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Ran into this today. A leaking chimney pipe in the attic. Darkened the underside of the roof sheathing with soot. The homeowners are lucky that the flame has not got this high, or has it? Now this is trouble waiting to happen. This is a double wall metal pipe at the very low point in the attic - can hardly see it. Has any one else seen something like this?

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Have a great one.

Carl Johnson

http://www.thunderbirdinspection.com

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It is odd that the soot is only between those 2 trusses, which is not even directly above the vent while the decking above the vent looks clean. Are you sure that it is soot and not mold? Is there a bath exhaust at the soffit end of that truss section that does not vent outside?

If it is soot - Does the home have an oil furnace? If not, I'm sure it did in the past. Does the flue/vent pipe travel up a chase from the level below that terminates at the attic line? My guess is that the pipe had leaked in the past and been replaced. The pipe in place now does not look too old or sooty on the exterior. Looks like dust on top of the pipe may be hiding some soot, but hard to tell. Is there any slope to that pipe? It looks fairly level. Also, looks like the vent pipe is almost touching the truss webbing, there should be at least 1" clearance with type B vents.

Did you see an oil tank anywhere? I always warn about potential underground leaks and how I am not performing soil testing, tank integrity testing, etc. when I know that anoil appliance had been in the home.

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Thanks for your input Jon. This is Arizona - no oil furnaces in my area. 80% percent of the homes in my area are less than 30 years old. In fact 50% of the homes are less than 15 years old.

Don't confuse the pipe to the right as the vent. That is a forced gas heat air duct. The pipe in question is just a small speck where the roof meets the ceiling. It is wood burning 8" inner with a 12" outer pipe. It is possible that it is not connected right at the fireplace and smoke is running up the chase along side of the pipe and when it hits the attic, it cannot continue out of the roof due to clearances. There is soot on most of the insulation in the attic also.

What say you?

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Without actually being there and seeing it, it is hard to say. Even if I were there, it doesn't sound like I could see much. If you go back, you might take a couple packs of paper matches (or 4th of July smoke bombs), light them all inside of the fireplace then go into the attic and sniff for sulfur. You may not be able to smell anything as there may be enough of a draft to pull it all out of the chimney, but it will be one more step towards making your client happy. If you do smell the sulfur in the attic, then you know that there ids definately a problem.

I would not do anything as drastic as light newspaper or such in case the flue is separated or has a hole. You don't want to burn the house down.

Were you able to look down the flue from the roof? What did it look like?

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Nope, I haven't run into that, but there's no mystery here. Just report it. The caveat I would mention (if you don't see the specific point of discharge) is that the wall may be acting as the chimney while the breach in the vent may be near the fire. That would be bad.

Originally posted by tbird

Ran into this today. A leaking chimney pipe in the attic. Darkened the underside of the roof sheathing with soot. The homeowners are lucky that the flame has not got this high, or has it? Now this is trouble waiting to happen. This is a double wall metal pipe at the very low point in the attic - can hardly see it. Has any one else seen something like this?

Download Attachment: icon_photo.gif SootAttic.JPG

71.49 KB

Have a great one.

Carl Johnson

http://www.thunderbirdinspection.com

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Buy regular smoke candles 10sec - 30 sec or 1 minute.

Don't use 4th of July smoke bombs, they are extremely toxic and will render a $500 cleaning bill if they back up into home. Been there - done that - paid price - never do it again!

Now we have battery operated smoker and my world famous Fog Machine (cherry flavor) that is non-toxic.

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I began routinely recommending Level 2 inspections of these, and corrections if necessary, by a CSIA-certified sweep, prior to closing.

I seem to recall that years ago the NFPA recommended that homeowners routinely have a Level 2 inspection done on these double-walled vents to ensure that they're still locked together. So, I do it even when the flue looks pretty good because there's no way I can examine 100% of those flues from above or below, and because I remember reading someplace that disconnected flue sections are common.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I 'saw that' in a commercial inspection I did. (A burger-joint type structure that was a bagel bakery). The 'entire' attic was soot-covered, quasi-pyrolized.

When I drove up, I looked at the roof and though "Wow...major mildew problem up there.." (dark stains at edges of hip roof shingles). It wasn't mildew. It was soot. Smoke was trying to get out of the attic.

