Inspections

How safe is your chimney?

Chimney inspections are best performed by individuals who carry the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep credential. The inspection and evaluation of chimneys is an important service offered by Chimney Works. At Chimney Works, we follow the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommended inspection procedures.

Frequency of Inspection

NFPA recommends that all chimneys, fireplaces and vents be inspected annually. In addition to this requirement, there are other times when chimney and venting systems should be inspected, such as:

  • After any unusual, or sudden occurrence event, such as a chimney fire, lightning strike, or earthquake
  • Prior to purchasing a home with an existing chimney
  • Whenever changes are made to a chimney or vent system, including replacement of connected appliances
  • Prior to major system repairs

Not All Inspections Are The Same

Chimneys that have not been inspected are at risk of a chimney fire that can spread to the roof structure.
A licensed chimney sweep will not only clean the chimney of built-up creosote, but will alert you to defects in the flue or firebox that cause safety concerns.
A qualified chimney sweep will inspect:

  • A cap with a screen should be present on the chimney to prevent rain, snow and birds and animals from entering the chimney.
  • The condition of the bricks and mortar should be inspected. The bricks exposed to weather need to be reset or the mortar may need repointing.
  • The flue liner should be inspected for excessive creosote buildup or cracked flue tiles. The leading cause of fires from wood-burning fireplaces, inserts or wood stoves is partially burned fuel (creosote) deposited on the walls of the chimney flue.
  • If your fireplace has glass doors, the gasket material around the door opening should be inspected. Defective gaskets should be replaced to ensure proper operation of the fireplace. If you have an insert or a wood stove, the gasket is responsible for making the unit airtight. Defective gaskets can cause an excess air can leak into the firebox creating an over fire condition, which may permanently damage the appliance
  • If applicable, the blower of your fireplace should be cleaned. Excessive dirt will shorten the life of the blower and create a potential fire hazard.
  • A professional should check for deteriorated or broken brick in the lining of the firebox. Replacement of the bricks may or may not be necessary depending on the severity of the damage.

masonry-fireplace-chimney

Inspection Levels

NFPA divides the inspection procedure into three categories, or levels. The circumstances which give rise to the inspection determine what level of inspection is to be conducted. A Level I inspection is the most basic level of inspection while Level II and Level III inspections are progressively more detailed and comprehensive. A Level I inspection is completed during each chimney cleaning, or sweeping.

Level I Inspection

A Level I inspection is the recommended level when an evaluation of the chimney system for continued service is needed and the conditions of use are not changing. This could include:

  • Routine or annual evaluations of the venting system
  • An appliance connected to the system is being replaced with a similar appliance
  • During chimney cleaning or sweeping

A Level I inspection is limited to readily accessible portions of the venting system, and accessible portions of the connected appliance(s) and the chimney connection. The inspector will check the readily accessible portions of the chimney, its enclosing structure, and the flue. A Level I inspection includes verification that the flue is not blocked or significantly restricted.

Level II Inspection

factory-built-fireplace-chimney

A Level II inspection is more detailed and thorough than a Level I inspection and is the recommended inspection when conditions of use for the appliance or venting system are changing, or when a Level I inspection reveals the need for a more detailed inspection. Several instances where a Level II inspection is specifically recommended include:

  • Replacement of an appliance with one of dissimilar type, input rating or efficiency
  • Prior to a flue relining
  • Upon sale or transfer of the property
  • After an event likely to have caused damage to the chimney, such as a chimney fire or other sudden occurrence event

A Level II inspection includes all of the requirements of a Level I inspection as well as the following:

  • Inspection of accessible areas of attics, basements, and crawlspaces
  • Accessible areas of the chimney exterior and interior
  • Accessible portions of the appliance and chimney connection
  • Video scanning, or other thorough inspection, of the flue interior
  • Evaluation of the flue lining to determine that its material and sizing is appropriate for the appliances being served
  • Proper clearance to combustibles in the accessible areas listed above
  • Proper construction and condition of the chimney system in the accessible areas listed above

While the Level II inspection is a rather thorough inspection and requires access to many areas of the building, it does not require removal of permanent parts of the building, such as siding, chase covers or wall coverings.

Level III Inspection

A Level III inspection is the most detailed of all of the inspection types and includes inspection of concealed areas of the building. However, examination of concealed areas will be limited to areas reasonably suspected of containing hazards that cannot be evaluated otherwise.

A Level III inspection includes all areas covered in a Level I and Level II inspection, and inspection of concealed areas to investigate known or suspected problems. In as much as certain portions of a Level III inspection require destructive action to the building, the inspector will discuss these areas with the building owner prior to the inspection.

Video Scanning

A video scan is where we use a camera system which is lowered into the chimney (or pushed up from the bottom). The camera allows us to inspect the chimney from a range of just a few inches instead of just looking from the top or bottom. The camera image is viewed on a TV monitor by the inspector. Video inspections may be recommended if the customer or sweep suspect certain problems. Video inspections are often recommended after a chimney fire or some other form of damage to a chimney, and are a routine part of a Level II or Level III inspection.

Summary

You should be aware that even the most thorough inspection will not reveal all problems. Some areas of a chimney simply are not assessable due to construction of the house. Be sure to discuss any specific concerns with your service technician. The recommended inspection technique will often be based on your comments and concerns. Our technicians are trained to perform the appropriate level of inspection based upon the use of the chimney and any performance problems or safety concerns using the NFPA 211 as our standard.

Our Happy Clients

  • Robert C.

    "All employees were extremely well mannered, very nice, did a fantastic job. Christian Martinez was very thorough and professional. Excellent service, would definitely recommend."

  • Matt H.

    "They installed a vent pipe for our gas water heater. That solved our back draft problem. They were also $400.00 cheaper than other chimney guys in the Cincinnati area."

  • Pike G.

    "What a relief to have found Chimney Works! We have cleaned our chimney for years with another vendor but became dissatisfied with poor service. We knew the time had come for a new liner and some general repairs to our 75 year old chimney. Christian Martinez was AMAZING!!"

  • Erin C.

    "My husband and I researched wood burning stoves for quite a while, and found Chimney Works. For the price, quality, and service, we were sold on this company! I am typically apprehensive about having workers come into my home, but the installation crew that came to set up our new stoves, were phenomenal!"

  • Michael

    "I purchased a fireplace insert a couple of years ago and have been very happy with it. It has paid for itself at this point due to the reduction in our monthly heating bill. When I went in to purchase, the staff was very helpful and took time to explain everything I needed to know about my new insert, right down to how to properly clean the glass."

  • Anastasia

    "Great company! We get our fireplace checked annually, and Jeremy Woods came out to maintain our fireplace today. Like all the employees we've dealt with this company he was super friendly and professional."

  • J, Merrimack

    "He was fantastic. Thorough, professional, careful, instructive to help us clean it ourselves. Worked hard for his $$. Arrived on time. Excellent value for the money. We will definitely be calling him again."

  • Mary

    "Jeff was extremely nice, very efficient and did a wonderful job. You sure do hire excellent employee's and that is why I have you every year!"