Lighting a fire on a cold night or turning on the furnace is a great way to stay warm. And, although these appliances can provide ambiance and relaxation, you may not be thinking about how your home’s chimney can expose you to the risks of carbon monoxide buildup and fire.
Usually, only fireplaces are associated with chimneys. However, other common appliances—such as furnaces and water heaters—also require outdoor chimneys, which are commonly called vents. All of these chimneys function similarly, and they require regular maintenance so that smoke and flue gases are ventilated properly.
Without regular maintenance, your chimneys can become damaged or obstructed by a buildup of creosote—an oily, black residue that is highly combustible and can block ventilation. Your chimneys should be inspected every year, preferably before winter sets in:
- Make sure that your appliances are connected to separate flues or ducts to prevent a buildup of carbon monoxide.
- Ensure that the interior metal liners of chimneys are in good condition and don’t have any cracks that could release carbon monoxide into your living areas.
- Inspect the upper openings of your chimneys, if possible. Make sure that the openings are clear of debris, such as leaves and nests.
- Have your chimneys cleaned to reduce the buildup of creosote.
- Contact a certified specialist to repair, replace and clean your chimneys. If chimneys aren’t maintained properly, they could become an even larger threat to your home.
Chimneys might seem like a low-tech aspect of your home, but ignoring chimney maintenance can cause catastrophic damage.
Many summer storms are capable of producing hail, which can damage your home. Depending on the materials used to construct the different areas of your home, damage may not always be clearly visible.
Roofs on residential homes can be produced with a variety of different materials. After a hailstorm, inspect your roof as much as possible while on the ground; only an expert should go on your roof to inspect damages. While inspecting, look for the following problems:
- Cracks or holes in the roof
- Dark spots that can appear on asphalt shingles
- Chips or cracks on slate shingles
- Damage to the roof’s underlying material if any shingles are missing
Storms that produce high winds are also capable of causing substantial damage to windows and window frames. Make sure that your home’s windows are free from the following:
- Cracks in the glass itself, as well as the window glazing
- Damage to the window frame that could compromise the strength of the rest of the window
- Ruptured window seals, which could let moisture or other elements into your home
Also check other parts of your home for damage, such as siding, architectural features and any vehicles parked outside.
The primary reason your basement and home can flood during a rainstorm is due to poor or blocked drainage. See below for precautionary measures you can take to protect your home and its belongings from flooding due to surface water.
Simple Prevention Steps
- Since leaves are the biggest contributor to clogged gutters, clean the gutters and the drainage downspouts attached to your roof at least twice a year.
- Make sure that the ground area within 10 feet of your home slopes away from your home’s foundation.
- Extend downspouts at least 10 feet from your home.
- Direct water flow from downspouts away from your home, being careful not to discharge the water too close to adjacent property.
- Have your roof carefully inspected at least once a year by a capable person to check the roof thoroughly for missing shingles, degraded roof components, separation of the roof from chimneys and exhaust pipes, and other roof problems.
- If your house or commercial lot is at risk of flooding from a higher neighboring property, consider building a solid wall masonry fence on the water-vulnerable boundaries of your property.
- Preventative landscaping can also help reduce the chance of a mudslide or flooding.
- Be vigilant for warning signs of an impending water flood problem. This includes water stains and mold growth on ceilings and walls, the underside of attic roof sheathing, and mold water pooling, water dripping, water leaks, or mold growth anywhere inside your home or business.
Lastly, plan ahead! If flooding occurs, be familiar with how to shut off electricity, gas and water at main switches and valves. Knowing how to do this ahead of time will help you to react quickly and minimize potential damages.