Chimney Inspections: Why You Need Them, When You Need Them & What You Need To Know

If you’re wondering what chimney inspections are and why they’re necessary, you’re not alone. A lot of homeowners think inspections must be something new, but the reality is, they’ve been written into the National Fire Protection Association Inspection Standard (NFPA 211) since the year 2000. Why? Because they’re incredibly important! The NFPA recommends that every chimney, fireplace, and venting system be inspected annually by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep for the safety and well-being of homeowners everywhere.

Because these Inspection Standards are considered “The Industry Standards,” as chimney professionals, we’re professionally and legally bound to them. That means that we follow and abide by these standards at all times.

How Our Cameras See What Our Eyes Can’t

Using specialized cameras, White Glove professionals can inspect the inside of a chimney flue from top to bottom. This type of technology is crucial in identifying cracks, breaks, rust, and holes commonly found along the walls of chimney liners. Without these specialized cameras, it can be very difficult to pinpoint flaws that pose great risk to the integrity and efficiency of the chimney system. Regardless of the age or type of chimney in your home, all chimneys are prone to deterioration and this type of inspection is written into our local building code for that very reason.

flue crack
This picture reveals a crack in the flue, only visible using the remote camera. When heated, these cracks swell, allowing heat to transfer to nearby combustible materials.
metal overheat
This metal chimney buckled under heat. As a result, the insulation fell out, leaving only a thin wall of sheet metal between the intense heat and the wood around it.

Inspection Levels

So what exactly is a chimney inspection and what does it entail? The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has classified inspections into three levels with regard to intensity and frequency of inspection. The inspection you need will depend on the circumstances and the condition of your system. These levels are detailed below:

Level 1:
A level 1 chimney is the minimum requirement and should be performed every year, along with a routine cleaning of the chimney flue (if needed). In a Level 1 inspection, the chimney and flue are inspected for blockages and the overall condition of both is examined. In addition, all accessible areas of the appliance connector are assessed. This level of inspection is conducted annually, during routine chimney sweeping, and any time that a connected appliance is replaced with a similar unit (similar in input rating, efficiency, or type). A Level 1 inspection may also be issued when verification that a system is fit for service under the present conditions is needed. In a Level 1 inspection, an inspector must evaluate the accessible portions of the chimney exterior, interior, and connector appliance.
Level 2:
As in a Level 1 inspection, a Level 2 inspection requires an evaluation of the overall condition of the chimney and flue and a check for blockages in these areas. All accessible areas of the appliance conductor are assessed as well as accessible portions of the chimney structure. Using video documentation, all enclosed flues are evaluated, checking for size and suitability. This level of inspection is issued when adding, removing or replacing an appliance or after an event in which the chimney was likely to be damaged (i.e. chimney fire, seismic event, or severe weather event). A Level 2 inspection is also necessary when transferring property ownership, when verifying that a system is fit for service under changing conditions, or when a Level 1 inspection is deemed inadequate.

The inspector must have access to the chimney exterior, interior, connector appliance and all parts of the chimney passing through crawl spaces and attics.

Level 3: A Level 3 inspection includes a thorough inspection of all concealed areas of the chimney structure and the enclosed flues, in addition to all the checkpoints of a Level 2 inspection. The entire system is also examined for combustible materials. A Level 3 inspection is conducted on an as-needed basis, to examine damage to the chimney system or building. An inspector may also choose to conduct a Level 3 inspection when a Level 1 or 2 inspection detects a possible hazard that cannot be further identified without access to otherwise-concealed areas. A Level 3 inspection is required when knowledge of the condition of the chimney is critical to the renewed or continued use of the chimney. In a Level 3 inspection, the inspector must have access to the designated parts of the chimney structure and building, including areas that may be concealed. The removal of parts of the chimney or building is often required in order to give the inspector complete access to all concealed areas.

Why hire a professional inspector?

The education, expertise and attention to detail of a White Glove inspector is second to none. Our inspectors have experience as professional Fire Investigator Consultants in hearth-related structural fires and can also provide Expert Witness Testimony in such cases. Without our knowledge of the hearth system, flaws and defects are often overlooked and you may be left unprotected.

In addition, White Glove specializes in real estate sale and insurance inspections, protecting you (the buyer or seller) from costly surprises or fire hazards due to improperly- installed hearth systems. As trained inspectors, White Glove professionals provide reports with all of the detailed legal documentation required to keep you informed and protected. In most cases, our reports also provide repair options and estimates. Find out more here.

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Regardless of what your chimney or fireplace problems are, the pros at White Glove have the expertise and experience to make the necessary repairs. It’s all part of our complete chimney services.