Up on the housetop, you should look!
We hate to interrupt the last bit of summer with a mention of added chores. However, we also want you all – and your house – to be warm, dry and safe this fall and winter.
It’s a lot easier and safer to be on a roof on a dry, windless day, than it is in the middle of a storm. That’s why we’re going to encourage you to, look ahead and, well, look up!
For starters, regardless of the type of primary heating you have, 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 wise to ensure that it’s ready for the cold weather coming.
You might want to schedule an expert now, before everyone else is thinking the same way!
It’s not just you’re your chimney that needs a once-over, this is also a great time to give the entire roof a once-over.
That means examining your roof for loose 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. Roofing companies or a general handyman are a couple of choices to call.
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.
Examine that chimney
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.
Is your chimney sealed?
Unsealed chimneys tend to absorb moisture like a sponge. On the Harbor, with our windy and rainy falls and 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.
Look down your chimney!
You may also 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.
Stovepipe maintenance is key
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-caps. 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.
Replace mid-wall chimney!
Hopefully your heating appliance is not vented into one of the old “mid-wall” type chimneys. While each year we are seeing fewer and fewer of them, these obsolete chimneys are still out there in older homes on the Harbor.
They have been responsible for numerous house fires. Often 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.
Roof’s condition is critical
From the shingles themselves to fascia boards, gutters, flashings, barge boards and chimneys, it’s important to make sure all components of your roof 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.
Other roof penetrations to examine
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.
Please take extra care!
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.
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.
This can be a very dangerous area for you to be doing any work! It’s possible to have the power turned off by the PUD if you need to get close to the mast. Call them several days ahead of time to make arrangements. Or better, yet call a professional to do the looking, sealing or retrofitting.
Check fans and vents
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.