5 Potential Risks of ventless fireplace installation

ventless fireplace installed

Many homeowners in Washington DC want a fireplace installed in a room that currently does not have one.  When you decide to have a fireplace installed in your home, you have many options.  However, one of the first choices you’ll likely need to make is whether you will have a ventless or ventilated fireplace installed. Some homeowners will opt for ventless or vent-free options as a means of saving money. Unfortunately, ventless fireplaces present specific risks.

How ventless fireplaces work

Ventless fireplaces operate through the use of natural gas, propane, or even a type of gel; these free-standing units do not redirect exhaust or fumes from the fireplace to the outdoors. Instead, these units rely on indoor air for combustion and emit the gas back into the home.  Ventless units are designed to emit lower levels of gases than a “traditional” fireplace with ventilation.  As a result of the reduced gas levels, manufacturers believe that ventless fireplaces are safe. 

Despite the manufacturer claims of reduced gas levels, many fireplace professionals consider ventless fireplaces as unsafe.  These fireplaces can pose a number of health, fire, and other risks to those in your home.

Potential Risks of Ventless Fireplaces

When you take a minute to think about what a ventless fireplace entails, it makes sense that these units are not without their inherent dangers. Although there may be a lower amount of fumes exhausted by a ventless fireplace, there are still some fumes—and unfortunately, these fumes have nowhere to go but into your home and thus into the air you breathe. Once you have a better understanding of the many risks of ventless fireplaces, you’ll be able to make a better-informed decision regarding which type of fireplace is right for your home.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

One of the greatest risks of using a ventless fireplace is that of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be deadly inside your home. Specifically, carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that, in high enough concentrations, can lead to serious health problems such as:

  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • loss of consciousness
  • asphyxiation

Unfortunately, carbon monoxide is also a known by-product of ventless fireplace materials. And because of the colorless and odorless nature of the gas, many families will not even realize that they’re being affected by carbon monoxide until it’s too late. In the early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning, family members may report feeling ill or thinking they have come down with a cold. If not caught, however, this poisoning can have severe and even fatal health consequences.

Having a carbon monoxide detector located near a ventless fireplace may help to alert a household if levels get too high but shy of not using the fireplace at all, there isn’t much that can be done to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning with a ventless fireplace altogether.

Increased Fire Hazard

In addition to the higher risk of carbon monoxide poisoning involved with a ventless fireplace, there is also a more significant fire hazard with these types of fireplaces. The increased fire hazard is a result of the toxic by-products that are released into the air with each use.  From there, many issues could lead to a house fire, including:

  • an undiscovered gas leak
  • a faulty burner
  • furniture placed too close to the fireplace

Respiratory Health Risks of Ventless Fireplaces

A ventless fireplace can pose a risk to the respiratory health of people inside the home.  In addition to carbon monoxide, there are numerous other toxic by-products that ventless fireplaces are known to release into the air.  

Examples of toxic byproducts released by ventless fireplaces

  • nitrogen dioxide
  • sulfur dioxide
  • hydrocarbons

When these gases are released into your home, they become part of the air you breathe; the more you operate your ventless fireplace, the more present these toxins will be in your air.  These substances are known to be damaging to the body’s respiratory system, especially when inhaled in large amounts over the course of time. Gases can be especially dangerous for those who already have pre-existing respiratory conditions, including asthma and allergies.  However, even those with an otherwise clean bill of health could have serious adverse health effects when they inhale these toxins on a regular basis. With a ventilated fireplace, you can ensure that these and other toxic by-products will be exhausted far outside of your home.

Risk of Sensor Failure

All ventless fireplaces are equipped with a small device known as an oxygen-depletion sensor. The purpose of these sensors is to detect the levels of oxygen in the room and to automatically shut off the fireplace if the sensor detects low oxygen. Unfortunately, these sensors are subject to failures, especially when you consider the fact that they are small electronic devices that are not designed to last forever. If the oxygen sensor fails, you could be operating your ventless fireplace in a dangerous environment where oxygen levels are unsafe in the room, which could be hazardous to your health and the health of your loved ones. 

Potential for Mold and Mildew

Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that ventless fireplaces tend to release a lot of water vapor when they are in use.   Due to the lack of a ventilation system, there isn’t anywhere for this water vapor to go or fully evaporate.

Increased moisture inside home results in the following risks:

  • mold
  • mildew
  • home moisture damage

Mold and mildew, of course, can have serious health effects on those living in the home—especially for those with known respiratory conditions like asthma and allergies.

Safe Ventilated Fireplace Alternatives

With all these potential risks in mind, do you want to put your home, your possessions, and your family in danger by opting for a ventless system?  The cost for installing a traditional, fully ventilated fireplace may be higher.  However, in the long run, you will get to enjoy much higher peace of mind in knowing that your fireplace is safe. 

If you’ve been thinking about having a fireplace installed in your home, make sure it’s adequately vented by a professional fireplace installation company likes ours.  By doing so, you can avoid these common dangers and use your new fireplace with confidence and peace of mind.

