What to Do About Damaged Chimney and Vent Piping

An expert offers advice on damaged chimney dangers and dryer venting.

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Q: We recently noticed smoke seeping out of the chimney into our attic. We have a wood-burning stove and have not had this problem before. What would cause this, and what should we do?

A: Immediately stop using the wood burner until the chimney can be inspected by a certified chimney sweep. The chimney is damaged, which could lead to an attic fire.

Q: In your article on clothes-dryer upkeep, you noted that plastic or foil vent piping should be replaced with metal vent piping. I went to a hardware store, and found two-foot sections of aluminum piping in the heating-and-air-conditioning section. However, there's about 23 feet under my house from the dryer to the wall that vents the dryer to the outside.

In another section of the store, there are 8-foot sections of galvanized piping the same diameter size as the aluminum piping.

Is it is OK to use galvanized pipe instead of aluminum? Does galvanized piping provide the same safety from the heat generated as aluminum, and will it last as long?

I would prefer to use longer continuous piping instead of clamping two-foot sections of aluminum pipe together.

A: Galvanized pipe can safely be used to vent a clothes dryer, and the fewer joints in the exhaust pipe, the better. However, the dryer is venting moisture, which, over time, will cause the galvanized pipe to rust and fail.

You might save some time and labor by using the longer sections of pipe, but you will have to replace the galvanized pipe more than once during the life expectancy of the clothes dryer.

(Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors.)

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