Chimney Inspections: What You Need to Know

Are you buying a home with a fireplace? Have you had the chimney inspected? The majority of homeowners actually skip scheduling a separate chimney inspection when buying their homes. They rely on the general property inspection alone, and in our opinion, that is a mistake. A chimney inspection is more extensive and thorough and will identify ways to improve your fireplace’s performance as well as lessen the chances of a chimney fire and carbon monoxide issues.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that your chimney be inspected when purchasing your home and once a year thereafter. An inspection can alert you to blockages, creosote build up or defects in the flue or firebox. Some homeowners don’t know that even gas fireplaces need an annual inspection. Although they are using clean-burning fuel, their chimneys still can get clogged with debris, which can cause a hazard. The inspector will also assess the chimney’s structure. When a chimney ages, there are more opportunities for cracks and damage to occur.

The National Fire Protection Association has 3 designated levels of inspection:

  • Level One – General examination of all areas of the chimney structure (joints, flue liner, connectors, chimney crown and interior walls) to identify any obstructions and deposits that could cause a fire.
  • Level Two – Required for a sale or transfer of a property or following an event that has damaged a chimney (such as a fire or earthquake). The inspector will use tools to access concealed areas to look for hidden hazards.
  • Level Three – Involves removing parts of the structure to gain access to areas of concern.

Now that you know the importance of a chimney inspection and what the inspector is looking for, how do you choose one?  You should look for an inspector that is certified by the CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) and/or the NFI (National Fireplace Institute). Some recommend finding an inspector that works for a company that provides inspections only. That way you have the peace of mind of knowing that they do not have a vested interest in finding problems. It is also important to note that an inspector is different from a chimney sweep. The inspector identifies problems while a chimney sweep removes the soot buildup from the chimney.

A lot of bad things can happen when your fireplace is malfunctioning. Finding a certified inspector to perform an annual inspection can ensure that any issues are addressed before they become a danger to you and your home.