insurance claim, insurance claims, chimney inspection, chimney cleaning

 

 

In a moment of planning, you may ask yourself “is my home insurance still valid if I don’t have proof that my chimney is properly maintained?” The answer is, that if something happens involving your chimney or fireplace, no. It’s likely not.

Many insurance policies specify that your chimney and fireplace are only insured when properly maintained. They may not ask you for proof of proper maintenance until you file a claim, but they will want it then. Your chimney is a vulnerable spot in your home’s defense against the elements. Even when covered by a chimney cap, the typical brick chimney presents a large vertical opening to the rain and snow. The mortar of chimney crowns can crack, and lightning can damage the bricks.

Fire statistics show that each year on average over 30 thousand houses have chimney fires. Chimney fires can not only destroy homes but also endanger the occupiers of the dwelling.

Homeowner’s insurance can cover damage to your property caused by sudden and unforeseen events such as fires, flash floods, lightning strikes, and wind damage. In the case of a chimney, an insurance company will closely scrutinize the facts and evidence in the claim. Your policy might exclude damage caused by poor maintenance or normal wear and tear on your house.

 

What Should You Do?

Have a camera-assisted inspection. This creates documentation of the condition your chimney is in, and allows you to know without a doubt whether your chimney is in safe condition for wood burning. The images will reveal whether you need repair, and what repair options are right for you if so. That way, when you do have a fire you can do so knowing your chimney is fully functional.

Not only is sweeping and inspecting your chimney a good idea in general, your home insurance policy may require it. So if you haven’t already, you’ll want to check with them for exact expectations they have regarding sweeping or inspecting your chimney.

 

Your Insurance Claim

Insurance companies differ in their approach to fires that may be caused by a lack of chimney cleaning. There are two dangers to not having a clean chimney: the fire itself and how the insurance company with handle it. Whether your policy is clear or ambiguous, you’ll fare better if you have documentation of annual chimney cleaning.

If a fire occurs you may be required by the terms of your policy to produce a cleaning certificate. However, whether or not required, without it the insurance company could refuse to pay out. If they believe a fire was caused by your failure to have regular chimney cleaning and inspections, your insurance claim won’t be paid.

Whatever the terms of your policy (and the difficulty of proving negligence), the greatest risk may, of course, be to your own personal safety. Also if a fire causes injury or death to third parties, you could well face civil or even criminal proceedings.

You need your chimney flue and ventilation pipes cleaned at least once a year. Having annual chimney sweep service will ensure you’re fulfilling your insurance obligations. Make sure to read your policy carefully. Most policies will require professional chimney sweeping annually. If you need to make a claim, having a recent chimney sweeping certificate shows that you actively maintain your home.

 

Do All Chimney Sweeps Provide Certificates for their Work?

All qualified chimney sweeps provide written documentation of their work. You may receive a digital or paper receipt. This is for the homeowner’s peace of mind and to fulfill insurance conditions.

In Conclusion, contact the Irish Sweep to discuss chimney and fire safety. You’ll benefit from using a quality professional chimney sweep.

As winter approaches, you may be looking forward to cozy days around the fire. If you are lucky enough to have a wood burning fireplace, it can be easy to neglect through most of the year up until time to set up that first winter fire. Wood burning fireplaces do require chimney cleaning, inspections, and maintenance. Now you may be wondering, why should I have my chimney cleaned and when?

Advantages of Regular Chimney Cleaning

As wood burns in your fireplace it releases smoke and ash, and over time, creosote can build up. If you have not heard of creosote, it is a flammable substance that builds up like a glaze, coating the interior of your chimney. Creosote needs to be removed regularly so it doesn’t build up and prevent the flow of smoke leaving the chimney. Also, because creosote is flammable, it needs to be removed to prevent chimney fires.

You should have your chimney inspected at least yearly and cleaned as needed. If you recently purchased a home, have the chimney inspected before using the fireplace. Regular maintenance and cleaning help to prevent larger problems and more expensive repairs. Having your chimney inspected, cleaned, and maintained each year will help keep your home and family safe.

When professionals clean your chimney, they remove soot and dangerous creosote built up on the interior. They will also check for any blockages, which could cause smoke to build up in your home if not removed. A professional will make sure everything is in working order for safe and effective operation.

chimney cleaning, the right time to clean your chimney, get your chimney swept.Advantages of Spring or Early Summer Chimney Cleaning

Some say that spring is the best time to have your chimney inspected and cleaned. This is because winter weather might have damaged the masonry, which you would want to catch and repair right away during warm summer months. Additionally, a spring cleaning will get you ready for fall and winter fires, well ahead of the peak cleaning season, so you can avoid waitlists and have it done quickly.

