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Chimney Inspection

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The loving warmth of a fireplace comes with the responsibility of having it regularly cleaned and inspected at least once a year. But people usually don’t pay much attention to their chimneys, which results in huge repair costs. But you can avoid it by keeping an eye out for signs of damage and calling in the chimney sweeping professionals.

Doesn’t matter if you use it twice a week or once a month, an annual chimney inspection is a must. It is also recommended by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA.)

In the following article, we’ll discuss:

  • what makes up a chimney inspection
  • warning signs that warrant a thorough chimney inspection
  • the cost of a chimney inspection, and much more.

But first, let’s talk about why a chimney inspection is important?

Why Do I Need a Chimney Inspection?

Here are the top 4 reasons why you need to have your chimney inspected on annual basis:

Identify Issues

A fireplace and chimney system is complex and has various parts. It’s not easy for most people to be aware of the various problems lingering inside the seemingly perfect chimney. Annual chimney inspections help identify potential chimney problems before they become harmful.

For example, if you’ve got a broken chimney crown, water may leak inside the chimney without you knowing. This can lead to various issues inside the chimney if left alone. But if you hire a chimney sweep for a thorough inspection, he can find and fix such issues before they cause too much trouble.

Save Money

If we further explain the previous example of a leaking chimney, we see that it can lead to:

  • roof damage
  • mold creation in the attic
  • structural damage to the chimney, etc.

But if you fix the chimney leak before it causes too much damage, you can save up to thousands of dollars in repairs.

If you schedule annual inspections, you can find such problems and fix them at a minimal cost. This helps avoid the hefty costs of repairs.

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Health and Safety

Annual chimney inspections ensure the health and safety of your loved ones.

A problem inside your chimney such as a poor draft can cause harmful gasses to leak inside your room. Among these gasses is the fatal Carbon Monoxide (CO) which is colorless and odorless.

A chimney fire can also occur because of excessive amounts of soot and creosote. Chimney fires are dangerous and spread throughout your house pretty quickly.

You can avoid these dangerous situations. You just need to keep your chimney clean and get annual chimney inspections. A certified chimney sweep will inspect your chimney and fix broken parts, damaged areas, and resolve other issues.

Buying and Selling Houses

If you’re buying a house, you must make sure that you’re buying one with minimal issues. So while checking the doors, windows, flooring, fencing, etc. of the house, don’t forget to check its chimney as well.

In some states, it is also mandatory to have a level 2 inspection of the chimney in you plan on buying the house.

There can be various issues lingering inside the chimney. Hire a professional chimney sweep to find these issues before it’s too late.

If there are any issues, you can either ask the seller to fix them or negotiate the price of the house.

Home Insurance

Annual chimney inspections help in avoiding any property damage and prevent costly repairs. But even if they occur you can claim home insurance. But you’ll need proof of annual chimney inspections to claim your home insurance for damages done by a faulty chimney.

But if you are not getting annual chimney inspections, your insurance company won’t be liable to pay for any damages.

What Is Involved in a Chimney Inspection?

When you hire a chimney sweep for a chimney inspection, he will carry out one of the three levels of inspection. Different situations and different chimneys need different levels of inspection. The details of each level are provided below for you to get an idea of the kind of inspection you’ll require for your chimney.

What Is a Level 1 Chimney Inspection?

In a level 1 chimney inspection, the certified chimney sweep will visually inspect all the accessible areas of the interior and exterior of your chimney. This includes inspecting your firebox, chimney flue, and masonry, among other chimney parts.

The chimney sweep will make sure that:

  • everything is running efficiently
  • all appliance connections are fine
  • chimney flue has no cracks
  • masonry structure has no signs of water damage

When Is a Level 1 Chimney Inspection Required?

The level 1 chimney inspection is the most common level of inspection. A chimney that has not undergone any changes and is working under the same conditions as before will need a level 1 chimney inspection. Even if there are no issues, a chimney must undergo a level 1 chimney inspection once per year.

