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When shopping for a new home, a fireplace can be a major selling point. Some homebuyers, however, are surprised to find that the fireplaces in their new homes have wood in areas that pose a fire hazard. Two of the most common places wood is found that can create a risk for fire is in the ash pit below the firebox and lintel area above the firebox.

Ashes & Embers - St Paul Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsDuring an annual sweep, the CSIA certified technicians at Jack Pixley Sweeps also conduct a thorough inspection of the interior and exterior of the fireplace and chimney. These inspections are taken a step further when an ash pit is present in the home or there is wood in the lintel area.

What is an ash pit?

An ash pit is a compartment at the base of the fireplace that is designed to hold a season’s worth of fireplace ashes. The main purpose of an ash pit is that homeowners do not have to remove ashes each time they use their fireplaces, which is especially helpful during the often inclement weather of the cold months of winter.

Mostly found in older homes instead of new construction, ash pits are typically built of cinder blocks or cement. However, sometimes wood is used by contractors to support the masonry during the building of the fireplace and ash pit. If left behind, this wood can create a serious fire hazard to the home. If ashes are not completely cool or if embers are not fully extinguished before being put in the ash pit, any remaining hot coals could ignite the wood and start a fire.

How to address wood in an ash pit

If wood is discovered in the ash pit, the most common recommendation is to discontinue use of the ash pit and seal it off. While it is possible to remove the wood, it is often an extremely costly project.

What is a lintel area?

A lintel is a load bearing component that holds up the top row of bricks in the fireplace opening. While modern lintels for fireplaces are made of steel, some older lintels may be made of wood. This can again pose a fire hazard as stray sparks or embers could accidentally ignite the wood.

How to address a wood lintel

Although wood in the lintel area is also difficult to remove, it can be done. However, the main concern with a wood lintel is that there is also wood in other areas that cannot be found without a Level III inspection. This level of inspection is often seen as a last resort because it involves removing portions of walls, masonry, or other structures to investigate the problem.

Instead, homeowners with wood lintels are advised to either discontinue use of their wood burning fireplace or install a gas insert to continue using the fireplace space. If you have questions or concerns about the presence of wood in your ash pit or lintel areas or need to schedule an annual sweep and inspection, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!