Advantages of Late Summer or Fall Cleaning for your Chimney

Others would argue that fall is the better time to have your chimney cleaned. This is because when your fireplace has not been used in a while, such as during the spring and summer months, pests can enter and set up their homes. Rodents and birds can build nests that clog the chimney. This could be dangerous as smoke is then unable to flow through, and additional creosote could build up, increasing flammability.

Contracting a chimney cleaning company that will provide regular inspections and cleaning is your easiest option. They will remind you when it is time for your inspections. Given the advantage of both spring and fall cleanings, you may opt to have them both in order to maintain your fireplace if you use it often. During inspections, the professionals will look for any problems, clean as needed, and perform or recommend necessary maintenance on your chimney. This can all help to prevent more serious operational issues and maintain a healthy, efficient function of your fireplace all year round.

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If smoke is coming out of your fireplace instead of going up the chimney it indicates there’s an issue that you need to correct. A smoky fireplace is not only unpleasant it can also be a health and fire hazard in your home. Here we look at some of the causes of smoky fireplaces and what you or a San Francisco Bay chimney sweep can do to alleviate the problem and improve air quality.

Chimney Needs To Be Cleaned

One of the reasons that smoke may not be able to exit through your chimney is because the chimney is blocked with creosote buildup. Without smoke being able to exit your home through the chimney, it instead since spills out of the fireplace and fills your rooms. You should have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once yearly, and immediately if you notice any change in the performance of your fireplace. If it’s been a while since you’ve had your chimney cleaned, a blockage or build up in your chimney could be the culprit of a smoky fireplace.

Damper Is Closed Or Broken

The damper allows air flow through your fireplace with which is essential to feed the flame and create an airflow through your chimney. If the damper is closed, your fireplace will smoke and the smoke will not pass out through the chimney. Check that your damper is fully open when you’re starting to light the fire. If you still experience problems with a smoky fireplace it might be worthwhile having a professional North Bay chimney sweep look at the top of the chimney to check the rain cap or chimney top damper that might be obstructed.

Flue Is Obstructed

Blockages in the flue can be caused by anything ranging from creosote buildup to a birds nest or dead animal stuck in the flue. Having a professional inspected thoroughly clean the chimney flue can help reestablish airflow and reduce chimney smokiness again.

Chimney Is Too Cold Or It’s Too Warm Outside

When the chimney is too cold, the layer of cold air in the chimney can block the smoke from rising to the top of the chimney and instead pushes smoke out of the fireplace. This problem can be fixed by preheating the chimney by either lighting the end of the newspaper and holding it up to the damper for a little while, or blowing hot air from a hairdryer up the chimney to warm the air and establish airflow.

Negative Air Pressure Inside The House

Negative air pressure inside the house can be caused by airtight insulation or exhaust fans within the house. Negative internal air pressure can prevent the fireplace from drafting correctly which causes smoke to flow inside the house rather than out through the chimney. You can correct negative air pressure by opening a window in the fireplace room while burning.

Wet Firewood

Wet firewood is a common cause of smoky fireplaces. Wet firewood smolders or makes hissing sounds while burning, and can’t create sufficient heat for the chimney to draw well. Ensure you use dry wood to build your fire to prevent an overly smoky and smoldering fireplace.

Faulty Fireplace Design

And incorrect or poorly built fireplace will not be able to draw in air properly and have smoke vent through the chimney correctly either. If you’ve exhausted all other reasons for your overly smoky fire place it could be that your actual fireplace design is faulty. Have a fireplace professional inspect the dimensions and measurements of your fireplace to ensure that it’s actually functional.

A smoky fireplace can contribute to greater fire risk and increased air pollution in your home. Correct a faulty smoky fireplace as quickly as possible by calling an East Bay chimney sweep or fireplace professional to inspect your problem and provide the right solution.

3201894-450pxFirst of all, let me be clear, artificial gas log sets can only be installed in a fireplace that is suitable for wood burning.  The only way we can determine the fireplace is fire safe is to clean the chimney and then look at the interior surfaces with our remote vision camera system.

These sets come in various sizes and include ceramic logs of your choice with a burn pan, decorative silica sand, volcanic cinders, dual effect embers, a pedestal grate and damper stop.

