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How to Tell if Your Fireplace Needs Repair (Homeowner Guide)

A fireplace can add charm to a home, but it can also be a safety hazard if not correctly maintained.

It’s essential to have your fireplace inspected by a professional every few years to ensure that it’s in good working condition. Doing so will ensure that your fireplace is safe to use and will help you avoid any potential problems down the road.

But if you ignore the signs that your fireplace needs repair, you could be putting your home and family at risk.

This guide will teach you how to tell if your fireplace needs repair so that you can keep your home safe and cozy all winter long. It will also cover how often you should have fireplace repairs, the dangers of an ill-maintained fireplace, and the cost of fireplace repairs, among other things.

8 Common Signs of a Bad Fireplace

Given their importance, homeowners must know how to spot signs that their chimney or fireplace may need repair.

Here are eight common signs that your fireplace needs professional attention:

1. Creosote Buildup

Creosote is a substance that naturally forms when burning wood. It’s black and sticky, and it can build up on the inside of your chimney.

If you don’t remove this buildup, it can catch fire, causing a dangerous and potentially damaging chimney fire.

You can remove some creosote yourself with a brush designed for the job, but you may need a professional to do a thorough cleaning.

2. Spalling Bricks

Spalling is when the bricks outside your chimney start to flake and break off. This can be caused by water damage, freezing temperatures, or even age.

If you see any bricks falling off, it’s time to call in a professional. They can determine the cause and ensure your chimney is still safe to use.

3. Rusted or Broken Damper

The damper is a metal plate that opens and closes to let air into the fireplace. If it’s broken or rusted, it won’t work correctly.

This can be a safety hazard, allowing flames and smoke to escape into your home. It can also lead to heat loss, as it won’t be able to seal the fireplace when it’s not in use.

4. Smoke in the House

If you start to see smoke in your house when the fireplace is in use, that’s a sign something isn’t right.

It could be a drafty chimney or a damper that isn’t working correctly. Additionally, it can also be a sign of creosote buildup. In any case, it’s best to have a professional take a look to ensure your fireplace is safe to use.

5. Damaged or Missing Mortar

Mortar is a cement-like substance that holds bricks together. If it’s damaged, it can allow air and water to enter the chimney, which can cause further damage.

If you see any cracks or missing mortar, it’s best to have a professional make the repairs. They’ll know how to match the type of mortar used and make sure the repairs will last.

6. Water Condensation Near the Fireplace

Another sign you need fireplace repair services is if you start to see water condensation near the fireplace.

This can be caused by several things, such as a damper that isn’t working correctly or a problem with the flashing (a metal strip that helps seal the chimney).

Either way, it’s best to have a professional take a look so they can determine the cause and make the necessary repairs.

7. Decrease in Heating Efficiency

If you’ve noticed your heating bills going up, even though you’re not using the fireplace more, that could be a sign that it needs repair.

A fireplace that’s not working correctly won’t be as efficient at heating your home and will cost you more in the long run.

Therefore, it’s best to have it repaired by a professional sooner than later.

8. Gas Smell (for gas fireplaces)

If you smell gas near your fireplace, it’s essential to take action immediately. Gas leaks can be hazardous, and even small leaks can lead to big problems.

If you think you may have a gas leak, open all the doors and windows in the room to ventilate it, then leave the house immediately and call for professional services. Do not try to repair the leak yourself – only a professional should do that.

What are the Dangers of Having a Bad Fireplace?

Having a fire in your home is always a risk, but that risk increases significantly if your fireplace is not functioning correctly. Here are some of the dangers of using a fireplace that needs repair:

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

If your fireplace is not venting properly, it could be causing a buildup of carbon monoxide in your home. This is a severe issue because carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, so you may not realize it.

If you start to experience headaches, dizziness, or nausea, it’s essential to get out of your home and get fresh air immediately. You should also call 911 or the fire department to come and check things out.

House Fires

Another danger of using a faulty fireplace could be a chimney fire. If your fireplace is not drawing correctly, hot embers could escape and ignite something else in your home.

Moreover, creosote buildup in your chimney could also cause a chimney fire, quickly spreading to the rest of your home.

This is why it’s so important to have your fireplace inspected and repaired regularly. By doing so, you can help prevent a devastating house fire.

Poor Air Quality

When using the fireplace, the smoke must go up the chimney. However, if your fireplace is not working correctly, the smoke could be coming back into your home.

This is a nuisance, but it can also cause severe health problems such as respiratory problems and headaches.

