of the potential issues. Let’s take a closer look at each of these issues, and the dangers they present.

Pyrolysis is a form of deterioration that is brought on by extreme heat over time. The wood that sits just behind brick fireplaces and chimneys dries out over time and will eventually ignite. The primary cause of pyrolysis is lack of clearance between the supporting beams and the heat from the fire.

Lack of a chimney lining is very common among older homes because they weren’t required until the mid 1980s. Please call to schedule an appointment if you’re worried that your old chimney may not have a liner. Your homeowner’s insurance may not cover damages due to fire if your chimney isn’t lined.

A chimney liner also decreases the chance that carbon monoxide and other toxic fumes will be released into your home. They protect exposed combustible materials, reducing the possibility of a house fire, and increase the overall performance of the fireplace or wood burning stove.

Structural instability is relatively common with older chimneys. Wooden beams that support the structure of the fireplace and chimney often become dried and brittle over time. They may ignite or break more easily than those present in newer chimneys.

Deterioration of masonry occurs over time due to older firing methods during the creation of bricks, and the changes of the seasons. Chimneys catch all of the rain, sleet, snow, and ice during winter. This constant freezing and thawing causes deterioration of the best laid masonry chimneys over time.

Obstructions are often present in older chimneys. They may be due to animal nests or even animal carcasses where small animals hide from predators or seek shelter inside the chimney and become stuck.

Chimney Inspection and Cleaning

There is absolutely no denying the charm and beauty of an older home. Make sure you do your due diligence before making the purchase to ensure structural stability of both the home and the chimney. Remember, a home inspection specialist doesn’t do a thorough inspection of the chimney itself, and they don’t certify safe operation of the chimney when they sign off on a working and functional home.

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