Chimney Inspections: A Good Idea

I’m recommending chimney inspections to my buyer clients now. Just like I started advising septic inspections around 2010, I think chimney inspections should be default inspections — or at least suggesting them should be my default now.

More often than not, if I ask an agent if a chimney has been inspected, if the response is not “no,” it’s “it’s been swept recently, or every two years.”

I’m just a real estate agent and not a chimney professional, but I know that cleaning and inspecting aren’t the same things.

Research shows that 30 years ago, you had about 17 minutes to escape a house fire.

Today it’s down to three or four minutes. The reason: Newer homes and the furniture inside them actually burn faster. A lot faster.

Huh. That’s terrifying.

Almost as terrifying as this. (bolding at the end is mine)

“Is a chimney fire always obvious? Good question. Chimney fires can burn explosively, making them noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors and people passing by. But not all chimney fires are obvious.

There are actually two types of chimney fires – the fast burn and the slow burn.

If you have a fast-burning chimney fire:

  • You may hear loud popping noises or a low rumbling sound, almost like a freight train or a low-flying airplane.
  • You’ll likely have large plumes of black smoke coming up through the top of your chimney, or maybe even sparks spraying out of your chimney top. (No, it’s not normal for sparks to come out of your chimney or for large black clouds of smoke to pour out the chimney top.)
  • You may smell an intense, hot smell

If you have a slow-burning chimney fire, you may not know anything is happening. These types of chimney fires don’t get enough air or have enough fuel to be dramatic or visible. That’s why they often go (un)detected until a chimney inspection. But that doesn’t mean they’re any less dangerous.”

Heck, most people with chimneys should have them inspected. Ask me if you’re curious who I recommend.

Also scary (read the whole thing)

Firefighters say today’s homes, furnished with modern technology and oil-based products, burn faster and present dangers never seen before.

“Typically, 50 years ago, if a wool or cotton sofa was on fire you didn’t see the wool or cotton sofa drip,” Windsor Fire and Rescue chief training officer Paul Acton said. “So, what you now see is the synthetic material dripping. It’s the oils; that’s what all of the studies are finding leads to rapid fire spread and rapid pyrolysis and rapid combustion.”

‘You don’t see a wool or cotton sofa drip.’— Paul Acton, Windsor Fire and Rescue

Kingsville Fire Chief Bob Kissner has been fighting fires for 33 years and now teaches courses on fighting fires in the modern home.

Kissner said today’s house fires burn eight times faster and produce 200 times the amount of smoke that a fire would have 50 years ago.

Chris Williams, Ontario’s Assistant Deputy Fire Marshal, said even 30 years ago, a person had up to an estimated eight minutes to exit their home from the time their smoke detector went off. Today, a person has less than two minutes.

“And there’s not a fire department in the world that can respond to your home and rescue you in that time,” Williams said.

A test by Underwriter Laboratories, a not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization, found that an average-sized room furnished with modern products is fully engulfed in flames in three minutes. The same room, furnished with items 50 years of age took 30 minutes to do the same.

“We are a consumer oriented society,” Kissner said. “We like stuff and unfortunately for us, the stuff we’re putting into our houses today burns much more fiercely and produces volumes of greater amounts of smoke.”

(bolding mine)
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