Nothing unusual - very old house, chimney in the center which passed through the roof, thermostat in the dining room.
Doing my normal routine, I turned on the dishwasher and oven, and found the thermostat to turn on the furnace. I noticed oil tank lines on the outside of the house, so I already knew the house had an oil furnace.
About a minute later we heard what sounded like there was a train in the living room! Well, you don't hear that every day!
Looking around, here is what I found:
The old tin pie plate over the flue! In older homes it was not uncommon to have a second flue located somewhere on the living level for a wood or coal stove to help heat the house. The main furnace was in the basement, with something secondary elsewhere. This pie plate has been there a long time. The right picture shows the original "springs" to hold the plate in place. Notice the nail above the hole. It might be that the former owner had a picture over this to hide it.
Not a good idea. This plate deterioration exposes the whole house to carbon monoxide. It was said that the former owner died suddenly over the winter. Hearing that made me wonder. We had an immediate object lesson for the new buyers.
My recommendation: Be safe and be smart. Older homes oftentimes have booby traps and dangers that we do not think of today. If you see something that you think looks unsafe, call somebody to give you advice. It may just save your life!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560