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Question DetailsAsked on 10/30/2017

Is the landlord or tenant responsible for having a fireplace cleaned. been here 2 years and make a fire once a week

I have a fire weekly during cold weather. Went to make a fire and it smoked up the house, I checked the flue and it was wide open. Informed the landlord and was told I needed to have the chimney cleaned at my own expense. I only burn oak firewood. no pine. Don't see how it could get clogged that quickly. (was told she had it cleaned prior to my moving in.) Who is responsible for chimney maintenance?

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2 Answers

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Cleaning responsibility would depend on the specifics of your contract of course (including any attached rules or requirements for maintenance) - certainly if a "zero net" lease where the tenant is responsible for all building maintenance it would be your responsibility. Though certainly, like all appliances and fixtures in the unit, it should be in clean (as in reasonably clean for a fireplace/chimney - not spotless) and safe functioning condition when you move in.
In a normal rental situation, the fireplace/chimney is part of the installed heating system (albeit normally as a secondary heating source), and is built-in and comes with the unit (not a portable appliance), so is part of the physical "plant" - hence landlord's responsibility to maintain it to keep it safe, which includes periodic inspection and cleaning as necessary. Cleaning frequency sometimes established by local fire code, sometimes based on amount of use by the tenant (meaning landlord should in that case be either having it inspected regularly, or question tenants on their frequency of use). Generally, removal of ash would be considered the tenant's responsibility, but maintenance and flue cleaning would be the landlord's area. Periodic cleaning out the ashes in the firebox would be the tenant's responsibility - same philosophy that says a landlord is responsible for the plumbing on kitchen and bathroom fixtures but routine cleaning of the exposed surfaces of the fixture itself is the tenant's responsibility. Some insurance policies also require inspection (and cleaning if necessary) of chimneys in use, especially in commercial property insurance, on a yearly basis. HOWEVER - to your specific question, especially since this seemed to be a sudden event (not building up gradually) - it takes a TREMENDOUS amount of soot and creosote (enough you would likely have a chimney fire first) to block the flue enough to block the exhaust gases. My guess is you had an instance of reverse ventilation flow - common in periods of high outside air pressure - i.e. especially during clear or cold spells and sometimes in windy periods. VERY common in central air heat/AC buildings, where there is commonly a slight negative pressure inside the building envelope due to central air/heat unit operating or sometimes just due to venting into the attic and walls through penetrations. Normal solution unless the chimney is actually blocked (or damper has been or fallen closed) - just slightly open a window or outside door connected to that room before lighting the fire and leave open for a half minute to minute typically. And light fire with gas or newspaper so the initial combustion exhaust, which may flow out into the room a bit till it gets hot and creates a gravity draft up the flue, is clean. Opening an outside door/window is just to provide makeup combustion air for the chimney until the hot air establishes a draft up the flue. Normally, once the hot air fills the chimney, because it is hot so has lower density than the room air, it will continue to rise in the chimney on its own and create a draft to keep the combustion gases moving up the chimney, creating enough of a partial vacuum to pull combustion air in from surrounding rooms and under doors and around seals in windows once it is going. Another common solution is to, as soon as fire has been lit, is to take a rolled-up section of newspaper (which you ahve sitting by pre-rolled) and ignite the end in the fire and hold it just below the damper (the bottom of the flue) to get a hot air draft up the flue - then as it starts burning down toward your hand just throw in the back of the fireplace. Then, in all but very "tight" houses (ones where the vapor barriers and insulation are well done so there is little natural air exchange with the outside), you can then close the door or window once the flue draft is established. In very tight houses and ones without makeup air source for the furnace, sometimes you have to leave a window open a half inch or inch through the fireplace usage to provide makeup combustion air - in some tight houses in areas with very tight building codes there is actually a makeup air damper or "air valve" built into the fireplace or right next to it which you can oopen to provide this makeup air. Course, this wastes heat bu pulling in outside air to replace the "conditioned" air being used as fireplace combustion air, but except with sealed stoves/fireplaces which have outside combustion air inlet and sealed direct exhaust to the outside so they do not rob indoor "conditioned" air, fireplaces and wood stoves and such are commonly about a break-even or even an energy waster anyway - commonly removing as much or more heat from the house in the conditioned air used for combustion and drawn up the chimney with the exhuast gases than they put into the room. Sometimes in a tight building the fireplace will draw OK for awhile, then all of a sudden begin billowing out smoke when the central furnace kicks on (or another fireplace or unsealed wood stove in the house is lit), if it happens to be pulling more air from that room then it is putting into it because of ducting issues or mis-matched settings of adjustable dampers. If that happens, of course leaving a window open a bit in that room will solve the issue - or commonly just opening all the doors in the apartment/house floor to provide more air source for the fireplace to draw from works. So - generally, furnace should be turned off when using fireplace to reduce energy wasage - BUT that can make for other rooms cooling down, and in extreme outside temps can even result in (with long peariods of fireplace use) freezing of windows and in-wall piping. Note the same thing can happen if using a fireplace for a long time and the furnace thermostat is in the same room or nearby - the fireplace heating the room (assuming a roaring fire) can heat the room enough to satisfy the thermostat, so it never kicks the furnace/boiler on - letting the rest of the house get quite cold. I have seen cases where people with high-energy woodstoves for many hours a day (especially the self-feeding pellet stoves) have it heat the thermostat enough that water pipes (rarely) or hot-water baseboard or in-floor heating loops (more commonly because they are commonly very close to or even in the outside wall) have frozen up and burst - even though the woodstove or fireplace is roaring away and keeping that room at perhaps 80 degrees of more. Obviously, takes pretty cold outside temps to do this - commonly sub-zero or so,, but does happen with some frequency in northern tier states and Alaska and Canada - and of course commonly when it is near the coldest outside just to make working conditions bad and availability of plumbers the worst because that is when people's boilers are failing and need immediate repair, and water pipes are freezing up because of the cold weather.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD

