Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


Slay the “Fire-Breathing Dryer!”

    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.

sign me up





picture logo

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Seattle Home Inspector


The Human Rights Campaign   QR code for Charles Buell Inspections Inc


WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board

Comment balloon 14 commentsCharles Buell • April 28 2008 07:22AM


We have seen these vents totally clogged. Even sometimes missed by inspectors. This is an overlooked area that cancause fire. Great p[ost
Posted by Charlie Ragonesi, Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros ( about 12 years ago
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.
Posted by Heather the Realtor Orlando, Lake Mary, First Time Home Buyers, Bank Owned Homes (LemonTree Realty) about 12 years ago

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


Posted by Ron Parise ( about 12 years ago
Gee Charlie you keep scaring me--but in a good way!!!
Posted by Leslie Bloss, Bellevue Real Estate Professional about 12 years ago
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.
Posted by Bruce Pinel (S & B Services LLC) about 12 years ago

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

Sean Allen

Posted by Sean Allen, International Financing Solutions (International Financing Solutions ) about 12 years ago
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.
Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 12 years ago
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
Posted by Derek Bauer's, Door to Dreams Home Selling Team (Real Estate One) about 12 years ago
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!
Posted by Gabrielle Nemes, 206.300.8421, S King & Pierce County RE Advocate (RE/MAX Realty South) about 12 years ago
Charles, you are right. Good post. I see it all the time here. It is approved here too. What can you do?
Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) about 12 years ago
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.   
Posted by Sondra Meyer:, See It. Experience It. Live It. (Star View Real Estate ) about 12 years ago
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????
Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) about 12 years ago
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.
Posted by David Helm, Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp (Helm Home Inspections) about 12 years ago

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!


Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 12 years ago