Home fireplaces often sit unused for most of the year.  With the holidays coming up, fireplaces might get “fired up” for family get togethers. 

The biggest issue can be old brick and terra cotta liners that can allow flue gasses to escape into the home.  In some older homes, flues have combined uses—such as for the fireplace and hot water heating system. It’s important to know the purpose of a flue is to ensure that dangerous gasses like carbon monoxide aren’t building up in your home.

Even if your fireplace is blocked off and not used, the flue still could be in use by your water heater or your furnace – especially in an older home.  

Additionally, animals like to make their homes in chimneys.  Their nests and fecal material can cause flue gasses to back up into the home. Such venting problems can develop slowly and exacerbate difficult breathing for older people or people with known asthma issues. 

Finally, make sure the flue damper is functional. The flue damper enables you to control how much air flows up your chimney when the fireplace is in use. It should always be open when the fireplace is in use. Otherwise, smoke could fill your home. 

The most likely repair to flue issues is to have the chimney lined.  Most chimney liners can be installed for under $1,000.  As with most issues an ounce of prevention can go a long way. If you’re planning to use your fireplace this winter, it is a good idea to have a certified chimney sweep check it out.