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What’s the big deal? It’s worked just fine for years this way!

Often folks think we are way too persnickety when we all something out that no one else has ever seen a problem with. Here’s just one of the things we’ve learned about that can be a hidden problem with serious consequences.

The following is reprinted, with permission, from the September-October 2017 issue of The Chimney Sweep News (SNEWS), an independent trade magazine for chimney service professionals. 541-882-5196.

By Jay Hensley

Chemical breakdown of combustibles too close to a heat source is a major cause of structural fires in North America.

Understanding the pyrolysis process is the first step towards keeping your house or place of business from burning down this winter, or next. Pyrolysis causes fire after fire, tragedy after tragedy, year after year. Yet how many people even know the meaning of the word?

Pyrolysis is defined as “chemical decomposition caused by heat.” It is the process by which a combustible material exposed to temperatures of approximately 212°F or more for a prolonged period of time (and that’s not really very not!) will dry out, break down and burn. It doesn’t need the presence of direct flame to ignite, either. It simply needs enough heat and oxygen.

Fire investigator and former chimney sweep Genevieve Bures in Berea, Ohio, says pyrolysis is the cause of over 85 percent of the solid fuel-related fires she investigates.

Sifting through ashes and studying burned-out or fire-damaged structures, Bures finds that only about 10 out of every 100 of these fires are caused by improper maintenance of the appliance, chimney, connector pipe, etc. Around 5 percent of the fires result from improper or careless operation of the appliance or heating system.

The overwhelming majority of these fires however are traced to the pyrolysis made virtually inevitable by the improper installation of fireplaces, solid-fuel stoves, fireplace inserts and furnaces.

Inadequate Clearances

Not leaving enough air space between a woodburning stove or stovepipe and unprotected walls, structural components or furnishings is what makes an installation dangerous.

The heater manufacturer specifies the minimum amount of air space, or clearance, after laboratory tests. Building codes specify minimum clearances when the manufacturer’s specifications are not available.

You ignore these minimum clearances at your peril, and at your children’s peril. It is the little kids, and the elderly, who are the ones most at risk in house fires.

Time, the Enemy

Because your heating system “has worked just fine” for years is of little comfort. Time is working against you! Pyrolysis accomplishes its destruction in a matter of years, months, weeks days or even just hours. In a test conducted by NFPA, a stack of wood fiberboards (1/8-inch thickness) was exposed to a heat source of only 228°F. The wood self-ignited in only 96 hours!

Ordinarily, a piece of 2 x 4 construction lumber has an ignition temperature of approximately 500°F. Exposed to moderate heat for a prolonged period, however, this ignition temperature may be reduced to 250°F and the wood is capable of self-ignition spontaneously.

Like the NFPA211 standard, both local and regional building codes designate minimum installation requirements. To use less than the minimum is to invite disaster.

Rᵪ for Safer Chimneys

Minimum clearances are also determined for chimneys, ductwork and other heating system components.

Where a chimney does not have the proper clearances to the structure of the house, flammable materials such as wood framing are subjected to pyrolysis and may eventually catch fire. Chimney fires generate excessive heat that speeds up the pyrolysis process. This is why a professional chimney sweep might shake his or her head after inspecting your chimney and say, “It’s just not good enough! We must line it from top to bottom to make your heating system safer.”

Pyrolysis is also caused by steam pipes too close to combustibles; over lamped light fixtures, overloaded branch circuit wiring inside walls, flimsy extension cords over-heated by use with electric space heaters, electric-outlet strips with too many things plugged in.

Could pyrolysis be happening in your home? Seek it out and head it off, now. Do not forget that TIME, the enemy, is working against you.

End of Reprint

Give Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth a call today to talk to us about inspecting your home hearth system.

Are You Ready for Inspection?

What to Expect When Inspecting Chimneys

A fireplace and a chimney go perfectly together and are best suited during the cold months. It is where you can share warm hugs, kisses and sing Christmas carols together with your loved ones. But along with this wonderful thing comes the risk of having your house damaged or burned to the ground. It is important to have it inspected regularly to avoid accidents that could ruin your holiday cheer.

Your certified chimney sweep will know, while conducting your basic Level 1 inspection, whether or not additional inspection is  needed. This could involve putting a camera inside your chimney.

Your certified chimney sweep will know, while conducting your basic Level 1 inspection, whether or not additional inspection is needed. This could involve putting a camera inside your chimney.

Safety in Your Home

Safety must always come first in every home.  Some families take for granted things that can potentially harm their house, or even worse, their lives. They just go about their businesses and do nothing to prevent untoward accidents from occurring. That should not be the case. Every homeowner should ensure the safety of their household and all the people living in it. Study shows how chimney damages can be deadly. It causes fires that form carbon-monoxide intrusions that can affect your family’s health and stability. Not to mention the damage it can bring to your home. You’ll be loaded with bills to pay.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, 24,500 residential fires that happened in 2005 was caused by chimney fires that resulted in a death toll of 20 and over one hundred million worth of property  loss. Because of this devastating news, the Chimney Safety Institute of America requires certified professionals to maintain the balance and infrastructure of the chimney. This being said, it takes experts on that field to work on the matter.  When inspections are done, people inside the home are required to vacate the area until they are finished with the survey.

Levels of Chimney Inspection

There are three levels for Chimney Inspections. It is inspected based on the degree of damage, the repairs needed, the soot or dirt buildup, and other factors that alter the normal function of the chimney.

Level 1 Inspection – Visual

During this inspection, assuming there are no prior incidents or chimney problems, professionals only check the readily accessible portions of the chimney’s interior and exterior areas. The basic check-up of the flue and it’s lining. It also surveys on simple appliance connectors and installers. The chimney experts make sure that it is free of impediments and checks the combustible materials and volumes of the chimney. Only the most basic tools are used for this operation and that there is no need to expose any interiors of the house.

Level II Inspection – Video

This inspection is needed when there are changes in the heating systems. It may be due to the relining of your flue, some added or changed appliances, or if you experienced utter chimney malfunction. If you also experienced natural calamities or fires that triggered the chimney to stop functioning or even when you just transferred to a new house. When any of these happens, chimney sweeps inspects the parts that are affected. During this inspection, a video camera is needed to check on the internal joints of the flue.

Level III Inspection

Expect that if this type of inspection is required, there are incurring problems during the Level I and Level II inspections. The damage might be bigger than expected so there is now a need for more observation and immediate action. Special tools are now needed for this operation to access what the eyes cannot see and it could be suggested to remove some parts of the chimney that are affected or damaged.

The most vital aspects of maintaining the fireplace and the chimney need wise decisions and long term commitment to ensure safety in your house. The Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps can provide excellent service on preserving the wellness of your chimney. Their chimney sweep services are just one of many remarkable services they provide. They have been providing the best service for 30 years now and there is nothing that can stop them from providing excellent service to your home.