Is your Gas Fireplace Safe?

September 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Shocking DE Inspection Discoveries

As a Delaware Home Inspector I take my inspections very seriously, Your safety is my concern. The home I was inspecting was 15yrs old  The new buyer found us  on the internet and booked there inspection with us. I learned from there agent that the home was previously inspected, Which I never assume the other inspector performed a complete  evaluation of the property. I started my inspection on the exterior of the home and found that the exterior chimney had soot and so did the areas around the chimney my first thought was a combustion problem IE not enough air or a blocked vent pipe. After closer inspection of the chimney vent pipe I found nothing that would indicate a problem or a potential problem. As I entered the home I went straight to the fireplace and found the whole front panel of glass was black this again was soot.  I turned on the fireplace and could barely see the flame but what I could see was very troubling to me. The flame was orange and the pattern was distorted which I knew right away this was a gas problem.   

                                                                         Glass front with black soot. 


Let me explain the property is supplied with propane gas and I new this fireplace should be using that fuel to burn. When I opened up the lower portion of the fire place I found no indications that the gas valve was converted from Natural Gas to Propane Gas. Let me explain all manufactures make and ship there products set up for Natural gas and when the builder, contractor or even end user purchase and install the products in the home they have to purchase a conversion kit to change the gas valve so it can burn the right fuel. Well way in the back of the fireplace under 15yrs of dirt I found a tag which said the unit was for natural gas.            

                                                                                                  Tag Under fireplace


This troubled me for two reasons, First the other Inspection company missed this item for the previous buyer, but more importantly was that the current home owner was living this way for the past 15yrs.  The home owner was very lucky because this is a very dangerous situation not only from the soot but the gas valve could have cracked and caused gas to leak out into the home and if the conditions were right it could have exploded. I did notify all of the parties involved that I   was turning off the fireplace and gas valve and that this should fixed right away.

When you find your dream home, make sure that you get a thorough home inspection from the Most trusted Delaware Home Inspector, Ted Hinderer of Quality Home Inspections, he serves New Castle, Kent and Sussex Counties. Schedule online or give us a Call today at 302-893-1364 for a thorough home inspection.           We won’t let you buy the money pit.

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4 Responses to “Is your Gas Fireplace Safe?”

  1. Denise Joyal on November 30th, 2010 8:54 pm

    My husband had someone clean out our gas fireplace. This guy removed the door and vacuumed the inside the fireplace. The logs were all disturbed and he removed a lot of the fake “cinders”. I noticed that last fall I became very ill – my throat was sore and I noticed that I needed my inhaler all the time. I had coughing attacks, phlem and headaches. . I am now writing you one year later, and I am facing the same situation. I sit right beside the gas fireplace. My husband tends to be very cheap and instead of hiring a pro…he hired someone who didn’t have clue. Could there be a co leak or toxins causing this. The inside glass is all black, instead of seeing the logs burning, II see the fire coming from the gas outlet. Please answer me…I really need your help.



  2. admin on December 1st, 2010 11:03 am

    Hello Denise
    It sounds to me like the unit was not properly cleaned, Inspected and or reconnected. If your unit is a gas inserted fireplace then there are some very critical componets that have to be both cleaned and inspected prior to being re-installed, If these steps are missed then deadly Carbon Monoxide can leak out whether the appliance is being used or not. My best advise for you or anyone considering hiring a cheap contractor or uncle Bob is don’t. You may save a few dollars but the end results could be deadly, A contractor that specializes in fireplace should always be obtained, but if you do decide to perform the task by yourself which we don’t recommend then the best practice would be if anything is broken or not fitting properly or other wise hard to do stop what your doing and call in a professional. Ok with all that out of the way here is what I want you to due today right now Denise stop using the fireplace shut off the gas supply, turn off the power and call a fireplace specialist and only a fireplace specialist so they can come out and evaluate yoru sitiuation. For your convience only I have provided Below a general maintenance guide, But you should always find out who your manufacture is and always consult them for the proper procedure for maintenance and care of your specific unit. Goodluck and keep us posted.

    Gas Fireplace Maintenance
    With some basic maintenance, you gas fireplace can last for years and years. Here are some ways to maintain the unit.

    CAUTION: Always remember to turn off the gas valve before cleaning your fireplace. The lighting instructions will tell you how to light it again afterwards.

    You can keep the control compartment and the burner clean simply by brushing and vacuuming them once or twice per year. The logs can be fragile and easily damaged, so use a clean soft paint brush to clean them. When the glass starts looking cloudy, clean it with an approved glass cleaner available at your local home store. Do not use abrasive materials. Remember not to clean the glass while it is hot.

    Gold and brass trim should be cleaned with a damp cloth. Do not use abrasive materials, chemical cleaners, or anything else that may damage the finish. A small amount of water on the cloth is enough. Be sure to clean off any fingerprints before turning the unit back on.

    Vent Maintenance
    Inspect the vents at least twice a year to look for signs of damage, wear, or obstruction. Areas that are exposed to the elements should be inspected for streaks, rust spots, and holes. If you see any holes, stop using the fireplace immediately. In any case, replace the affected components as soon as you can.

    You should also check for evidence of water forming in the inner liner and/or dripping out of the joints. Condensation can corrode fittings, pipes, and caps. Inspect the joints to make sure everything still fits securely together and that nothing has come loose or unconnected.

    Lastly, remove the cap and shine a flashlight down the chimney to check for and remove obstructions such as leaves and birds’ nests.

    Log and Glass Replacement
    Your gas fireplace should never be used with broken logs or broken glass. To replace the logs, turn off the gas valve and make sure the unit is completely cool before carefully removing the logs. Do not try to remove the logs with the pilot light still on. It can burn. Use a replacement log that has been certified to work with your fireplace. Follow the instructions on positioning the log. Incorrect positioning can result in carbon build up and poor performance.Glass panels also must be certified for use with your particular fireplace model. For both glass and logs, you may wish to have a licensed technician do the replacing.

    Professional Inspection
    Your gas fireplace should be inspected by a trained professional at least once a year. If any part of the appliance has been underwater, do not use it again until it has been professionally inspected.

  3. karlos on December 16th, 2010 5:50 pm

    my glass is broken on my gas fire place, should i been using it ? because i have for a few weeks now. i know people say its not safe but what is difference from that to my gas stove when im using all four burners

  4. Chantelle on December 11th, 2011 9:57 pm

    The glass on our gas fireplace was just broken a few days ago. We have not used it since this has happened. But we arent sure where the gas valve is to turn it off completely. I just wanted to see if this is dangerous, or if we can get carbon monoxide poisoning from this? Help me please!

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