Where there's smoke, there's fire, right? Not always.
Smoke and soot damage are the obvious aftereffects of a fire, but they are also the by-products of many other domestic mishaps, including residue build-up in a furnace or chimney, improper use of small appliances, electrical problems, or even clogged dryer ducts. If all the stars align, a mere spark, back draft, or combustible residue can envelop your condominium in billowing clouds of smoke and soot.
Primary Sources of DamageResidue Buildup in Chimneys
If you're lucky enough to have a fireplace in your condominium, the last thing you probably want to think about is the condition of your chimney. But chimneys require regular maintenance. As wood burns, combustion produces solid byproducts that build up in the chimney or flue as a black, sticky residue known as creosote. Creosote is highly combustible and packed with carcinogenic chemicals that are hazardous to you, your family, and your pets.
The good news is that clean chimneys don't catch fire and won't engulf your condo in black smoke. In a condominium, chimneys may be considered part of the commonly owned property, and therefore the responsibility of the association, or part of the individual unit, and therefore the maintenance responsibility of each unit owner. The information to determine which is the case in a given condominium is readily available in the condo docs, but you can also pose the inquiry to your community's trustees or property manager. Condominiums take fire prevention and chimney maintenance very seriously, and even if your chimney is part of your unit, they may require you to submit certification that the chimney has been inspected each and every year to minimize the risk of fire to surrounding units. So take the time to research who is responsible for chimney maintenance and be sure your chimney is inspected every year by a professional chimneysweep.
Hidden inside your unit's walls (even common walls) are a plethora of electrical wires. Perhaps, at one time or another, you've smelled rubber burning. You felt the walls for heat but sensed nothing. If something were burning, your smoke detector would alert you, wouldn't it? Perhaps. But there is a better way to set your mind at ease. Check your electrical outlets, AC vents, and floor registers. Smoke is attracted to cold surfaces, so if you see a smoke pattern, something's cooking.