Why Are Annual Chimney Inspections So Important?

Even if you make use of your fireplace, insert or stove year-round, there are a lot of things that can happen to the system without your knowledge. Here in Seattle, we get quite a bit of rain, wind and snow, which can seriously deteriorate the chimney’s masonry. Not only does water corrode masonry, but it can also cause vegetation and algae to grow on brick and stone. It’s also possible that animals may have set up shop and chimney parts could be damaged or failing. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Unfortunately, without proper and professional inspections, you could be under the impression that your system is safe and ready for another burn season – when in reality, it’s not. That’s why the CSIA and the NFPA recommend having your chimney system inspected annually.

What Are The Three Levels Of Inspection & Which One Do I Need?

The NFPA has guidelines for the three levels of inspections: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Below we’ll give you a little breakdown about what each level includes and when each is recommended:

Level 1 – Level 1 inspections are designed to evaluate systems that have not experienced any changes since the previous inspection. If your appliance and chimney system are performing excellently and you don’t plan on doing anything different this burn season, a Level 1 should suffice. This level will involve a look at all accessible parts of the system, using a flashlight and a good eye.
Level 2 – Level 2 inspections are typically recommended any time a new appliance or liner type is installed, or when changing fuels or property ownership. This level should involve a video inspection, in addition to an inspection of everything included in a Level 1.
Level 3 – Level 3 inspections are really only necessary when a problem can’t be identified using a Level 1 or Level 2 inspection. These inspections typically involve the removal of parts of the chimney or home, and are typically reserved for systems that have experienced a chimney fire or a severe weather event.

What’s So Great About Video Scan Inspections?

Your chimney has many important parts and components that aren’t visible to the naked eye. There are times when homeowners are experiencing problems with these components (like the smoke stack or the chimney liner), and we need to take a closer look to get to the bottom of the problem.

When we inspect your chimney, we want to see as much as possible so that we can understand the true condition of your chimney and give you an accurate estimate for any needed repairs. With masonry chimneys, it is common for the chimneys to have cracks and breaks along the walls inside the chimney liner. There is also often somewhat significant water damage as well, especially here in Seattle. We want to make sure that we spot any damage — even the smallest of cracks — so that we can be sure we’re giving you the truest and most accurate assessment of your chimney’s condition. And it’s not just masonry chimneys that need a closer look; if you have a prefabricated chimney, there may be tiny pinholes of rust or other defects.

To get a good, in-depth look at the inside of your chimney and to thoroughly inspect the structural soundness of the system, we use a digital video camera. Our skilled inspectors will run this video camera through your chimney, taking up-close video footage of all of the parts of your chimney’s interior. This video footage allows us to see parts of your chimney system that we would not be able to see otherwise.

How Is The Video Camera Used?

The camera is sent up into the chimney, mounted on a swiveling rod. Attached to the camera is a viewing screen so that we can evaluate the video in real time. This allows us to focus on or go back over an area that we think may need a little more attention. We also record a copy of the inspection so that we can review it more closely at a later time, looking for any hidden damages or other issues. The best part of video scans? They allow us to share our findings with our clients! That’s right – you’ll be able to see exactly what we’re talking about so that you can make the best decision for your system and your home.

Using the video camera, we can check for a variety of problems, including:

  • Damage to the chimney flue
  • Excessive creosote buildup
  • Animal nests or other debris
  • Storm damage
  • Evidence of leaks or water damage
  • Other age-related or use-related deterioration

If You Live In The Seattle Area, Give Pristine Sweeps A Call!

For more information on chimney inspections or video scan, please give us a call at 206-574-8414. Our experts would be more than happy to walk you through a typical inspection and help you decide which level is right for you. Ready to schedule an appointment? Click here!


Figuring out what’s wrong with your chimney or fireplace is not always easy. That’s why we offer expert troubleshooting to get to the source of the problem as quickly and correctly as possible.