While most homeowners know that regular maintenance is an important part of chimney upkeep, few go beyond an occasional cursory cleaning. Unfortunately, this means that many chimneys and fireplaces do not receive the annual inspections they need.
“A chimney inspection is like an annual dental check-up,” Director of Education for the CSIA Ashley Eldridge said. “It’s preventative maintenance that helps minimize potential hazards.”
In addition to making sure there are no potential safety hazards associated with your chimney or fireplace, annual inspections are helpful in that they often uncover minor problems before they turn into major issues. This can include making recommendations for small repairs such as waterproofing a chimney structure or fixing damaged sections of masonry.
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.” To follow this standard, the NFPA created three levels of chimney inspections.
A Level I inspection is all that is needed for homes where the fireplace system is regularly used, there have been no apparent issues, and there have been no changes or modifications to the fireplace or chimney. During a Level I inspection, technicians will inspect all accessible areas of the interior and exterior of the chimney for signs of damage or decay. This includes checking the chimney and flue for signs of obstructions, debris, or creosote buildup.
Following a Level I inspection, the technician should give you a report of the overall health of your fireplace system and make the suggestion of any needed repairs. If any issues are spotted, a Level II or Level III inspection may be recommended.
Level II inspections are most likely used when there have been changes to the fireplace system. This can include changing the fuel source (such as going from wood to gas), the relining of the chimney or flue, or the addition or replacement of an appliance. Likewise, if you have experienced an earthquake, fire, or other natural disaster that may have caused damage to the chimney structure this level of inspection is recommended. Finally, if you are selling your home a Level II chimney inspection may be required.
A Level II inspection is a more detailed and in-depth look at your chimney and fireplace structure. Technology such as closed circuit cameras may be used, and technicians will often need access to attic or crawlspace areas.
The Level III inspection is the most in-depth and comprehensive. In addition to all of the areas covered by the Level I and II inspections, Level III inspections involve removing specific parts of the chimney in order to complete the examination. This may include removing parts of the chimney crown or cap or parts of the interior chimney wall. Because of the intrusive and destructive nature of a Level III inspection, they are only performed when serious structural damage to a chimney is suspected.
The experts at Pristine Sweeps can help you identify what level of chimney inspection your home needs. Contact them today to have your fireplace and chimney inspected before the first cold weather hits.