What Is a Level 2 Chimney Inspection?

In addition to everything inspected in a level 1 inspection, a level 2 chimney inspection also includes a video scan for a more thorough examination of all the internal components of a chimney. A chimney sweep will ensure that all the standard clearances are met for nearby locations i.e., basements, crawlspaces, and attics.

There is no destruction or detachment of parts of the chimney that are fixed.

When Is a Level 2 Chimney Inspection Required?

You’ll need a level 2 inspection of your chimney if you’re planning to sell your house. A level 2 inspection is also necessary if your chimney has recently had a chimney fire or is damaged due to an earthquake, lightning, or any other natural disaster.

If your chimney has undergone any drastic changes, you’ll need a level 2 inspection to ensure that everything is working efficiently. Changes can include:

  • a change in flue type, size, material
  • replacement, or addition of a different type of appliance

What Is a Level 3 Chimney Inspection?

The level 3 chimney inspection usually includes the destruction and reconstruction of part/s of a chimney structure. It also covers everything inspected in the level 1 and 2 inspections. Removal of chimney components such as interior chimney walls or chimney crowns is needed to reach the root cause of a serious issue.

When Is a Level 3 Chimney Inspection Required?

Your chimney sweep will recommend a level 3 inspection if he finds a serious issue during level 1 or 2 inspections. This can include structural damage or damage due to chimney fires or other catastrophic events. Level 3 chimney inspection is only suggested as a last resort.

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6 Warning Signs You Need Chimney Inspection

Here are the top warning signs to look for:

1. Chimney Flue Cracks

If you see dark, oily spots in your firebox, that means your chimney has got soot and creosote buildup.

Soot and creosote are byproducts of combustion that stick to the chimney flue (liner.) If your chimney is not cleaned regularly, soot and creosote deposits can start to form. These deposits can obstruct the passage of smoke and cause drafting issues. Creosote is flammable so such deposits can also increase the risk of a chimney fire.

2. Masonry Chimney Cracks

You need to call in a professional chimney sweep for a thorough chimney inspection if the exterior masonry of your chimney has cracks. These cracks can let moisture get inside the chimney and damage its internal parts.

Rainwater can also seep inside these cracks. The freeze and thaw cycle can result in further cracking. If left unchecked, these cracks can even put the structural integrity of your chimney at risk.

3. Weird Noises Coming From the Chimney

Some times, people hear weird noises coming from the chimney. It can be because of the following reasons:

Silent Chimney Fires

If you hear clicking or rumbling sounds coming from inside your chimney, you may have a chimney fire. In such cases, extinguish the fire, get yourself and your family to a safe spot, and call 911. Hopefully, the chimney fire will die out on its own.

Once the fire is out, call in a professional chimney sweep for a level 2 inspection of your chimney. The professionals will find out the cause of the chimney fire and the damage it has done.

Animal Nesting in Chimney

If your chimney cap is broken, dust, debris, and small animals such as birds, squirrels, etc. can get inside your chimney. These small animals along with debris can clog your chimney causing drafting issues.

If you hear animal sounds coming from your chimney, you may have small animals living inside your chimney.

It’s important to have a professional chimney sweep unclog your chimney to make sure your chimney is working efficiently and is safe to use.

4. Water Leaking Into Fireplace Firebox

Chimney leaks can occur due to various reasons, such as:

  • damaged chimney flashing
  • damaged chimney crown
  • cracks in chimney exterior, etc.

Water from these cracks can get inside the chimney and reach your firebox.

Signs of condensation or puddles inside your firebox means you need to get the water problem inside your chimney fixed.

5. Chimney Not Drawing Smoke Up

A chimney clogged due to soot and creosote deposits, debris, or animal nesting will have drafting problems. The smoke will enter your room instead of rising up and outside the chimney. Other dangerous gasses such as Carbon Monoxide (CO) will also enter your room.

So, if your smoke is filling up your room, you need to schedule a chimney inspection immediately.

