Roof Without a Chimney? You’re Not Alone

chimney chicago

There was a time when fall meant taking care of your chimney. However, as kids say these days… a chimney isn’t a thing anymore, even here in Chicago where winters are cold and spring sometimes is just an extension of winter.

While fireplaces are a common feature in modern-day homes actual chimneys are becoming somewhat of a home-building relic.

Trulia, a real-estate website, looked at homes listed on its website between January 2011 and June 2013. For homes built in the 2010s, fewer than 0.5 of every 1,000 home listings mentioned a chimney, according to the analysis. Meanwhile, about 2 out of every 100 listings for homes built at that time mentioned a fireplace.

Chimneys are most common in homes built before 1900, while fireplaces experienced a bump in popularity in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Not all fireplaces need a chimney. Fireplaces in newer homes often will vent without a chimney. For instance, out of the 100 largest markets, Orange County, Calif., is the one with the most fireplaces touted in listings, according to Trulia. In that market, there are 6.7 mentions of fireplaces for every 100 listings. It was followed by Colorado Springs, Colo.; Ventura County, Calif.; Cleveland and Peabody, Mass. However, California is nowhere near being a number one in terms of chimneys.

The area with the most chimneys in home listings is Buffalo, N.Y., where there are 3.9 mentions of chimneys for every 1,000 listings. It’s followed by Philadelphia; Dayton, Ohio; Springfield, Mass.; and Hartford, Conn.

In 2012, 51% of new homes were built without a fireplace, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Fifty percent had no fireplace in 2011, and 51% had no fireplace in 2010. The last time more than half of all new homes were fireplace-free: 1974.

While chimneys are clearly a thing of the past, fireplaces remain a desirable feature to some buyers. 10% of more than 3,600 recent home buyers and shoppers surveyed in 2012 said a gas fireplace was essential in their new home, while 39% said it was desirable.

However, more and more fireplace aficionados choose vent-less gas-log fireplaces rather than traditional wood-burning ones that require a chimney. One of the main reasons – it’s less safe and it’s simply too much work when it comes to its maintenance. In addition, wood-burning fireplaces are not economical. Once you get the fireplace logs burning, 90 percent of the heat goes up the chimney. If you want to keep most of the heat inside, the vent-less gas fireplace is the best choice.

Vent-less fireplaces are an affordable heat source because the burner is small and it is less expensive than running the furnace full blast during chilly months. In Chicago, they’re gaining popularity in high-rise condominiums and rental apartments because no flue or chimney is necessary and these units are much more affordable.

So does it mean they are maintenance-free? Definitely not. So if you have one of those nifty gas-burning, remote-controlled gadget-like fireplaces, fall is the best time to perform the annual maintenance. Mainly, vent-free fireplaces need an annual cleaning and maintenance check to reduce carbon monoxide emissions, and general professional safety inspection each autumn before the harsh winter months.

Annual cleaning and service is needed to remove dust from the logs and prevent the burner pilot from getting clogged, which could lead to carbon monoxide buildup that sets off your carbon monoxide detector.