Angie's List: Fireplaces add home value but also danger

Courtesy: Angie's List

BRIDGEPORT, W. Va. (WDTV) -- Ashley Eldridge has been sweeping chimneys for decades, so poorly maintained fireplaces don’t surprise him.

“I’ve seen dampers installed backwards. I’ve seen fireplaces that were incapable of functioning properly,” said Eldridge, of Chimney Safety Institute of America. “Most of the fireplaces are not actually built the way that they should be built. The smoke chamber should be very smooth as it leads the smoke into the flue, and it’s a rarity to find that done properly.”

Realtors say fireplaces are a sought-after home feature even though few homeowners use them regularly. But even if only light a fire occasionally, you still need regular inspection and cleaning.

“No matter what kind of fireplace you have, you should have it cleaned and inspected every year. This includes gas fireplaces. Even though they don’t get soot and creosote build-up, they do have other issues that need to be attended to,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Ceramic logs, for example, can deteriorate and the debris can clog vents, which could spark a chimney fire. Then there’s the issue of keeping moisture out.

“Water entry is the single biggest problem, whether you have a masonry chimney or a factory-built chimney, so we want to be sure that water isn’t entering into the chase of a factory-built chimney or into a masonry chimney for that matter," said Eldridge.

Moisture could lead to cracks that affect the ventilation system. If that fails, carbon monoxide could enter your home. Finally, where’s your gas shut-off valve? It should be on the outside of your fireplace, but many are not.

“If you have a gas fireplace, inspect where the shut-off valve is because it should not be inside the fireplace because if something goes wrong, you don’t want to reach inside. If you do have yours in that location, hire a plumber and have it rerouted to a safer spot," said Hicks.