If you or someone in your family starts to experience respiratory issues, it’s time to call  911 and a fireplace repair specialist.

Wasted Money

If your fireplace is not working correctly, it will not be very efficient. This means you’ll be wasting money every time you try to use it.

Not only that, but a fireplace that’s not working correctly is also a safety hazard. As we’ve seen, many dangers come with using a faulty fireplace.

So, if you’re not sure whether or not your fireplace needs repair, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and call a professional. They’ll be able to assess the situation and let you know if your fireplace is safe to use or not.

Can You Get Sick from Fireplace Smoke?

Yes. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), short-term exposure to smoke can irritate your eyes and nose and cause respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis. It can also cause coughing and difficulty breathing.

It may also lead to more severe health problems like heart disease and lung cancer.

Therefore, it’s essential to ensure that your fireplace is in good working condition before using it. Hiring professional fireplace repair services is the best way to do this.

How to Check Your Fireplace for Carbon Monoxide

If you have a gas fireplace, it’s essential to check for carbon monoxide (CO) leaks. CO is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas that can be produced when burning fossil fuels like natural gas.

A CO detector can help alert you to the presence of this gas in your home. If you don’t have a CO detector, you can check for signs of a CO leak by looking for soot or discoloration around your fireplace.

If you suspect a CO leak, open a window and leave the area immediately. Then, call your gas company or a qualified technician to come and inspect your fireplace. It’s best not to use your fireplace again until adequately inspected and repaired.

How Often Should Fireplaces be Serviced?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that wood-burning fireplaces be inspected annually by a certified chimney sweep and cleaned. If any problems are found, gas fireplaces should be inspected annually and serviced by a professional.

It’s generally a good idea to have your fireplace serviced before you plan to use it for the season. This will give you peace of mind that it is safe to use and help prevent any potential problems arising while you’re using it.

However, if you use your fireplace more often than the average person, you may need to have it serviced more frequently.

How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Fireplace?

Fireplace service and repair costs vary depending on the type of fireplace you have and the severity of the problem. Therefore, it isn’t easy to give a definitive answer to this question.

However, we can provide some general guidelines.

Type of FireplaceAverage Repair Cost Including Labor
Wood-burning fireplace$200 – $1,200
Gas fireplace$200 – $1,000
Electric fireplace$150 – $900

Fireplace Maintenance Tips

Your fireplace is an integral part of your home, and it’s essential to keep it in good working order. Here are a few tips on maintaining your fireplace:

Annual Professional Inspection

It’s essential to have your fireplace inspected by a professional at least once a year. They will be able to clean the fireplace and chimney and make sure that everything is in working order.

Clean the Fireplace Regularly

You should also clean the fireplace regularly. This includes sweeping the hearth and removing any ashes from the firebox. It would help if you kept the flue open for smoke to escape.

Follow Your Manufacturer’s Instructions

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your fireplace. This includes using the proper type of fuel and not overloading the firebox.

By following your manufacturer’s instructions and having regular professional inspections, you can help keep your fireplace in good working order.

Keep Your Fire Extinguisher Close By in Case of an Emergency

If a blaze does manage to get out of control, you’ll be able to put it out quickly and prevent any further damage. Be sure to check your fire extinguisher regularly to ensure that it’s in good working order.

Use the Right Kind of Wood for Your Fireplace

Depending on the type of fireplace you have, you should be using either hardwood or softwood. Hardwood, like oak, is dense and will burn slowly and evenly. Softwood, like pine, is lightweight and burns quickly.

Once you’ve identified the right kind of wood for your fireplace, be sure only to use seasoned wood. Seasoned wood is wood that has been cut and left to dry for at least six months.

If you try to burn green wood or wood that hasn’t had a chance to dry out, you’ll likely end up with a fire that smokes and is difficult to keep lit.

6. Don’t Overload Your Fireplace

Finally, be sure not to overload your fireplace. Overloading the firebox can cause the fire to smoke and can be a safety hazard.

Only put as much wood in the fire as you need to keep it going, and be sure to leave room for air to circulate.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your fireplace is safe and in good working order. If you have any concerns about your fireplace, contact a professional for help.

Conclusion

Fireplace maintenance is essential to keeping your fireplace in good working order. By regularly inspecting your fireplace and addressing any issues as they arise, you can avoid significant problems down the road.

If you’re unsure how to maintain your fireplace, consult a professional properly. They can help you troubleshoot any issues and ensure your fireplace runs efficiently.

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