What can I expect at my annual inspection?
The National Fire Protection Association developed a Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances, with a laudable intent in mind: to help homeowners use their fireplaces and stoves as safely and efficiently as possible.
That standard guides how chimney professionals approach the inspection process, and if you hire a chimney technician who’s certified by the Chimney Safety Institute America, your inspection will follow a well-defined approach aimed at giving you the best, most clear image of the state of your chimney system.
Not sure what that process entails? Here’s a quick look into the three different levels of inspection outlined in the NFPA’s standard:
If There’s Been No Change To Your Chimney System:
Are you using the same heating appliance, with the same chimney liner, burning the same fuel that you have been using? Your chimney technician will recommend what the NFPA deems a Level 1 chimney inspection, which offers a detailed look into the readily accessible portions of your chimney system.
More specifically, technicians will make sure that your chimney and the connections between it and your appliance are sound, and that your flue isn’t blocked by debris or other materials. They’ll make sure your flue liner isn’t cracked, that it’s sized right for your appliance, that the damper is opening and closing properly, and assess whether your chimney is in need of sweeping. In most cases, you’ll see a technician using a flashlight and mirror and a special digital camera that can capture and illustrate the state of your flue liner.
If Changes Have Been Made, Damage Has Occurred, Or Property Is Changing Hands:
If something’s different with your chimney system — whether you’ve added a new appliance or flue liner, or had a chimney fire — your technician will recommend a Level 2 chimney inspection, which gives them the opportunity to take a closer look. A Level 2 inspection is also called for when a home is being bought or sold, so that buyers aren’t left in the dark about the state of an important part of the structure.
All of those accessible interior and exterior parts will still be inspected, but technicians also look into attics and basements, check for safe clearances between combustible materials, and scan the chimney interior with a specialized video camera that allows them to find imperfections that the naked eye could miss.
If Hidden Hazards Are Probable:
You’ll only hear a recommendation for a Level 3 inspection if your chimney technicians are concerned about hidden hazards and believe it’s necessary to take an even closer look. This level of inspection includes the Level 2 process, but chimney professionals may also remove components of the system — which can be anything from drywall to the chimney crown — in order to adequately assess those potential hazards.
By and large, a chimney inspection is a quick process and small investment in keeping an important part of your home working the way it should. If a problem does come up, you’ll know about it quickly – and get the chance to take care of it quickly. And there’s a lot of peace of mind that comes with simply knowing your chimney is working the way it’s supposed to.