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Chimneys and more need your attention

Well, here we are already into October! The bite in the air – not to mention the mercury in the thermometer – lets us know that winter is on its way.

We’ve been talking recently about various kinds of heating appliances. Last week we gave a plug for ductless heat pumps – a newer kind of heating unit that has so many benefits. It is our most recommended heating unit.

Regardless of what type of primary heating you have in your home, most houses around here have at least one fireplace. Typically fireplaces are used most often for ambiance, a secondary heat source or as back up when the power goes out. Regardless how often you use yours, it’s prudent to ensure that it’s ready for the cold weather coming.

In fact, giving the entire roof a once-over soon is a great idea. So, examine your roof for lose or missing shingles as well as moss or other vegetation. In addition, look closely at the metal flashings and fascia and barge boards to make sure they are intact and secure.

Remember, as important as checking out all those things is, it’s certainly not worth risking your life over! So, if you are not an able-bodied do-it-yourselfer, please call a professional to tackle these chores. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, please take extreme care. A $50 ladder stand-off is cheap insurance for sliding and ladder fall protection.


As we’ve said, most chimneys need to be cleaned about once a year. So, either call a professional or pick a dry day to tackle the project yourself. Please watch your step!

As you examine the outside of the chimney, what you don’t want to see are cracks in the mortar or bricks, soft mortar between the bricks, loose bricks, moss or damaged flashing and plant growth! Can you shake the chimney at all? If any of these conditions exist, you may want to call a masonry expert.


Unsealed chimneys tend to absorb moisture like a sponge. On the Harbor, with our windy and rainy winters, it is not unusual to have chimneys that become so saturated with rainwater that they leak past the normally protective flashing and into the attic.

To prevent this absorption, you can seal your chimney with a product call Fabrishield ®. It’s simply a liquid that’s sprayed, rolled or brushed on and makes water on your chimney bead up like rain drops on a waxed car. You can find it locally or better yet, call a local masonry contractor to apply it.


You also might want to peer down your chimney before you light the first fire of the season to make sure that no industrious bird has decided to take up residence inside.

Depending on how much you use your fireplace, most fire departments recommend that you have your chimney cleaned each year to remove built-up soot and resins that could ignite in the flue and cause a fire.

Remember, if you’re not up to any of this, call a chimney sweep or masonry contractor to inspect your chimney and seal it.


It's not just old-fashioned fireplaces that require annual inspections for safety. Many homes have a gas, oil or wood-fired stove, furnace or pellet stove. These appliances have unique needs. Most are usually vented through a metal type stovepipe and require regular inspections to prevent carbon monoxide infiltration into the home.

Look for soot or ash build-up, rust, pinholes, warped pipes, loose pipe connections and missing or damaged roof-cap. If any of these defects are found they should be corrected before use.

While you're at it, if you have a gas water heater, it too should be checked. Your gas or oil company service person might be the best inspector for these applications.


Hopefully your heating appliance is not vented into one of the old"mid-wall" type chimneys. These obsolete chimneys were prevalent in older homes and have been responsible for numerous house fires. There are a few still out there-- sometimes the homeowners don't even realize that their fireplace vents into a mid-wall chimney. If you have one of these mid-wall chimneys, it should be removed and replaced with a modern and much safer vented-flue system.


As we've mentioned the last couple of weeks, from the shingles themselves to fascia boards, gutters, flashings, barge boards and chimneys, it's important to make sure all components are well maintained.

And, it doesn't stop there. Think about "roof penetrations" for a minute. Plumbing vent jacks, attic ventilation or "pot" vents, skylights, your electrical mast's weather collar, satellite dish and through-the-roof fan vents are all penetrations in the roof's weatherproof surface. They are also major potential sources of leaks.


Let’s look at each penetration to your roof, starting with the plumbing jacks. These “jacks” are waterproof collars or boots surrounding or wrapping around each plumbing vent pipe that goes through the roof. They are a seal to keep moisture from entering the hole made by the pipe, through your roof.

Some are made of rubber while others are made of lead. Either way, they should be in good shape – supple, tight to the pipe and without holes or surrounded by debris, such as moss or leaves.


Next, if you have the square, plastic attic vents (called pot vents) they should be crack-free and clean. The screen inside should be intact, clean and free of rust.

Caulk any small cracks or replace the vent if a screen is rusted or big cracks are found. Again, remove any moss or debris around each vent to let the rainwater flow freely by the vent.

Skylights should be cleaned and examined for any defects and of course, for moss and leaf build-up. If they are leaking, you may need a roofing expert to fix the problem.


Before you set foot on your roof, make sure you know exactly where your electrical mast is located!! It is the vertical pole (usually above your meter) where the PUD’s wires attach to the house. This can be a very dangerous area for you to be doing any work!

Where the pole goes through the roof requires a weatherproof collar to make a weather-tight connection. Over time it can fail from UV light damaging the rubber seal, it may only need a bit of caulk to prevent water from getting below the roof, but there are retro-fit collars available that fit over the existing mast collar for best results.

You may want a professional to do the looking, sealing or retrofitting.


Every moisture-producing room, including bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms, should have a powered fan that directly vents to the outside. Whether they go through the exterior wall or through the roof, all should have a weatherproof connection and a working flapper at the outside vent.

Like the other vents, check their condition and turn the fans on and off to determine that the flapper works freely and closes completely.

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