Fireplace Inspection – How To Safely Use and Maintain a Fireplace
Fireplace inspection is an essential step in maintaining your fireplace. When using a fireplace, you are intentionally setting fire in your home, so the safety and security of you, your family, and your property are paramount.
While that is undoubtedly the case, it’s also important to remember that a fireplace is an excellent way to improve the look and feel of your home. After all, there’s nothing quite like relaxing in front of a cozy fire on a cold winter’s night.
Speaking of winter, this is the most crucial time of year to have your fireplace inspected. The fire risk is highest when the weather is coldest, and heating fires are most common.
The best way to ensure maintenance safety and efficiency is to hire professional services. This guide will focus on wood-burning fireplaces and chimney cleaning, general fireplace maintenance tips, and safety guidelines.
Why Do You Need Annual Fireplace Inspection?
Despite their durability and ability to withstand heavy use, all fireplaces require an annual inspection.
Over time, elements like soot and ash can build up and cause problems. If not cleaned out regularly, your fireplace could become a fire hazard.
Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, an inspection is still necessary, and here’s why:
To Prevent Chimney Fires
The number one cause of chimney fires is creosote buildup. Over time, soot and ash can accumulate inside your chimney and ignite into a raging fire when you least expect it.
To Keep Your Chimney in Good Condition
Chimneys are not indestructible, especially if not properly maintained. Exposure to the elements will cause wear and tear, and without regular inspections, minor problems can quickly turn into major repair bills.
To Ensure Your Fireplace is Safe to Use
If you plan on using your fireplace this winter, you’ll want to make sure it’s safe. An inspection will identify any pot Openings
Repair Blocked Flue
A blocked flue may result from debris, nests, or even animals that have made their way into your chimney. This can be a severe safety hazard, so it’s essential to have it repaired as soon as possible.
Moreover, blocked flues are notorious for enabling carbon monoxide build-up, which can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and other symptoms that can be life-threatening.
To Prevent Penetration of Unhealthy Smoke
Another reason your wood fireplace needs annual inspection is to prevent smoke from seeping into your living space.
This is especially important for people with allergies or asthma, as exposure to wood smoke can trigger an attack. If carbon monoxide finds its way into your home, you may even suffer from breathing difficulties such as;
- Depressed immune system
- Cardiovascular problems
- Respiratory infections
- Lung cleansing disorders
To Ensure Efficiency of the Fireplace and Chimney System
The last reason you need to have your fireplace inspected annually is that it will help keep your chimney and fireplace running efficiently.
By inspecting the entire system, professionals can identify any problems or weak points in your venting system before they become costly issues.
Given these benefits, we highly recommend having your fireplace inspected as soon as possible.
How Often Should a Fireplace be Inspected?
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 211, you should have your fireplace inspected at least once a year. This will ensure that your fireplace is safe and in good working condition.
If you don’t use your fireplace often, you may be able to get away with having it inspected every other year. However, we recommend having it inspected annually to be on the safe side.
Other events that may contribute to a chimney inspection include:
Before Purchasing a Home
If you’re buying a home with a fireplace, it’s good to have it inspected before finalizing the sale.
This will give you an idea of what kind of condition the fireplace and chimney are in and whether or not they need repairs.
After Natural Disasters
Inspect your chimney after severe weather events, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornados, to look for any damage.
A chimney inspection can also prevent chimney fires after the storm has passed.
Before Using the Fireplace
If you haven’t used your fireplace all summer, it’s essential to have it inspected before starting up again.
This will ensure that everything is in good working condition and that there is no soot or creosote buildup in the chimney.
After a Chimney Fire
This one is obvious, but it’s still important to bring up. If your chimney has recently suffered a fire, you’ll need to have it inspected by a professional before using it again.
This ensures you identify any damage and potential safety issues and repair them quickly.
After Some Changes on the Chimney
Fireplace and chimney inspection is a must after changing your fireplace or chimney.
This includes installing a new stove, putting in a new liner, or even painting the outside of the chimney. Anytime you change or add something to the fireplace or chimney, you need to have it inspected.
As you can see, there are many reasons why you should have your fireplace and chimney inspected regularly. You can rest assured that your fireplace is safe to use and in good working condition by having it done annually.
What Happens During a Fireplace Inspection Process?
If you’ve never had a fireplace inspection before, you might be wondering what the process entails. Fortunately, we have a fireplace inspection checklist that will give you an idea of what to expect:
1. Smoke Chamber
Being one of the most crucial parts of the fireplace, professionals should check the smoke chamber for cracks or gaps. These can cause smoke to leak into your living space and put your family at risk.
The firebox is where the fire burns, so it’s essential to make sure it’s in good condition. The inspector will look for cracks, gaps, or buildups in the firebox to ensure safety and efficiency.
3. Hearth Extension
The hearth is where you place your fuel, such as wood logs or gas logs. In most cases, it should have a cement pad underneath to protect both the fireplace and the floor from heat damage.
