Frequently Asked Questions
What are the levels of inspections?
The scope of work performed in a chimney inspection or evaluation of a fireplace, wood stove insert or other venting system had previously been left to the discretion of the chimney service technician. On January 13, 2000, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) adopted these levels of chimney inspection into code NFPA 211 (Standard for Chimney Inspection, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances) that remove much of that “discretion”. Chimney inspections are now clearly defined as Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3.
NFPA 211 is the standard upon which certified chimney sweeps base their services and CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps are tested to these three levels of chimney inspection. Always ask for the level of chimney inspection that you believe will be most appropriate for your chimney and venting system. Each level of chimney inspection covers specific items depending on the individual appliance and venting system.
Below is an explanation of the three levels of chimney inspections and what services your chimney service technician should provide for each level as defined by the NFPA 211:
Level 1 – If your appliance or your venting system has not changed and you plan to use your system as you have in the past, then a Level 1 chimney inspection is a minimum requirement. A Level 1 chimney inspection is recommended for a chimney under continued service, under the same conditions, and with the continued use of the same appliance.
In a Level 1 chimney inspection, your chimney service technician should examine the readily accessible** portions of the chimney exterior, interior and accessible* portions of the appliance and the chimney connection. Your technician will be looking for the basic soundness of the chimney structure and flue as well as the basic appliance installation and connections. The technician will also verify the chimney is free of obstruction and combustible deposits.
Level 2 – A Level 2 chimney inspection is required when any changes are made to the system. Changes can include a change in the fuel type, changes to the shape of or material in the flue (i.e. relining), or the replacement or addition of an appliance of a dissimilar type, input rating or efficiency. Additionally, a Level 2 chimney inspection is required upon the sale or transfer of a property or after an operation malfunction or external event that is likely to have caused damage to the chimney. Building fires, chimney fires, seismic events as well as weather events are all indicators that this level of chimney inspection is warranted.
A Level 2 chimney inspection is a more in-depth chimney inspection than a Level 1 chimney inspection. When a Level 1 or Level 2 chimney inspection suggests a hidden hazard and the evaluation cannot be performed without special tools to access concealed areas of the chimney or flue, a Level 3 chimney inspection is recommended. A Level 2 chimney inspection includes everything in a Level 1 chimney inspection, plus the accessible portions of the chimney exterior and interior including attics, crawl spaces and basements. It will address proper clearances from combustibles in accessible locations.
There are no specialty tools (i.e. demolition equipment) required to open doors, panels or coverings in performing a Level 2 chimney inspection.
A Level 2 chimney inspection shall also include a visual chimney inspection by video scanning or other means in order to examine the internal surfaces and joints of all flue liners incorporated within the chimney. No removal or destruction of permanently attached portions of the chimney or building structure or finish shall be required by a Level 2 chimney inspection.
Level 3 – A Level 3 chimney inspection includes all the areas and items checked in a Level 1 and a Level 2 chimney inspection, as well as the removal of certain components of the building or chimney where necessary. Removal of components (i.e., chimney crown, interior chimney wall) shall be required only when necessary to gain access to areas that are the subject of the chimney inspection. When serious hazards are suspected, a Level 3 chimney inspection may well be required to determine the condition of the chimney system.
* Accessible: May require the use of commonly available tools to remove doors, panels or coverings, but will not damage the chimney or building structure or finish.
** Readily Accessible: Exposed, or capable of being exposed, for operation, chimney inspection, maintenance or repair without the use of tools to open or remove doors, panels or coverings.
Can you tell me more about wood stove inserts?
Wood stove inserts are constructed of cast iron and are placed inside the opening of the existing masonry fireplace. These inserts are more difficult to clean because the chimney technician is required to move these very heavy inserts out of the fireplace enough to crawl behind the insert. Access behind the insert is required to properly clean inside and areas like the smoke chamber and smoke shelf. Wood stove inserts get far more creosote buildup than a standard fire place. A properly lined wood stove insert has a direct connect liner to the top of the chimney.
