Perhaps nothing strikes fear into the heart of a homeowner with a fireplace like the phrase “chimney fire.” We turn to our fireplaces for warmth and comfort, but the thought of a damaging and potentially deadly chimney fire is nothing but chilling. For homeowners with prefabricated chimneys, there is something that is potentially more dangerous and hard to prevent than a chimney fire: a chase fire.
When it comes to chimney fires, we’re often given a sense of security. The saying goes that a clean chimney never catches fire. Ergo, our annual chimney sweeping keeps our homes and our families safe. That’s true for countless homeowners, but there is a type of chimney-caused fire that even a clean chimney can’t prevent — A chase fire.
If you have a prefabricated metal chimney, the structure that surrounds it, which is often sided to match the look of your home, is the chase. In many homes, these wooden-framed chases are improperly constructed. They’re built with too little clearance between the metal chimney flue and the wooden framing, which can allow the wooden chase to overheat and catch fire. They can also ignite if the metal flue is cracked or damaged and sparks escape and come into contact with the wooden framing. Too often, news stories inaccurately report these fires as chimney fires, which leaves homeowners in the darks about the dangers of an improperly constructed chase.
Preventing chase fires
The bad news about chase fires is that they are actually more common than chimney fires, and chase fire prevention comes down to proper chimney installation and construction. When constructing a home or installing a fireplace in your home, it’s crucial to hire a contractor you know will closely adhere to all building code specifications and all manufacturer’s guidelines for installation.
Unfortunately, once a home has been constructed and a chimney has been installed, it’s nearly impossible to tell if the chase has been built with the proper clearances. Inspecting and repairing improperly built chases is highly invasive, and can be costly. In most cases, chimney clearance can’t be checked without breaking through drywall, and restoring an improperly built chase to proper clearances generally involves rebuilding the structure from scratch. The worst case scenario, of course, is that improper chase clearance isn’t detected until it causes a major fire.
If you’re concerned about improper chase clearance or improper chimney installation, call the chimney experts at Environmental Chimney Service. We’ll be able to answer any questions you have. And remember, the best thing you can do for your chimney is to keep it clean! If you’re overdue for your annual sweeping and inspection, schedule your chimney cleaning today!