0
Votes

OK - Angies List computer is taking out all the paragraph breaks again - will try again to try to get them back in - failing that, ==== will indicate where the paragraph breaks should be.

======

Also - many states and some cities (like NYC) have a Landlord and Tenant Act, or similarly title act, which spells out a lot of the responsibilities of each party in lieu of specific (legal) rental/lease agreement tearms covering a subject.

======

Cleaning responsibility would depend on the specifics of your contract of course (including any attached rules or requirements for maintenance) - certainly if a "zero net" lease where the tenant is responsible for all building maintenance it would be your responsibility. Though certainly, like all appliances and fixtures in the unit, it should be in clean (as in reasonably clean for a fireplace/chimney - not spotless) and safe functioning condition when you move in.

====== In a normal rental situation, the fireplace/chimney is part of the installed heating system (albeit normally as a secondary heating source), and is built-in and comes with the unit (not a portable appliance), so is part of the physical "plant" - hence landlord's responsibility to maintain it to keep it safe, which includes periodic inspection and cleaning as necessary. Cleaning frequency sometimes established by local fire code, sometimes based on amount of use by the tenant (meaning landlord should in that case be either having it inspected regularly, or question tenants on their frequency of use). Generally, removal of ash would be considered the tenant's responsibility, but maintenance and flue cleaning would be the landlord's area. ====== Periodic cleaning out the ashes in the firebox would be the tenant's responsibility - same philosophy that says a landlord is responsible for the plumbing on kitchen and bathroom fixtures but routine cleaning of the exposed surfaces of the fixture itself is the tenant's responsibility. ====== Some insurance policies also require inspection (and cleaning if necessary) of chimneys in use, especially in commercial property insurance, on a yearly basis. Or prohibit their use entirely - though if installed and use is not prohibited in the rental agreement teh landlord cannot just cut off access to it. ====== HOWEVER - to your specific question, especially since this seemed to be a sudden event (not building up gradually) - it takes a TREMENDOUS amount of soot and creosote (enough you would likely have a chimney fire first) to block the flue enough to block the exhaust gases. ====== My guess is you had an instance of reverse ventilation flow - common in periods of high outside air pressure - i.e. especially during clear or cold spells and sometimes in windy periods. VERY common in central air heat/AC buildings, where there is commonly a slight negative pressure inside the building envelope due to central air/heat unit operating or sometimes just due to venting into the attic and walls through penetrations. ====== Normal solution unless the chimney is actually blocked (or damper has been or fallen closed) - just slightly open a window or outside door connected to that room before lighting the fire and leave open for a half minute to minute typically. And light fire with gas or newspaper so the initial combustion exhaust, which may flow out into the room a bit till it gets hot and creates a gravity draft up the flue, is clean. Opening an outside door/window is just to provide makeup combustion air for the chimney until the hot air establishes a draft up the flue. Normally, once the hot air fills the chimney, because it is hot so has lower density than the room air, it will continue to rise in the chimney on its own and create a draft to keep the combustion gases moving up the chimney, creating enough of a partial vacuum to pull combustion air