Can you tell me more about freestanding wood stoves?
A freestanding wood stove is slightly more difficult to clean. The pipes that are connected to the top of the freestanding stove and turn into the masonry chimney usually require disconnection. The process of disconnecting these pipes and reconnecting the pipes can be difficult. If the pipes are not required to be disconnected and reconnected, then there is no additional charge for the cleaning process. Freestanding wood stoves are a great way to heat your home, however, many of the freestanding wood stoves generate lots of creosote. If you burn wood in your wood stove, definitely have it cleaned at least once a year. Learn more about freestanding wood stoves here.
What’s the difference between gas inserts and gas logs?
Gas inserts are engineered fireplace systems that are highly efficient. They are inserted into the existing fireplace or framed in. While the insert itself contains gas logs or other custom media, they are part of the unit, not separate. Gas log sets can be purchased on their own and installed inside of your fireplace as well, but they will be installed directly in the open firebox itself and are not energy efficient like a gas insert. Furthermore, gas logs must be installed into a code compliant chimney with the damper permanently secured in the open position.
What if we don’t have a gas line run to our fireplace or our home?
Just because you don’t have a gas line running to your home doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the convenience of a gas fireplace, insert, or log set. In many cases we can install gas lines and can make sure everything is installed and properly hooked up to your new appliance.
What’s the difference between zero clearance fireplaces and inserts?
A zero clearance fireplace is basically a factory built metal fireplace that can be framed in. An insert, on the other hand, is essentially a stove or firebox that’s designed to be installed inside of an existing masonry fireplace. The benefit of a wood burning insert and upgrading to an engineered system with a custom 6” 304 stainless steel insulated flue is that you receive up to 75,000 BTUs of heat when using your fireplace. This is sometimes a better option than repairing the existing chimney flue and smoke chamber.
What are ventless gas logs?
Ventless gas logs are log sets that don’t vent byproducts and gases through the chimney system. Unfortunately, while they do cut down on heat loss and make it possible to enjoy a fire, they MUST be installed into a code compliant, functioning chimney. Ventless gas logs do have some drawbacks and must be enjoyed with either a window open in the room where it is being used or a complex system of vents that deliver a constant supply of fresh air to the room where they are being used. Furthermore, they can be used continuously for no longer than 2 hours. You’ll also need to have a carbon monoxide detector and an oxygen depletion system installed nearby and very likely a dehumidifier to combat the excess moisture they create, as well.
What’s the difference between natural gas and propane?
When you decide to invest in a gas fireplace, gas fireplace insert, or gas log set, you need to determine which type of gas is best for you and your family. The type that’s best for your individual situation will largely depend upon your location and availability in your area.
Natural gas is typically less expensive than propane, but you’ll need to have a gas line installed and it must be directly piped to each individual appliance, like your fireplace or gas log set. If you already have natural gas running to your other appliances, like your water heater, for example, running natural gas to your fireplace or gas log set is probably the easiest and most favorable option for you. The downside to natural gas service is that it’s a little bit patchier than propane service and isn’t always available in every area.
Propane, on the other hand, will not require you to have a natural gas line. Instead, you’ll likely have a tank installed on your property and enter a contract with a propane company (for refills and service). While typically more expensive than natural gas, propane gas produces more heat, but it also contains more carbon dioxide, so you should have a carbon monoxide detector installed near the appliance.
How does a direct vent insert actually save me money?
With a direct vent gas insert, you’ll save money on fuel and utilities. Direct vent inserts don’t rely on your existing chimney to function — instead, they have two pipes, one bringing air to the appliance from outside, one carrying byproducts to the outside. Because of this set up, there’s really no way for downdrafts to occur or for conditioned air or heat produced by the appliance to be lost. All the heat being produced is simply going right back into your home to warm you and your family. A direct vent insert saves you money by:
- Allowing you to turn off the heat and use your appliance for zone heating.
