Slay the “Fire-Breathing Dryer!”

Home Inspector with Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

    The other day Preston Sandlin did a nice blog about the importance of cleaning dryer vents called "Clean-Me."  Visit his blog for additional info and see a pretty cool tool for cleaning metal dryer vents.

     Dryer vents are a common item in the home that needs routine maintenance for fire safety.  The lint from dryers is very flammable and can build up on the insides of ducts very easily.  Especially problematic are the types of dryer ducts that are corrugated or flexible.  The worst of these is the white plastic ones that are no longer allowed on dryers due to their high risk of fire.  If you have this type of vent pipe on your dryer get it changed now.

     Another very common type of dryer vent is the flexible metal foil type vent pipe. 

foil dryer vent 


















     This stuff is essentially foil covered plastic and is only marginally better than its cousin the white flexible plastic duct.  The interesting thing about this pipe is that it is "UL Listed" for installation on dryers.  This is the main reason we are seeing it installed, and even approved by jurisdictional building inspectors, even though, it is expressly forbidden by the installation instructions of most dryer manufacturers.  Maytag does not allow it and here is a picture of what Whirlpool's installation instructions have to say about it:

Dryer installation instructions 










     Keep in mind that in a "pissing match" between "Building Codes" and "Manufacturer's Instructions"---the Manufacturer wins.

Charles Buell 

     PS, for those of you that are new to my blog (or for some other "unexplained" reason have never noticed)sunsmile all  pictures and smiley-face inserts (emoticons) have messages that show up when you point at them with your cursor.

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Charlie Ragonesi - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros
We have seen these vents totally clogged. Even sometimes missed by inspectors. This is an overlooked area that cancause fire. Great p[ost
Apr 28, 2008 12:30 AM #1
Heather the Realtor Orlando, Lake Mary
LemonTree Realty - Orlando, FL
First Time Home Buyers, Bank Owned Homes
Haha great blog. Never realized you were s uppose to use on per the manufacture. When the installation man came out that is what he brought and installed for me. Thanks for the tip.
Apr 28, 2008 12:41 AM #2
Ron Parise - Cape Coral, FL

In my home the metal vent is in the wall and goes straight up through the attic and through the roof. Once outside it does a U-turn and blows down (to keep rain water out).. and there is 1/4 inch hardware cloth over the opening (to keep out birds)  The problem is that 1/4 inch mesh....Our dryer seemed to take longer and longer to get the clothes dry, The vent was clean, in the laundry room. I took the dryer obstructions there. Finally I got out the ladder and got on the roof.  Yep..... totally clogged


Apr 28, 2008 01:06 AM #3
Leslie Bloss, Bellevue Real Estate Professional
Bellevue, WA
Gee Charlie you keep scaring me--but in a good way!!!
Apr 28, 2008 05:00 AM #4
Bruce Pinel
S & B Services LLC - North Kingstown, RI
Ron, I always recommend that my clients remove the "birdscreens" just for that reason. Also, although this may not apply to you, vents passing through "cold" attics such as those for dryers and bath fans, should be insulated to prevent condensation from forming inside the vent.
Apr 28, 2008 06:27 AM #5
Sean Allen
International Financing Solutions - Fort Myers, FL
International Financing Solutions

Great "heads up" on the foil piping for cloths driers. Thanks for keeping everyone posted on safety issues.

Sean Allen

Apr 28, 2008 12:32 PM #6
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector
Hello everyone, thanks for all your comments.  I am out of town all week teaching and I am unable to respond to everyone individually, but I will attempt to catch up when I get back.
Apr 28, 2008 12:36 PM #7
Derek Bauer's, Door to Dreams Home Selling Team
Real Estate One - South Lyon, MI
Great reminder, Charles!  It is incredible on the statistics of how many dryers are actually the source of house fires ...  enjoy your trip out of town teaching
Apr 28, 2008 03:35 PM #8
Gabrielle Nemes
RE/MAX Realty South - Tumwater, WA
206.300.8421, S King & Pierce County RE Advocate
Just wanted to pop in and say how much I enjoy your posts! I almost always learn something ... and sometimes the humor of inspections is just too good to pass by!
Apr 28, 2008 05:08 PM #9
TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc.
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029
Charles, you are right. Good post. I see it all the time here. It is approved here too. What can you do?
Apr 28, 2008 08:55 PM #10
Sondra Meyer:
Star View Real Estate - Colorado Springs, CO
See It. Experience It. Live It.
Charles, it seems like every inspection report that I've seen over the last 2 or 3 years mentioned dryer vents need cleaning.  I never really thought about how important that simple thing could be...I guess I've always hoped that when people took their dryers, the ducts would  be replaced when the buyer brought their dryer.  I'll be checking to see if my dryer duct is plastick this evening.   
Apr 29, 2008 02:18 AM #11
Barbara S. Duncan
RE/MAX Advantage - Searcy, AR
GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR
I guess I'd have to climb under the house to check this out.  We had one clogged and it took forever for clothes to day.  The plumber came in and replaced it so I guess I'll have to trust he did it properly!  Which way is that picture supposed to be turned????
Apr 29, 2008 07:36 AM #12
David Helm
Helm Home Inspections - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp
dryer ventCharlie, another excellent post about a problem most people think isn't serious.  Thought I'd throw in a photo to help you illustrate the issue.  I can't tell you how often I see this, and hear complaints about the dryer not working well.
May 01, 2008 05:42 AM #13
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Charlie, you are right---these vents and their exterior caps are often in terrible condition.

Heather,  a lot of installers seem to be having that problem:)

Ron,  throw away the screen.  There should be no screens in the vent caps of dryers----period.

Leslie,  Thanks:)

Bruce, I agree with you

Sean, thanks for the comment

Derek, Dryers can represent a serious fire hazard when not properly maintained

Gabrielle,  I am glad you enjoy my posts and if you have to cummunicate something nasty you might as well do it with humor:)

Michael, sometimes we just have to keep on tilting at the windmills:)

Sondra, I think in terms of safety issues it is often one of the least maintained

Barbara, the picture was takend sort of from the side but looking down behind the dryer.

David, the infamous Coiled Foil Snake---ready to strike!


May 02, 2008 12:45 PM #14
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