SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — If you have a fireplace, there could be a hidden danger in your home.
There's a specific type of chimney known to crack, crumble, and cause fires, but many homeowners aren't even aware they have one.
"There are more cracks than you really think,” said Vicki Villarreal.
It's not something any homeowner wants to hear.
“You can see the crack that goes from the front of the gas line to the back,” said Villarreal.
She bought a San Carlos property just three months ago and already she's facing a problem that will cost her thousands to fix.
“The chimney has a crack in the insulation plate,” said Villarreal.
She recently had her chimney and fireplace looked at to prepare for the winter season.
Turns out her home is among several in San Diego fitted with a Rampart pre-cast chimney, which are known for cracking and falling apart.
"There’s a crack in the box - the fire box - and also in the insulation which means any heat transference can go through the chimney into the wood and start a fire,” said Villarreal.
Vicki wrote about the issue on NextDoor.com and got dozens of responses.
The number one complaint: it's not an easy or cheap repair.
“We must have had 20 or 30 [responses] and people were saying how they had to take out the whole fireplace. $60,000 was their estimate,” said Villarreal.
News 8 spoke with some experts who explained what sets Rampart chimneys apart.
"This was put together in a production factory and then shipped to site and then tilted up on site,” said Pat Lopez with Burnie Fireplace Services.
Lopez says at one point during that three-step process, the majority of Ramparts were damaged, yet many homeowners have no idea until a fire spreads.
“In reality, every one of them should be looked at prior to putting them into service,” said Lopez.
Terri Pocock with Swede Sweep has seen it time and time again.
Her advice: figure out if you have a Rampart.
“They're typically an off-white color; they're also typically on an exterior wall and they're also typically skinnier above the roof line,” said Pocock.
Once you do that, get it checked before it’s too late.