Unseen Dangers: Chimney Inspections

As cool weather returns, homeowners are using their fireplaces once again.

Chimney maintenance is critical for protecting homes and those living in them. If a homeowner neglects regular maintenance, they increase their risk for expensive repairs and create a safety hazard.

The importance of chimney maintenance:

1- Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

Carbon monoxide is a real threat to homeowners. Each year in the United States, an average of 430 people die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, and more than 50,000 visit the emergency room.

Carbon monoxide is created as a byproduct during combustion. The amount created is inversely related to the efficiency of the combustion, meaning damaged or neglected fireplaces have an increased risk of generating dangerous levels of CO.

In addition to a carbon monoxide detector, it is important to ensure a chimney is in good repair to disperse any carbon monoxide created through combustion.

If the chimney is damaged, fumes are not properly exhausted, causing a buildup of CO and creating a health risk in the home.

Carbon monoxide cannot be seen or smelled. Without a detector, exposure is not obvious until symptoms start to show.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include dizziness, shortness of breath, and nausea. Learn more about symptoms and risks associated with carbon monoxide poisoning here.

2- Reduce the risk of fires:

As smoke rises through the chimney, it collects on the interior (also known as the flue) and becomes a sticky substance called creosote.

Creosote is flammable and allowing it to build up lays the groundwork for a chimney fire.

Chimney fires burn at high temperatures and severely damage the mortar and weaken the structure of the chimney. The fire can also spread beyond the chimney to the rest of the home.

If the fire stays within the flue, damage done to the interior of the chimney reduces its lifespan and causes it to crack.

3- Save on repairs and other expenses:

Over time, a lack of maintenance reduces the life of the chimney. In the long run, more money is spent to repair damages while simultaneously exposing homeowners to greater risks.

Lack of repair introduces a variety of problems unrelated to fires. Gaps or cracks in the chimney provide entry for pests to invade the home and reduce the efficiency of the structure’s insulation.

 Protect your clients from risk by encouraging regular chimney inspections:

Fortunately, all of these issues are mitigated by regular inspection. Homeowners using their chimney regularly should have it inspected and cleaned at least once a year.

If a homeowner doesn’t regularly use their fireplace, they aren’t necessarily safe. Creosote buildup increases when the relative temperature of the flue is cooler than the fireplace itself.

Chimneys are only one area of potential risk for homeowners. To protect this large investment, a comprehensive homeowner’s policy provides coverage for damage, disaster, and unexpected issues.

Contact one of our underwriters to discuss your client’s needs today.

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