Save Yourself Money & Enjoy A Safer Home With An Annual Chimney Inspection
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 211 states that, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances.” Even if you don’t use your chimney regularly, deterioration and damage can still occur, and while a yearly chimney inspection is always recommended, in some cases, you may need to schedule an inspection and cleaning more than just once a year. There are many other forms of wear and deterioration we look for other than creosote and soot buildup.
Here at The Chimney Doctor, chimney inspections and thorough video inspections are at the core of our service. We adhere to the NFPA Standard 211 because we know the vital role that annual inspections play in providing peace of mind and ensuring safety, and bringing to light any problems that could threaten that peace of mind or safety – before they become big issues. Our inspections allow us to get an up-close, inside look into the performance and safety of the chimney system (within the scope of the level of inspection performed or authorized), so we can keep our customers informed and help you enjoy a safer experience by the fireside.
As a team, we promise to provide relevant facts about your chimney system so you can make the right decisions regarding the comfort and safety of your family, and inspections enable us to do just that.
But the benefits of an annual chimney inspection don’t stop with safety and peace of mind…
Scheduling a chimney inspection each and every year can save you money, too! Instead of making larger, more costly repairs years down the road, repairs can be made as soon as they’re discovered, while they’re still small. You’ll also be protected against the costly deterioration and damage that can occur as a result of water, weather, animal intruders, and chimney fires.
Pyrolysis: Why Chimney Inspections Are So Important
Here’s a word you don’t hear every day: pyrolysis.
What is it? Technically, “the chemical or thermal decomposition of a material when it is exposed to heat.” But what’s it have to do with your fireplace?
Well, when you don’t have proper clearance between your fireplace/chimney and combustible materials in walls and framing, the heat from the fire can change the chemical makeup of the wood framing and other combustibles.
Pyrolysis is a process that takes place over time. It’s why you can use a chimney for years without incident, but then suddenly have a structure fire. Slowly, combustible materials near the fireplace are baked by the heat of the fire. Temperatures as low as 200 degrees can start this process and temperatures as low as 200-250 degrees can cause spontaneous ignition of those materials that have been altered by the pyrolysis process.
No spark. No flame. Just radiant heat that can transfer because minimum clearances are not maintained.
While pyrolysis does not ensure a structure fire, it greatly increases your risk, which is why you should always make annual inspections a priority. Routine chimney care can reduce risk, and during inspections, we can check your fireplace for proper clearances and make sure everything is up to code, so you don’t have to worry.
Level I, Level II, Or Level III — Which Inspection Do I Need?
Per NFPA 211 standards, we perform level I, II, and III chimney inspections. Here’s what you need to know about each level:
Level I Chimney Inspections
Before and after a chimney cleaning each year and whenever you’re planning to use your chimney under the same conditions of service and with the same appliance, a level I chimney inspection is performed. During a level I inspection, we’ll evaluate the overall condition of your chimney and flue, from the top to the bottom, and determine whether or not any repairs are needed. Using bright lights and mirrors, we’ll look up and/or down the chimney to visually inspect it and make sure it’s safe for continued use. Level I inspections include an evaluation of all readily accessible areas of your chimney system, but usually do not include attics or crawlspaces, and may or may not include roof access. At the conclusion of the inspection, we’ll inform you, the homeowner or property manager, of our findings, and provide estimates for basic repairs or recommendations for further inspections if warranted.
Level II Chimney Inspections
Much like when you start seeing a new doctor they require a physical, blood work, and labs to get a baseline for your health, so too do we require a Level II inspection to get a baseline on your chimney, and make sure that our recommendations are based on sound, factual information regarding the actual state of your chimney system at the time. Per company policy and industry best practices, a Level I inspection is only offered in years following the completion of an in-depth Level II inspection and the completion of any needed repairs. Often estimates require more information to assure suitability of installation or repairs and to verify if a system meets or exceeds the applicable minimum standards for safe operation. Estimates for major repair, or the installation of any appliance, will not and cannot be given prior to the completion of a Level II inspection. We have instituted this policy in the best interest of our clients and appreciate your understanding.