6. Rust or Discoloration on the Chimney

Water can damage your chimney exterior and interior. Green (mold) or white spots (efflorescence) on your chimney are signs of water damage. Inside the chimney, water can rust your fireplace damper and malfunction it.

Hire a professional chimney sweep to inspect your chimney if you notice signs of water leaking. If left unchecked, water can damage your chimney and cost you thousands of dollars in repairs.

How Often Should I Have a Chimney Sweep Inspection?

If your chimney is working without any issues and you haven’t changed your appliance or chimney flue, you should get your chimney inspection once per year.

But if you notice any issues or if you have installed a new flue or appliance to your chimney system, you will need to have a chimney inspected by a certified chimney sweeping service sooner.

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Questions to Ask Your Chimney Inspector Before Hiring

The chimney sweeping service is not regulated by any government organization. That means anyone can become a chimney sweep. So, to ensure that you’re getting the right service it’s important to hire someone that is qualified and has relevant experience.

Here are some of the questions that you can ask your chimney sweep to ensure their credibility:

What Experience Do You Have?

Ask your chimney sweep about the number of years they have been in business. All chimneys are different and someone that has a lot of experience will have worked on most, if not all, of the different types of chimney systems. 

Make sure to hire someone that has at least a few years of experience. An experienced chimney sweep won’t overlook any  dangerous issues and recommend the best solutions.

What Qualifications Do You Have?

There are credible certifications available for professional chimney sweeps. Professionals get them after proper education, training, and rigorous testing.

So it is best to hire a certified chimney sweep for your chimney inspection. Some of the famous certifications include:

  • Chimney Institute of America
  • National Fireplace Institute
  • National Chimney Sweep Guild

Some of their websites also have directories where you can find certified chimney sweeps available in your area.

What Will the Inspection Include?

Chimney sweep service providers have various packages. Make sure you ask the service provider what you’ll get if you hire their services. Does the package include inspection, cleaning, or both?

A thorough inspection should include a visual examination of the entire chimney, from top to bottom. Once the inspection is done, your service provider should provide you with a detailed report of the inspection. The report will include images, diagnosis, recommended repairs, and the total cost.

Some chimney sweeps outsource the repairing job which can be a hassle. Make sure the service you hire has professional masons and chimney experts that can also provide the needed repairs.

How Much Do Chimney Inspections Cost?

The final cost of a chimney inspection or repair depends upon the initial condition of your chimney and the extent of repairs. For example, a chimney that has not been cleaned and is used frequently will have a lot of creosote. Compared to that, a chimney that has been regularly cleaned will have less creosote.

The latter will be much easier and faster to inspect and clean.  So, the cost of the former will be more compared to the latter case. It’s best to get an initial quote in writing to avoid any discrepancies and issues in the future.

Other factors that affect the chimney inspection cost include your locality, extra services (chimney cap installation, chimney crown installation, etc.), and season (the cost is usually higher during winter due to the increased demand.)

Chimney Inspection Cost

The average costs of different levels of chimney inspections have been provided for chimneys with different numbers of flues.

Note: The following table is just an estimate. The actual price can vary based on how much cleaning is needed and the number of replacements (chimney cap, chimney crown, chimney flue, etc.) or repairs required.

Level 1 Inspection CostLevel 2 Inspection CostLevel 3 Inspection Cost
Single Flue Chimney$100 to $200$200 to $400$1000 to $4000
Chimney with 2 Flues$200 to $500$400 to $600$1500 to $4500
Chimney with 3 Flues$500 to $1000$1000 to $1500$1500 to $5000
Chimney with 4 Flues$600 to $1000$1100 to $1500$1500 to $5500

The Takeaway

Chimney inspection and regular maintenance is important if you want your chimney to work efficiently for years to come without causing damage to your house or harm to your loved ones.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends conducting a chimney inspection at least once every year.

It’s not only safer to have annual chimney inspections but it is also cost effective. Through these inspections, chimney issues can be identified and fixed before they can cause serious damage. Thus, saving you thousands of dollars in damages.

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