I came down from the attic and told the owner that if he didn't shut down his ovens now, the local FD would tell him because that was where I was headed after the inspection.

(His baking oven was partially disconnected in the attic).

He shut them down. I finished the inspection, went to local FD, they 'shut him down' for a day or so until he corrected the problem.

Truss roof.

FD's don't like to fight fires in truss-roof buildings.

That's a nasty sitch you got there sir.

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Originally posted by Les

Buy regular smoke candles 10sec - 30 sec or 1 minute.

Don't use 4th of July smoke bombs, they are extremely toxic and will render a $500 cleaning bill if they back up into home. Been there - done that - paid price - never do it again!

Now we have battery operated smoker and my world famous Fog Machine (cherry flavor) that is non-toxic.

Les I remember the thread on your famous smoke machine ,but where do you buy smoke candles.?

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I think just reporting on the sighting of the soot in the attic and recommending further evaluation and repair by a "licensed" fireplace technician is enough. Now trying to find out exactly where the smoke is coming from (using smoke bombs, cherry flavored smoke machines, etc), isn't that above and beyond the standard call of duty for home inspectors? I already do, as standard protocall, recommend level 2 inspections on any type of fire equipment as standard wording in the report.

Carl Johnson

http://www.thunderbirdinspection.com

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There seems to be a lot of reference to SOP, and although I recongnize their limits and values, I wish to offer services that go beyond them,

If one was certified to do chimney inspections, would it be considered a conflict of interest to recommend such an inspection and then do it? Of course there could be no involvment in the repair.

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You are talking about up-selling your services.

I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I think that the best time to do it is before the inspection, so it won't look like you are trying to create more work for yourself on site.

You're an inspector. That's what we do. If you want to offer additional services, such as radon, lead, water quality, septic, sewer line, infrared, asbestos, chimney that's you're perogative. Just make sure that you're competent at those additional services, have attained all of the necessary licenses and that clients are aware of, and understand, up front, the full range of services you offer, and what will and will not be included in the inspection that they hire you to do.

Offer the additional service up front. If they turn it down, make sure they understand what they are turning down, and make sure that you document the fact that they did so someplace in your report, especially if it turns out during the inspection that the additional inspection would have been beneficial.

For instance, if you are qualified to do Level 2 chimney flue inspections, and have the equipment for it, make sure that it's a service shown on the pre-inspection agreement. Offer it to them up front. If they turn it down, ensure that's shown on the contract and then do the home inspection. If it turns out the flue is so encrusted with stage 3 creosote that you can't even see the flue liner from the top or bottom, tell them that on-site and in the report and recommend they get the flue cleaned and then, once the flue is rendered inspectable, have a level 2 inspection done. You'll know that any sweep that comes out to clean the flue will agree with you and you'll have a 50-50 chance of getting that additional inspection once the sweep has confirmed that you weren't trying to sell them a bill of goods.

Sure, maybe if the sweep is qualified to do the Level 2, he'll get the job, but your reliability rating will have jumped up a notch. When they recommend you to their friends and relatives, they're liable to say something like, "Oh, and don't forget to have Steve do a Level 2 inspection on the fireplace flue if he tells you it needs one."

At least, that's what I think will happen. I don't offer any additional services. I just concentrate on being the best I can be at one thing and I recommend folks to those trades that I'm confident do the same.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Mike,

I agree with you on being the best at doing just home inspections. There is an inspector here locally that "specializes in" mold, radon, FHA/HUD, NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), Arizona Enviromental Disclosure reports, moisture management investigator(CMMI), indoor air quality (IAQA) in addition to regular home inspections. I am all for furthering your knowledge, but how can you remember which hat you are wearing? When hired to do a standard home inspection and you suspect mold, but your inspection agreement and SOP excludes this, what do you say? Do you upsell to another level, when does it stop?

At first I was concerned about this fellow winning over the zoids by having so many credentials, but it does not appear that he is direct competition anymore. He is probably busy doing all other inspections rather than home inspections.

If you are going to do something well, specialize and focus on that one thing. The more your diversify, the more you lose focus on the most important matter - IMHO.

My $.02, for what it is worth.

Make it a great day!

Carl Johnson

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