It helps keep you warm. It’s a prominent feature of your home. It’s also frequently forgotten. Your chimney—and the fireplace at its base. That’s what makes a chimney inspection a matter of life and death.
“If you don’t use your fireplace it never dries out,” warns Lee Roth with Lords Chimney. “And, in Houston we get a lot of water. So, it’s the perfect environment for chimney deterioration.”
Chimney inspection basics
The National Fire Protection Association recommends getting a chimney inspection annually. This not only keeps it operating safely and efficiently, it also alerts you to potential problems in time to address them.
“There are chimney fires, lighting strikes, foundation problems,” Lee adds. “Then there are critters who take up residence. Raccoons, possums, Chimney Swifts, which is a protected species of bird. Once they nest you’re not allowed to touch them.”
What to expect in a chimney inspection
Start by making sure your chimney inspector is properly trained. They should be members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG). That’s your assurance they are current with techniques, equipment and codes.
The technician conducts a visual inspection of the inside of your fireplace. He also performs a rooftop visual inspection of the chimney above the roofline.
To see what’s going on inside your chimney, our HomeShow Pros at Lords Chimney use video scanning equipment. The camera displays real-time pictures of your flue on an LCD screen.
Depending on the outcome of your inspection, the technician will sweep the firebox, damper, smoke shelf, smoke chamber, flue, and, if appropriate, gas logs.
Three levels of chimney inspection
Why does your fireplace deserve this level of inspection?
“It’s the only place in your house where there’s an open fire,” Lee says. “So. it’s important to make sure it’s safe as it can be. All the products of combustion need to go outside so you’re not breathing that stuff.”
- Level One: Based on a visual inspection, their chimney professional will provide a written condition report after inspecting the readily-accessible areas of your chimney in the living area and at the exterior of your home, including the firebox, damper, and smoke chamber. Outside, they check to make sure the chimney cap meets code and does not restrict the draft. They also check for structural soundness and evidence of deterioration.
- Level Two: This level is recommended before beginning modifications to your chimney or stove heating system, during a change in property ownership, or after a chimney fire or natural disaster. Lords uses their camera system to look inside the chimney and complete a comprehensive visual inspection. They then provide a detailed written report outlining any concerns.
- Level Three: Includes all the items in a Level One and Two, as well as the removal of portions of the chimney. A chimney has several concealed areas. Whether it is the internal metal flue pipe, or the unexposed brick of a masonry structure, sometimes it may be necessary to remove parts of the chimney to inspect the area in question. This inspection is only needed if something is found in a Level One or Two Inspection that cannot otherwise be properly evaluated or addressed. Less than one percent of the chimneys Lords encounters require this level of inspection.
Add a chimney inspection to your annual checklist
While you may only use your fireplace during a relatively short period of time each year, it spends every day of the year in the elements. Make sure it’s safe for your home and family by scheduling an annual chimney inspection. Tom recommends Lords Chimney, his certified HomeShow Pro for fireplace and chimney care.