Rebuild leaning chimney in Washington DC

 damaged chimney in Washington DC

BEFORE

The owners of this home in Washington DC hired our Washington DC chimney repair team to rebuild their leaning chimney in Washington DC.  Above is a picture of the chimney.  You can see that the chimney is leaning towards the house.  This occurred because the mortar joints had deteriorated. The mortar joints had deteriorated over time from moisture getting into the chimney.  It is possible that the moisture may have come from the concrete crown and worked its way down the chimney or it may also be from the condensation of the flue gasses in the chimney or both. In this particular case, I believe it’s a result of both.  This project reminded me of a previous rebuild.  

 chimney demolition in washington dc

 

Here we are starting the demo and taking the chimney down. The leaning chimney could not be corrected without rebuilding it. 

 installing chimney liner in DC

 

Once the chimney was rebuilt we installed a stainless steel liner for the fireplace and the gas boiler and water heater in the basement. We install the liners after the brickwork, so they are not in the way while we are laying the bricks. During the demolition of the chimney, we removed the old terracotta flue liners to make room for the stainless steel liners.

 insulating installed chimney liners

 

Once the liners were installed, we insulated around the liners with a minimum 1″ of Premier Mix poured insulation which is a mixture of vermiculite and Portland cement. This plus 4″ of solid masonry is required for the liners to meet the manufacturers UL Listing for zero clearance.

 

 

 

In the basement, we installed two stainless steel tees inside the wall for the water heater and gas boiler to hook up to.

 

 

We parged the smoke chamber of the fireplace with Chamber Tech 2000 to seal any gaps and to correct the corbelling bricks.

 

 

Once the liners were installed, we completed the rebuild by pouring a new floating cast concrete crown and installing new copper counter flashing that is tucked into the mortar bed joints of the chimney. The chimney will be painted at a later date along with the rest of the house.

 

AFTER!!!

The chimney has been completely rebuilt including the liner, crown, and caps.

 

 

5 Reasonswhy it is best to install a gas fireplace

 gas fireplace

Using a gas fireplace provide an affordable, convenient way to add warmth to your home.  Many homeowners in Washington DC have made the wise decision of having a gas fireplace installed in their home.  There are plenty of reasons why you should make the investment – and when you understand the benefits, it’s all the more reason to have one in your home.

1. Gas fireplaces are better for the environment

A gas fireplace allows you to go green as opposed to using a central furnace or HVAC system. You don’t use all of the rooms in your home to the same level, and there is no reason for you to pay to heat your entire home, including the rooms that remain unoccupied. A gas fireplace allows you to heat the room where everyone is located. In some instances, this can cut your electric bill by 20 to 40%.

2. No brick chimney needed

There is no chimney necessary when you opt for a gas fireplace. When you are looking at installing a fireplace, this needs to be a primary consideration because installing a chimney could be cost prohibitive. Modern technology makes it possible to have a fireplace without the need for a chimney area a single pipe can be run to ensure that the gas vents to the outside and this reduces the cost of installation dramatically.

3. You control the intensity fo the fire in the fireplace

When you have a gas fireplace, you also get to control the fire, including the heat and flame. This means you are going to have to stack firewood into the fireplace and hope for the best. There will be various controls that allow you to determine the intensity of the embers as well as the height of the flames.

Many units provide you with a remote control. This allows you to control the ambiance and warmth of the fire without having to get up from where you are seated. This adds even more convenience and control.

4. Gas fireplaces are easier to cleanup

You’re also going to have an easier cleanup when you choose to go with a gas version. This is because there will be no need to clean out a chimney or get rid of and half-burnt logs. In fact, there will be no need for firewood at all, and this is going to make it easier for you to obtain heat and at a lower cost as well.  Overall, gas fireplaces are easier to maintain.

It’s an Investment to Your Home

When you opt for a gas fireplace, it’s an investment into your home. It has the potential to increase the value of your home. You’re also going to be able to decide on how the fireplace looks, with such decisions to make as:

  • Size of fireplace
  • The number of controls
  • Overall style

Whether you are looking for something rustic or modern, you will be able to find it. It offers up more options than if you were to go with a traditional wood-burning fireplace.

It’s important to understand the reasons for having a gas fireplace so that you can make a more informed decision as to what to install in your home. Gas fireplaces are environmentally friendly, easy to clean and operate, and there are plenty of different styles available in the marketplace.

How to install a chimney cap

 how to install chimney cap

On occassion homeowners will have to replace their chimney caps.  This most commonly results from the caps blowing off. The best option is hiring a professional chimney repair service.  Most companies include chimney cap installation as part of their available chimney repairs.  Using a professional installer provides the added benefit of discovering unknown problems at their early stages. However, some homeowners prefer to install the chimney cap themselves.  This article was created for those do-it-yourselfers who want to install their chimney caps.  Here you will find information that you need to know about how to install a chimney cap. 

