Chimney Inspections

Chimney inspections: what to know

Annual chimney inspections by a qualified professional can prevent carbon monoxide intrusion and chimney fires. They can help you identify potential chimney system issues to address them before they become costly.

Swept Away Chimney professionals follow the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommended chimney inspection procedures.  NFPA categorizes chimney inspections into three levels. The circumstances, which give rise to the inspection, determine what level of inspection is to be conducted. A Level I inspection is the most basic level of inspection while Level II and Level III inspections are progressively more detailed and comprehensive. A Level I inspection is completed during each chimney cleaning, or sweeping.

Level I chimney inspection

A Level I chimney inspection is the recommended level when an evaluation of the chimney system for continued service is needed and the conditions of use are not changing. This could include:

  • Routine or annual evaluations of the chimney venting system.
  • An appliance connected to the chimney system is being replaced with a similar appliance.

A Level I chimney inspection is limited to readily accessible portions of the chimney venting system, and accessible portions of the connected appliance(s) and the chimney connection. The Swept Away Chimney professional will check the readily accessible portions of the chimney, its enclosing structure, and the flue. A Level I inspection includes verification that the flue is not blocked or significantly restricted.

Level II chimney inspection

A Level II chimney inspection is more detailed and thorough than a Level I inspection. It is the recommended inspection when conditions of use for the appliance or chimney venting system are changing, or when a Level I inspection reveals the need for a more extensive inspection.

Several instances where a Level II inspection is specifically recommended include:

  • During chimney cleaning or sweeping
  • Replacement of an appliance with one of dissimilar type, input rating or efficiency
  • Prior to a flue relining
  • Upon sale or transfer of the property
  • After an event likely to have caused damage to the chimney, such as a chimney fire or other sudden occurrence event

A Level II chimney inspection includes all of the requirements of a Level I inspection as well as the following:

  • Inspection of accessible areas of attics, basements, and crawlspaces
  • Accessible areas of the chimney exterior and interior
  • Accessible portions of the appliance and chimney connection
  • Video scanning, or other thorough inspection, of the flue interior
  • Evaluation of the flue lining to determine that its material and sizing is appropriate for the appliances being served
  • Proper clearance to combustibles in the accessible areas listed above
  • Proper construction and condition of the chimney system in the accessible areas listed above.

While the Level II chimney inspection is a rather thorough inspection and requires access to many areas of the home or building, it does not require removal of permanent parts such as siding, chase covers, or wall coverings.

Level III chimney inspection

A Level III chimney inspection is the most comprehensive of all of the inspection types and includes inspection of concealed areas of the home or building. However, examination of concealed areas will be limited to areas reasonably suspected of containing hazards that cannot be evaluated otherwise.

A Level III inspection includes all areas covered in a Level I and Level II inspection, and inspection of concealed areas to investigate known or suspected problems. In as much as certain portions of a Level III inspection require destructive action to the building, the inspector will discuss these areas with the building owner prior to the inspection.

Frequency of chimney inspections

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends annual chimney inspections by a qualified chimney professional. The inspection may prevent carbon monoxide intrusion, chimney fires and may also help you identify potential chimney system issues to address them before they become costly.

In addition to an annual chimney inspection, there are other times when chimney and venting systems should be inspected, such as:

  • After any unusual, or sudden occurrence such as a chimney fire, lightning strike, or earthquake
  • Prior to purchasing a home with an existing chimney
  • Whenever changes are made to a chimney or vent system, including replacement of connected appliances
  • Prior to major system repairs

Video scanning

A video scan is where we use a camera system, which is lowered into the chimney (or pushed up from the bottom). The camera allows the Swept Away Chimney professional to inspect the chimney from a range of just a few inches instead of just looking from the top or bottom. The camera image is viewed on a monitor. Video inspections may be recommended if the customer or professional suspects certain problems. Video inspections are often recommended after a chimney fire or some other form of damage to a chimney, and are a routine part of a Level II or Level III inspection.

Prior to major system repairs

The home or business owner should be aware that even the most thorough inspection would not reveal all problems. Some areas of a chimney simply are not assessable due to construction of the house or business.

Be sure to discuss any specific concerns with your Swept Away Chimney professional. The recommended inspection technique will often be based on your comments and concerns. Swept Away Chimney professionals are trained to perform the appropriate level of inspection based upon the use of the chimney and any performance problems or safety concerns using the NFPA 211 as our operational standard.

I am considering purchasing a home.  What type of chimney inspection do I need?

Most potential home buyers opt for a Level-II inspection. Many local areas actually require a Level-II inspection upon the sale of a home.