When it comes to chimney and fireplace maintenance, most homeowners know the basics. They remove the ashes and soot from the firebox after using it, get the chimney swept when the flue seems particularly dirty, and keep their eyes out for any emerging problems. While these are important parts of fireplace upkeep, it is missing one very important component – the chimney inspection.
Chimney inspections are an essential part of chimney maintenance. An inspection ensures that all the components of your chimney and fireplace are not damaged, work well, and do not pose a threat to you or your family’s safety. In addition, inspections allow homeowners to keep tabs on the state of their chimney system, giving them a better idea of when damage has occurred and when repairs should be made.
The three levels of chimney inspections
According to National Fire Protection Agency standards, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.” Based on this standard, the Chimney Safety Institute of America created three standardized levels of inspections.
Level I chimney inspections are the most basic. During this level of inspection, the certified technician will evaluate all accessible parts of the interior and exterior of the chimney including the masonry, flue, and damper. They will look for any indications of damage or decay and try to assess whether all the fireplace components are still working properly.
This type of inspection is done to assess the overall health of your chimney system and is recommended for homes that have not made any changes to their fireplace or chimney system, are not experiencing any issues, and have not been damaged in any way. Level I chimney inspections are often recommended for new homebuyers in order to get an idea of the condition of their new fireplace and chimney.
Level II chimney inspections offer a more comprehensive look at your chimney system. In addition to the assessments done in a Level I inspection, technicians will often use special tools such as close circuit cameras in order to get a better look at all parts of your chimney. Likewise, technicians may need to access crawlspaces or attics.
A Level II chimney inspection is most commonly performed when there is an ongoing issue such as a persistent leak or odor, if the chimney or flue has been relined, if the fuel source has changed, or if parts of the fireplace have been added or replaced. If your home has undergone damage from a natural disaster such as an earthquake, tornado, or chimney fire a Level II inspection may be recommended to check the overall stability of the chimney structure. Lastly, a Level II inspection may be required if you are putting your home on the market.
A Level III chimney inspection is the most comprehensive and in-depth level of inspection available. These chimney inspections are also the most invasive and usually involve removing parts of the masonry, walls, ceilings, or other chimney parts in order to complete the inspection. Level III chimney inspections are only recommended if there has been serious structural damage to the fireplace or chimney.
Why are chimney inspections important?
“A chimney inspection is like an annual dental check-up,” says CSIA Director of Education Ashley Eldridge. “It’s preventative maintenance that helps minimize potential hazards.”
To ensure your fireplace stays in great working condition, schedule your annual chimney inspection today. The expert staff at the Magic Broom will take the time to make sure your chimney is safe to use, giving you and your family the peace of mind to enjoy your fireplace all year long.