- Producing more heat using less fuel.
- Radiating heat back into your home.
- Eliminating heat loss and conditioned air loss.
I just want my chimney swept. How much does that cost?
Please go to our service page and the zip codes and prices for each are listed there.
We recently purchased a home and would like the chimney inspected before we use it.
Please call or schedule your appointment online and we will be happy to get that inspection done as quickly as possible.
Our fireplace has an unpleasant odor.
You may be able to get rid of this by just getting your chimney swept. That’s where we would recommend you to start. If that doesn’t get rid of it there are other things that can be done once the source of the problem is found.
We have gas logs. Do we need to have our chimney swept?
Yes, there are still particulates and soot that is formed with the use of gas. Also, make sure you get the unit inspected as gas venting system is notorious for CO2 and other dangerous gasses.
We’ve lived here for so many years and have never used our fireplace.
Not using a fireplace does not equate to a healthy system. In fact, it could be quite the opposite. Animals, debris or water can easily intrude over the years and you would never know. If you have not used your appliance, get it thoroughly inspected first before considering using it again.
We had another company come out and we would like a second opinion and estimate.
You can call or schedule an appointment online for a second opinion. We are happy to help.
Our chimney is leaking.
Call us immediately so we can take measures now! A leaking chimney can ruin ceilings, mantels and walls if not dealt with quickly and professionally.
We’re closing on our house and the inspector listed the chimney on their report. How can we be sure the inspection was thorough?
Purchasing or selling a home can be overwhelming enough, without worrying about the safety and efficiency of the chimney and fireplace. Oftentimes, buyers forget about the chimney and/or fireplace, or assume that a thorough inspection of the system was included in the Home Inspection. Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), “The Inspector is NOT required to observe the interior of the flues” (standard 9.3.D.1). This means that you may very well be purchasing a home with a dangerous or non-functioning fireplace/chimney system. Protect your family and your investment by contacting us before you buy! The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that a Level 2 inspection is required during the sale or transfer or a property to evaluate the condition of the chimney system. At All-American Chimney Service, we have the required video scanning equipment and the experience to conduct and document a thorough NFPA Level 2 inspection. Have peace of mind when you buy – schedule your inspection, today!
For more information on level 2 inspections, click here.
It looks like the face of the bricks is falling off my chimney. What’s going on?
The technical term for this type of brick decay is known as spalling, and occurs as a result of water penetration. When moisture (be it rain or vapor) gets into the masonry of a chimney system, it constricts and expands as temperatures change (known as the freeze/thaw cycle). This process causes internal deterioration and forces the face of the brick to detach. Anytime you notice spalling, you can be sure that there structural damage has been done. To prevent further damage and prolong the life of your chimney system, we highly recommend waterproofing with a siloxane based water-repellent. We use ChimneySaver, which is the best name in masonry waterproofing technology and is recommended by the Brick Industry Association (BIA). When you have your masonry waterproofed by All American Chimney Service specialists, you can be confident in the products AND the process.
We want to be able to use our fireplace as an efficient heating source. What are our options?
In addition to conducting a thorough cleaning of your fireplace and chimney system, there are a few other adjustments or alterations we can make to help with efficiency and heat output. We may only need to make minor changes to your existing fireplace and chimney system, or we may suggest installing a wood or gas burning insert. To discuss the options with one of our knowledgeable professionals, call 502-435-2364 today!
We have two fireplaces and one flue on the same chimney. Are our fireplaces using the same flue?
Although it may seem like the fireplaces that share a chimney also share a flue, if your home was built after 1900, that is most likely not the case. Typically, even when there is only a single chimney involved, each fireplace has its own flue and requires a separate inspection. If you need to have multiple fireplace systems cleaned and/or inspected, contact us about the discounts we offer.
Call All American Chimney Service at 502-435-2364 or request an appointment online.