What I'm Seeing Now


Be Sure To Check Behind The Furnace For Possible Danger

Be sure to check behind the furnace for possible danger.

It was an older home with an older HVAC unit.

The furnace was gas fueled, and needed attention.  When that is the case I always suspect the furnace flue and stack.

But in this case it was very difficult to access and see.

So I had to reach my camera around to do the seeing for me.

It took a few tries to get things centered, but this is what the bottom of the exhaust stack looked like.

Rusting, cracked, and visible holes was the verdict of the best photo.

This is a serious issue!

Often when I see an older, rusting flue system I tap on the bottom to hear it sound full of debris.  And it is!  That is debris that has fallen into the stack, either from rust or acidic condensation, and is clogging the bottom of the tube.

This flue needs attention right away, and given its location it won't be easy.

Years ago I was asked to do an inspection on an estate sale.  The family wanted to put the house on the market, asking for a head's up as to what they needed to do to get the house ready.

Looking behind the furnace as I am wont to do I discovered a badly rusted and deteriorated flue stack, falling apart with gaping holes.  It had been like that for some time!  Asking the young woman what had happened, she said her mother was living there alone, widowed for some time.  In the fall she became ill, and it did not get better.  Diagnosed with age-related, lingering flu, the colder the winter got the sicker she became.  Eventually, one night she perished.

When I heard the story I was pretty sure what had happened.  As it got cold the homeowner turned on the heat.  The colder it got the more the furnace worked.  Her bed was in the room AND IT WAS DIRECTLY ABOVE THE FURNACE.  Her bed was a mere 8' from the deteriorated vent stack.

I think she died from carbon monoxide poisoning.   When during the flu season someone goes to the hospital with symptoms of the flu doctors are not going to make a quick assessment that it might be carbon monoxide poisoning and do a blood test.  This woman had gotten worse and worse, until finally absorbing so much CO into her blood she asphyxiated, poisoned to death.  The family passed it on as the flu. 

When I showed the rusting, holey flue to the seller and explained what I thought had happened to her mother her face said it all.  My diagnosis was probably, tragically correct. 

And all for a rusty, deteriorated exhaust flue stack.

My recommendation:  if you have an older gas furnace, and an older exhaust flue stack, have it examined carefully!  It could be a danger, hidden or not, that can expose a household to carbon monoxide poisoning!  Have it corrected!  And if the old exhaust stack is "sealed" with duct tape have it corrected as well!  Wrong is wrong, and bad is bad. 

This photo was taken during an inspection with Chris Ann Cleland and it got sealed!   -------------------->



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 7 commentsJay Markanich • May 21 2017 10:50AM
Be Sure To Check Behind The Furnace For Possible Danger
Be sure to check behind the furnace for possible danger. It was an older home with an older HVAC unit. The furnace was gas fueled, and needed attention. When that is the case I always suspect the furnace flue and stack. But in this case it was very… more
When A Furnace Blower Door Safety Switch Is Taped
When a furnace blower door safety switch is taped. Your HVAC system comes with a variety of safety devices, and they are all there to increase personal safety. There is the flame roll-out sensor, the flame sensor (not the same thing), a limit switch… more
A Tale Of Two Ceilings. When A Seller Tries To Hide A Serious Leak.
A tale of two ceilings. When a seller tries to hide a serious leak. It was the best of ceilings, it was the worst of ceilings. It was the age of freshly repaired and painted, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the… more
Ye Olde Duct Tape Dryer Vent
Ye olde duct tape dryer vent. And why not? Can you think of anything more longer lasting and flexible than duct tape? Well, except for a replacement dryer vent flap. But what's the fun in that? Who wants to be same old, same old? That cover has… more
Service-Drop Conductors Way Too Low
Service-drop conductors way too low. It's a drooping loop! Service conductor wiring brings electricity to the house. In older neighborhoods they are often above ground. In newer neighborhoods they are underground. At this subject house the… more
As Soon As I Saw The Dryer Vent Hood I Thought It Was Clogged
As soon as I saw the dryer vent hood I thought it was clogged. Why? It isn't the proper exhaust hood for a dryer vent that discharges through the roof. That vent is made for a bathroom or kitchen. Aside from being the wrong kind of dryer vent hood,… more
Electric Panel Box Access, Or Not
Electric panel box access, or not. During a home inspection it is important to be able to get to everything. The idea is to inspect systems and components! Not only could I not get near to the electric panel box in this garage, but could barely get… more
Historic House And Moving Brick
Historic house and moving brick. When I first saw the brick work on this historic 1808 townhouse in Alexandria, Virginia I was concerned. Movement and bulging was immediately evident. The movement was a broad bulge that began between the two… more
Pressure-Treated Wood Can Rot!
Pressure-treated wood can rot! People think their pressure-treated wood decks will never rot. Another urban legend rears its ugly head. The first pressure-treated wood was invented by Dr. Karl Wolman in the early 20th century. He developed a… more
When Sharp Screws Are Used In Electric Panel Boxes
When sharp screws are used in electric panel boxes. I see it all the time. The original screws that came with an electric panel box have been removed and replaced with different screws not meant for the box. Why can different screws be "not… more