Home inspections of any kind are something people often take for granted. Some people realize the value of getting their own chimney inspections done before buying a house. A few may be content to rely on the home inspection report provided by the seller. If you are buying an older home that has a chimney, it is extremely important that you get the chimney inspected.
Older chimneys often have structural problems, and it is possible that some of them will not meet the current building codes. Not getting an inspection is a surefire recipe for disaster. Here are some facts about older chimneys that will give you something to think about if you have a house with an older chimney.
Older chimneys do not hold up well to seismic movement. Even minor earthquakes can cause damage that might not be obvious right away. Inspections often unearth problems like cracks in the masonry, damage to the firebox, or even separation of the chimney from the roof and the interior of the home. Sometimes the damage is minimal, but considering that many older chimneys are not up to code, you could be looking at a big project anyway.
Older chimneys often do not contain the features so commonly used in these structures today, like a spark arrestor for example. This is now a safety requirement as it keeps sparks and embers from escaping and possibly causing a fire. The length of time it takes to retrofit a chimney to meet modern building codes will vary depending on what is needed. So, let us take a look now before you find you need your chimney and it cannot be used, or worse you have a house fire.
Sometimes the problem with older chimneys is the strength of the foundation. Shifting can occur over time, and this will weaken the entire structure. There is always the chance that the foundation was not very strong to begin with. Building standards decades ago were not as stringent as they are today. If the foundation is not holding up, this can be an expensive repair job. Older chimneys are also more likely to have damaged dampers, or dampers that do not meet current standards.
Don’t start thinking that newer fireplaces and chimneys are immune to problems. Pre-fabricated fireplaces have been used in some homes, and some of them pose the same problems seen in chimney foundations. Once these fireplaces start to crack, they should no longer be used. They will have to be replaced, and if you are buying a home in this situation, you will have to consider this carefully.
Even newer chimneys can have problems resulting from poor maintenance, and this is something that a professional inspection will reveal. If you have questions about why inspections are important, or anything else chimney related, give me a call. When you have the right information, you can always be comfortable knowing that your chimney and fireplace are safe to use when you need them.