The above vintage postcard is cute, but on a serious note chimney fires are dangerous and proper maintenance and regular inspections can help prevent them.
The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CISA) is all about advancing public awareness about the dangers of chimney fires.
The article The Facts About Chimney Fires has many useful maintenance tips and describes what to look out for if you suspect something is not right.
“Indications of a chimney fire have been described as creating:
- loud cracking and popping noise
- a lot of dense smoke, and
- an intense, hot smell
Chimney fires can burn explosively – noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors or people passing by. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying airplane.”
One of the more interesting points is that most chimney fires are undetected. “Slow-burning chimney fires don’t get enough air or have fuel to be dramatic or visible and they often go undetected until a later chimney inspection, but, the temperatures they reach are very high and can cause as much damage to the chimney structure – and nearby combustible parts of the house.” This is why chimney inspections are important, they will assess the integrity of the chimney and whether there has been any breakdown increasing the likelihood of a more devastating fire.
- “Puffy” or “honey combed” creosote
- Warped metal of the damper, metal smoke chamber connector pipe or factory-built metal chimney
- Cracked or collapsed flue tiles, or tiles with large chunks missing
- Discolored and/or distorted rain cap
- Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground
- Roofing material damaged from hot creosote
- Cracks in exterior masonry
- Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners
Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Chimney Damage?
Some fireplace and chimney-related damages are covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. However, not all of them are.
Here’s a quick look at a few common fireplace and chimney related claims, and whether they’re covered.
- Chimneys damaged by tornadoes: One of the most common chimney claims is damage or destruction caused by tornadoes. Windstorm damage is a covered peril under standard homeowners insurance policies, so fortunately these events are reimbursed by insurance up to your policy’s limit for the dwelling.
- Chimneys damaged by lightning: Another common claim is chimneys that get struck by lightning. Lightning is another peril covered under standard homeowners insurance, so the damage would be reimbursed up to your policy’s limit for the dwelling.
- Chimneys damaged by wear and tear: Many chimneys take damage over time due to a lack of maintenance. General wear and tear is not covered under homeowners insurance. It’s considered the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the upkeep of their home, including the chimney.
- Chimney fires: This one is tricky. Whether damage resulting from a chimney fire would be covered depends on the actual cause of the fire. If the fire was started by an event like a lightning strike, it’ll be covered by homeowners insurance. However, if the fire was a result of negligence on the homeowner’s part, such as failing to keep up with routine cleanings and other maintenance, it’s most likely not going to be covered.
Properly maintained fireplaces and chimneys can not only save property and money, but also save lives.
Preventative maintenance is usually taken in the summer and fall months when chimneys are unlikely to be in use. Your annual home maintenance schedule should include annual inspections by a professional chimney sweep. If you are unsure how to properly care for your fireplace or chimney, ask a professional chimney sweep. Additional information can be found in this article on chimney maintenance and indoor fire safety tips.
If you have any questions about what’s covered by your homeowners insurance, please give your Cheney representative a call.
May Your Holidays Be Safe and Secure!