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HOME INSPECTIONS - Clothes Dryers - almost 16,000 fires from 2010-2014 - what to watch out for.

clothes dryer fire
clothes dryer fire

On a recent inspection, I spent some time looking at the washer and dryer that was in the home. The buyer said "John, no need to look at those appliances. The seller will be taking those." I then informed my client that the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) recently released a study that almost 16,000 home fires from 2010 to 2014 were cause by not only these appliances but possibly the circuits and vents. My client immediately responded to please continue your inspection.

The report was shocking that I read it twice. I wanted it to sink in real good as both Building and Life Safety have always been a cornerstone of my inspections. I was intrigued with all the safety features in the products today. Why would so many fires originate by these two devices. Well, as I dug deeper into the reports, it is the same problems we have always seen with appliances. Faultly cabling, devices (receptacles), and dust, lint in the dryers were the main faults.

92% of the fires were due to the dryer. A whopping 230 million+ in property damage but more importantly and sad to report a loss of life 13 deaths and 144 injured.

So how do you keep you and your family safe from this. First and foremost make sure you get a home inspection before you buy.

Before I go into my inspection, I want to talk about the three different types of piping found in homes that are used for venting:

Plastic - 1 Rigid - 2 Alluminum - 3 Flexible - 4

On my home inspections:

1. I want dedicated circuits on each appliance. One circuit for the dryer. One circuit for the washer. ON CIRCUIT BREAKERS. For "ELECTRIC ONLY" dryers, that is dryers that do not require gas this really important.

2. make sure wiring and breakers are correctly rated and insulation looks good on the wiring. For "ELECTRIC ONLY" dryers, that is dryers that do not require gas this really important.

3. make sure the receptacles are GFCI receptacles and have no visual damage.


4. I always check the lint screen on my inspections. It usually gives me an idea of the user of the dryer and if they clean it regularly. Before you run a dryer load. That's right before each use of the dryer make sure you clean the lint screen.

cleaning lint screen in dryer

5. Any dryer ducting used must be UL listed. UL now requires ducting to be with either rigid or flexible metal ducting. Rigid is preferred.

  • A UL-listed semi-rigid dryer duct can be used if the vent length is 8 feet or less

UL = Underwriter's Lab

6. Just say "NO" to white vinyl ducts or any other type of plastic ducts.

7. Clean your duct line every 6 months or more often if you use your dryer alot.

8. Make sure your vent is exiting the house! There is nothing blocking it outside! and you have louvers that open and close on the vent cap. TEST THE LOUVERS!

9. And another very important and often missed is turns on venting pipe. You have to use Rigid.

10. On gas dryers, make sure there is the correct black piping rated for the gas line and that there is a shutoff for the gas line that is easily accessible.

11. Most important make sure you have a smoke / CO detector right outside the room of where the washer and dryer is located.

Stay safe everyone.

John Sclafani

Illinois Home Inspector

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