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Homeowner Horror Story: A Close Call with Carbon Monoxide

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John
10.31.14

If I could go back in time, I’d still buy the Victorian house. I’d just insist on a furnace inspection, because had I known, I may have avoided this whole mess.

The weather was turning cold. Really cold. This was going to be my family’s first winter in our home, so we hadn’t had a reason to turn on the furnace yet. The first night it got close to freezing, I was ready to crank it up.

I went to turn it on and then … nothing. As the temps dropped, we began to get really worried for our little girl, who was less than a year old at the time. We ended up spending the night at a friend’s house.

I’m glad we did – it likely saved our life! It turns out there was a big problem with the placement of our exhaust pipe. Our home was built in 1890, which means that the brick in our chimney is really old. Our exhaust pipe was going up the chimney, and when some bricks fell onto the pipe due to age, it broke the bottom of the pipe and let rain in, which gave the furnace water damage.

Sure, the water damage was bad, but the situation could have been a lot worse; we could have had carbon monoxide issues due to the broken exhaust.

The fix? A brand-new $4,000 furnace that would exhaust outside of the house rather than up through the old chimney, plus the $500 bucks I paid for an initial repair which didn’t solve the chimney issue.

Old homes can be really charming, and this house was in an up-and-coming neighborhood that we were exciting about buying in. But, there are three really important things to do before you buy an old home:

  1. Get your furnace checked as soon as possible, preferably before you put in an offer. Definitely do not wait until a night where you may freeze.
  2. Before you put in an offer, make sure you have a professional check any chimneys for damage. If there is damage, they can be re-sleeved, which costs around $1,000. If you get your chimney checked before you put down an offer, you can have the issue fixed during negotiation.
  3. Even if everything checks out during inspection, put a yearly furnace check-up on your calendar right now. Carbon monoxide is not something to mess around with, and it’s worth the maintenance cost of a yearly inspection.
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