There are several options available for replacing a chimney cap:

  • Fit over a flue
  • Friction fit
  • Multi Flue Cap

Fitting The Chimney Cap Over One Flue

The most common type of chimney cap is one that fits over a single flue. This doesn’t involve any tools special tools. However, it does require you to be on top of your roof.  Do not attempt to do this if you are not 100% comfortable with heights.  The single flue chimney cap should cover between one and three inches of the flue. There should also be at least five inches between the top of the chimney flue and the chimney cap lid so that there is proper air flow. Once the positioning is where it should be, the screws should be tightened from all sides.

Using a Chimney Cap with a Friction Fit

There are sometimes chimney caps that fit in with a friction fit.  Friction fits are common when there is a metal flue.  Using a chimney cap with a friction fit can be challenging.  As a result, it is best to have a chimney technician install it for you.  If you choose to do it yourself It is important to make sure that the cap you are installing has been approved for use on the chimney model.  Steer clear of parts that are not created by the original manufacturer.  If the original parts are not available, it is best to have a chimney expert.  The expert can use their knowledge to select the proper after market part.  

The cap should be placed firmly into the metal flue. From there, it is sealed into place with silicone sealer.

If there are two or more concentric pipes, also known as air-cooled flues, you will need a special type of chimney cap. This will allow the cooling air to flow sufficiently from pipe to pipe.  Once again make sure that you use caps from the caps manufacturer. 

Installing a Multi-flue Chimney Cap

The multi-flue cap is the most challenging type of cap.  Multi-flue caps are commonly found on masonry chimneys.  These caps extend across the entire chimney crown. This is different from a single flue cap which only covers the flue.  The cap can be anchored on top of the concrete crown.  They come in a variety of styles.  The challenge comes from the fact that proper installation requires the installer to put the cap into position, pre-drill holes in the concrete and then mount the cap.  If the holes are not drilled properly, the cap can blow off.  

There are many people who have attempted to install their chimney caps.  In some cases, it went well.  In others, the cap blew off, or the chimney experienced new damages.  There is a real benefit to hiring a professional.  Many homeowners choose to include chimney cap replacement in combination with a cleaning.  If you decide to do it yourself, it is important to consider all of the aspects of the job and be willing to call a technician to take care of it if you run into difficulty.  

Before you get started on any aspect of the installation, be sure you:

  • Take the time to identify the type of chimney cap you have
  • Identify the flue your chimney has
  • Use parts from the original manufacturer
  • Review any instructions that may have come from the manufacturer

Have all of the supplies you will need, which should be minimal regardless of what kind of cap you have. Then, follow the instructions and your cap will be in place in no time at a

Chimney Repair: Chimney Crown Series -part 1

Crowns are a common source of chimney problems that result in chimney repairs.  From Silver Spring, MD to Annapolis and everywhere in between, chimney crowns are a cause for concern.  The is part 1 of a 3 part series concerning common chimney crown repairs.  

What is a chimney crown?

The chimney crown is the layer of concrete sitting on top of the last row of brick and its purpose is to shed water away from the chimney. It’s normally 3″-4″ inches thick and starts high around the flue liner then slopes down to the edge of the bricks. The chimney crown is the first line of defense for the masonry chimney, once the crown fails the chimneys become prone to leaking, and the masonry below will soon fail after. If caught early on the crown can be sealed to preserve it and prevent further damages. 

Chimney Crown Sealant

There are many different crown repair/sealant products available to us, and we’ve tried them all. Over the years, we’ve found that Crown Guard is a superior product for preserving and sealing the crown. 

Failed Crown Sealant

These two chimney crowns were sealed with another type of crown sealant, and both of them failed!

1) The first one was applied to a crown that needed to be rebuilt. The existing crown was so severely damaged that some areas were not even covering the bricks. The sealant started cracking (not suppose to happen) and peeling off. We rebuilt the concrete crown.

2) The second one was applied to a crown that was in fairly good shape. They sealed the crown in an attempt to stop a leak. As you can see the crown sealant is peeling off and the leak came back. We ended up rebuilding the concrete crown.  

Crown Guard

Crown Guard is applied when the crown is cracked but is still structurally intact.  The surface area of the current crown is first cleaned, then the Crown Guard is applied over the existing crown and covers all the surface areas of the crown.

Before Chimney Repair with Crown Guard

This chimney crown is cracked but is still structurally sound. Crown Guard is the appropriate fix for the situation.

After Chimney Repair with Crown Guard

Crown Guard is clear and can be applied with temperatures ranging from  -40 degrees to +140 degrees Fahrenheit. It won’t crack or peel like other crown repair/sealer products in the market, and it resists water immediately.

Leak Test After Crown Guard Application

crown guard leak test

As you can see here, the water is repelled and does not soak into the crown at all.

As a respected chimney repair company in Silver Spring, MD All Pro Chimney Service only uses the best products for sealing chimney crowns. 

Related crown repair articles

9 Common causes of chimney leaks

Chimney Repair- Chimney crown series part 3

Chimney repair – chimney crown series part 2