A plumbing contactor is required to install a gas valve on the floor or wall near the fireplace and a gas supply line into the firebox.

Vent-free artificial gas log sets are illegal in the State of California.

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The commitment to purchase a gas fireplace insert is expensive.  Mind you, you will receive true heat value for years to come once you make that monetary investment.  But some people feel they cannot bare that expense and want an alternative choice and many folks would like just to install a set of artificial gas logs.

The manufacturers of artificial gas log sets state clearly in their installation directions that a chimney must be suitable for wood burning.

In order for us to determine if your fireplace and chimney are safe for this use, we must clean and inspect the interior surfaces of your chimney with our remote vision system (a chimney camera).  With this tool, we can check the condition of the clay liners and their related mortar joints.  If the clay liners in the chimney are fractured or damaged in some way and if the mortar joints are missing or deteriorated the chimney is not suitable for wood burning and in turn not safe for use with a set of artificial gas logs.

If we discover any of these defects our typical recommendations are to line the chimney with stainless steel or recommend the installation of a gas burning or wood burning fireplace insert.

The codes, standards and installation directions clearly state that anytime there is a change in the fuel source in a fireplace and chimney, the chimney must be cleaned prior to the installation of any new product.

*”Very few people realize the danger of clothes dryer fires. However, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are an estimated annual 15,500 fires, 10 deaths and 10 injuries due to clothes dryer fires. Several hundred people a year are also subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning from improper dryer vent setups. The financial costs come to nearly $100,000,000 per year. In some cases faulty appliances are to blame, but many fires can be prevented with proper dryer venting.”  If you notice that your clothes require a much longer drying time, maintenance of the dryer exhaust system is imperative.yelp.com-l-495x371

Dryer fires occur when the lint accumulation and reduced airflow feed on each other to provide the condition that ignites a fire.  Most people don’t realize lint is highly combustible.

Once upon a time, dryers were always located in the basement of a home but today people have realized their ability to install a dryer closer to the dirty clothes source which is in the bedroom area of the home.  Often that remodel will put the dry between interior walls of the home instead of directly venting through an exterior wall and the venting material is installed in longer runs which means the dryer has to work harder to push the products of combustion farther.  The end results in a greater accumulation of lint, that highly combustible material.

It is important the lint is removed from the lint trap after every load that is dried.  Even with that good behavior lint can still wander into your appliance.  In our experience, lint screens located near the back of the dryer have less internal build up of lint than those with screens near the front door of the dryer.  We do our best to clean as much of that as possible but sometimes it is necessary to call upon the assistance of a dryer repair company that is qualified to disassemble the dryer and access the interior surfaces that collect lint.

If you are undertaking a remodeling project of this nature, try to make the exhaust run as short as possible, straighter is always better and avoid the use of too many elbows which restrict the flow.

Use only 26 gauge venting material and avoid flexible connectors that are constructed of flammable material.  Unfortunately, we see these flammable products sold in every local hardware store.

When pushing the dryer into position take care not to push the appliance so far back that it crushes the venting material.  If it is time to purchase a new dryer, measure the existing space and be certain not to purchase an appliance that is too deep and will compromise the vent connector.  If you notice a lot of “dust bunnies” in your laundry room, it could be because the venting connector has been crushed or has holes.

The dryer duct needs to vent to the outside atmosphere and not into an attic or crawlspace under the house.

Never use screws to put the venting material together.

For safety, never let your dryer run while you are asleep or out of the house and remember to read the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the safe use of their product and install as directed.

Need an appliance specialist?  We have a great referral for you whom we trust with our very own appliances:  Todd Anderson, Anderson Repair Services, 510-301-0223

*The source for this information is from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

dryer vent cleaning, structural fires, bay area, alameda, berkeley, oakland, californiaThe US Fire Administration reported 15,600 structural fires, 15 deaths and 400 injuries because of lint build up in the venting system of gas and electrical residential dryers.
The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that a Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician perform a duct inspection and cleaning on an annual basis which in the long run saves money because of increased efficiency of the dryer and decrease of wear on your appliance.
SIX WARNING SIGNS THAT YOUR DRYER EXHAUST VENTS NEED TO BE CLEANED
1.  Longer than normal drying time
2.  Reduced performance
3. You see lint coming out of the dryer vent opening
4.  Burning smell when your dryer is running
5.  Dryer feels hot on the outside
6.  You haven’t had your dryer vent cleaned in over 1 year.