4. Spark Arrestor
A spark arrestor is a mesh screen protecting the chimney from stray sparks. If there are any cracks in the screen, it needs replacement as soon as possible.
The damper keeps smoke from leaking into your living space when you’re not using your fireplace. The inspector will check for any cracks or gaps that may cause the damper to become loose and blow open.
The flue carries the smoke and fumes up and out of your home. The inspector will check for any blockages, such as bird nests, and ensure it’s clear for proper ventilation.
The cap is a metal cover that sits at the top of the chimney to keep water and debris out. The inspector will make sure it’s still in good condition and not missing any pieces.
The lining is a metal or clay flue that gives the smoke a smooth path up through your chimney. It can experience damage if the chimney is struck by lightning or excessive buildup from burning fuel.
9. Chimney Exterior
The last part of a fireplace and chimney inspection is the exterior. The inspector will look for any damage caused by water, animals, or severe weather to ensure your chimney is safe and sound.
After going through this fireplace inspection checklist, you should know what to expect from an inspection process. If you ever notice any changes in your fireplace or chimney, be sure to call a professional immediately so they can perform an inspection.
Types of Fireplace Inspection
There are three fireplace inspection levels that professionals use to evaluate the safety of your chimney. Here’s a brief overview of each:
1. Level One
A chimney inspection at level 1 is the kind of examination you should do once a year. This inspection aims to make sure that your chimney is clear of obstructions and look for wear and tear or breakage indications.
It’s typically used in tandem with a chimney cleaning. A chimney technician will perform a level 1 inspection as follows:
- Examine the outside and inside of your chimney for airflow problems, damage, and leaks.
- Remove any visible creosote buildup or obstructions like bird nests, soot, or ash.
- Inspect the firebox, damper, smoke chamber, and any other accessible parts of your chimney for damage.
2. Level Two Fireplace Inspection
The second level involves a detailed dive into your fireplace and chimney using specialized tools like video equipment.
Most fireplace inspectors recommend a level 2 inspection if they notice a problem with your fireplace and chimney in the first level of assessment.
Besides that, it’s best to opt for a level 2 fireplace inspection after severe weather conditions or if you’re planning to move into a new home.
There are three main benefits of opting for level 2 fireplace inspection:
- You get to understand the condition of your fireplace and chimney in detail
- You can be sure that your fireplace is safe to use
- You can identify any potential problems with your fireplace before they cause severe damage
If you are looking for a detailed assessment of your fireplace and chimney, a level 2 inspection is the best option.
With specialized tools and expert knowledge, these inspections can help ensure that your fireplace is safe to use and will not pose any risks to you or your family.
3. Level Three Fireplace Inspection
The third and last level of fireplace inspection is the most in-depth and requires special tools and training. This level of assessment should only be conducted by a certified professional.
During a level three fireplace inspection, a professional will check the following:
- The damper – to ensure it is functioning correctly
- The smoke chamber – for cracks or blockages
- The flue – to ensure it is smooth, clean, and free of obstructions
- The firebox – for damage or any other critical issues
The certified professional will likely need to disassemble your fireplace to access all the areas with potential problems.
Additionally, the professional must address any issues detected during a level three fireplace inspection as quickly as possible. Failing to do so could put your family at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, house fires, and other dangerous situations.
Safety Fireplace Maintenance Tips
There are several ways to keep your fireplace safe, regardless of the level of inspection or maintenance. These include
Schedule Annual Fireplace Inspection and Cleaning
It is good to have your fireplace inspected and cleaned by a professional once per year. This will help you identify any potential issues that could be dangerous and prevent the build-up of creosote, soot, and other substances that can cause fires.
Keep the Firebox Clean
The firebox is the bottom part of the fireplace where you place the fuel. Keeping this area clean by regularly removing old ashes, debris, and other items is essential.
Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Installing a carbon monoxide detector near your fireplace is an excellent way to alert you to any potentially dangerous gas levels. This can help you avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be deadly.
Burn the Right Wood
Right, in this case, means dry wood, which often burns more efficiently and produces less smoke. Using dry wood can also help prevent the build-up of harmful substances in your fireplace.
Clean the Fireplace Bricks
Finally, it is a good idea to clean your fireplace bricks regularly. This will help keep the area looking nice and prevent any soot or other materials build-up.
How Much Does a Fireplace Inspection Cost?
The cost of a fireplace inspection will vary depending on the level of assessment you choose and the company you use. Generally, level one inspections are the least expensive, while level three inspections are more costly.
Here is a table to give you a better idea of the average cost of each level of fireplace inspection:
|Inspection Level||Price Range with Cleaning Included|
|Level One Inspection||$85 – $950|
|Level Two Inspection||$150 – $1,000|
|Level Three Inspection||$500 – $5,000|
If you want to keep your family safe and prevent dangerous house fires, it is crucial to have your fireplace inspected regularly.
There are three different levels of inspection, each of which can help you identify any issues with the safety or function of your fireplace.
And when seeking professional services, ensure you hire a licensed chimney inspector with the necessary training and experience to conduct a thorough assessment of your fireplace.