in from surrounding rooms and under doors and around seals in windows once it is going. ====== Another common solution is to, as soon as fire has been lit, is to take a rolled-up section of newspaper (which you ahve sitting by pre-rolled) and ignite the end in the fire and hold it just below the damper (the bottom of the flue) to get a hot air draft up the flue - then as it starts burning down toward your hand just throw in the back of the fireplace. Then, in all but very "tight" houses (ones where the vapor barriers and insulation are well done so there is little natural air exchange with the outside), you can then close the door or window once the flue draft is established. ====== In very tight houses and ones without makeup air source for the furnace, sometimes you have to leave a window open a half inch or inch through the fireplace usage to provide makeup combustion air - in some tight houses in areas with very tight building codes there is actually a makeup air damper or "air valve" built into the fireplace or right next to it which you can oopen to provide this makeup air. Course, this wastes heat bu pulling in outside air to replace the "conditioned" air being used as fireplace combustion air, but except with sealed stoves/fireplaces which have outside combustion air inlet and sealed direct exhaust to the outside so they do not rob indoor "conditioned" air, fireplaces and wood stoves and such are commonly about a break-even or even an energy waster anyway - commonly removing as much or more heat from the house in the conditioned air used for combustion and drawn up the chimney with the exhuast gases than they put into the room. ====== Sometimes in a tight building the fireplace will draw OK for awhile, then all of a sudden begin billowing out smoke when the central furnace kicks on (or another fireplace or unsealed wood stove in the house is lit), if it happens to be pulling more air from that room then it is putting into it because of ducting issues or mis-matched settings of adjustable dampers. If that happens, of course leaving a window open a bit in that room will solve the issue - or commonly just opening all the doors in the apartment/house floor to provide more air source for the fireplace to draw from works. ====== So - generally, furnace should be turned off when using fireplace to reduce energy wasage - BUT that can make for other rooms cooling down, and in extreme outside temps can even result in (with long peariods of fireplace use) freezing of windows and in-wall piping. Note the same thing can happen if using a fireplace for a long time and the furnace thermostat is in the same room or nearby - the fireplace heating the room (assuming a roaring fire) can heat the room enough to satisfy the thermostat, so it never kicks the furnace/boiler on - letting the rest of the house get quite cold. I have seen cases where people with high-energy woodstoves for many hours a day (especially the self-feeding pellet stoves) have it heat the thermostat enough that water pipes (rarely) or hot-water baseboard or in-floor heating loops (more commonly because they are commonly very close to or even in the outside wall) have frozen up and burst - even though the woodstove or fireplace is roaring away and keeping that room at perhaps 80 degrees of more. Obviously, takes pretty cold outside temps to do this - commonly sub-zero or so,, but does happen with some frequency in northern tier states and Alaska and Canada - and of course commonly when it is near the coldest outside just to make working conditions bad and availability of plumbers the worst because that is when people's boilers are failing and need immediate repair, and water pipes are freezing up because of the cold weather.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD




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