A Level II inspection involves all the aspects of a level I inspection, plus the inspection of all accessible areas of the chimney system, including rooftops, attics, crawlspaces, and a video inspection of the chimney flue, from top to bottom. To complete a Level II inspection code requires, as well as industry standards, that the complete chimney system be inspected, including EVERY flue inside of a chimney system. This could mean a fireplace upstairs, a fireplace downstairs, and a furnace in the basement – all running through the same chimney structure. Legally we are held accountable for having inspected them whether or not they were fully inspected. Because of this fact we require that all flues inside a chimney system serving another appliance be inspected at the same time during a Level II inspection. This often saves costly headaches later, and in the case of installations, can save lives and prevent damage and injury to people and property. In a combined chimney system what happens to one flue can adversely affect associated flues and appliances. The only way to help assure that your system meets the minimum required standard for safe operation is to inspect it as a complete system.
Per code, a Level II inspection is REQUIRED and shall be performed
1) upon the sale or transfer of any property
2) upon addition or removal of one or more connected appliances
3) when replacing an existing appliance with one of a dissimilar type, input rating, or efficiency rating
4) prior to relining or replacement of flue lining
5) after an external event likely to have caused damage to the chimney or operating malfunction
6) for verification of the suitability of the chimney for new or changed conditions of service
7) when a Level I inspection is not sufficient to determine serviceability of a chimney.
Level III Chimney Inspections
A level III inspection may or may not include all areas included in a level I or level II inspection, but will be specific to one or more concealed areas of your chimney where hidden concerns are located. The physical removal of permanently affixed building materials is usually required, which is why these are generally performed after a structural fire or when a level II chimney inspection uncovers cause for concern, charring of combustible materials near the chimney, or badly deteriorated chimney liners that require further inspections to verify the sutability of the system for continued use or to assess possible repair options. A video inspection may or may not be necessary, though will be recommended and included when appropriate.
Sometimes, you just need a better look, and a video inspection can provide it. The purpose of a video inspection is to help the inspector-on-site determine if your chimney:
- meets its minimum required standard for safe operation
- was properly constructed and is capable of protecting your home or structure in the event of a chimney fire
- can safely contain the byproducts of combustion
When a video inspection is performed, a specialized camera is run through the entire length of the chimney system and if necessary, into hard to reach or access areas. This camera allows us to peek into unseen areas that can’t properly be inspected from the top or the bottom of the chimney, and look more closely at system damage, deficiencies, or areas of concern.
During a video inspection, we’ll inspect the joints and seams in the stove piping and in between flue tiles, look for the migration of creosote into the chimney structure or piping layers, investigate chimney construction, inspect the interior facing of brick and mortar joints, and offsets in the chimney structure. We also check for any unseen obstacles and obstructions and look for cracks or gaps which can permit the byproducts of combustion to escape the chimney flue into the chimney structure, or worse – into your home or property itself. We’ll also do our best to determine whether or not wood was used in the construction of the chimney structure itself, or is too close to the chimney at any inspectable point.
In short, video inspections are now a vital part of what we do as chimney professionals and have greatly helped to reduce the number of home and chimney fires that result in loss across North America. At The Chimney Doctor we are proud to be able to provide a service that truly tries to protect your home and family as best we can.
Don’t Forget About Your Boiler/Furnace Flue!
While you may not have given it much thought, boiler and furnace chimneys and exhaust vents should also be checked annually and cleaned as needed, and your furnace/boiler service provider isn’t doing it. That’s our job! Learn more here.
It’s FLUE Season! Have You Scheduled Your Annual Inspection Yet?
If you haven’t scheduled your annual inspection this year, the time to make the call is now! Our clean, professional, experienced, and certified chimney inspectors will provide a thorough inspection and an honest and detailed report of our findings and recommendations. Get the confidence and peace of mind you deserve — call 970-234-3330 or fill out our online appointment request form to get started!
Part of our chimney and fireplace services is our specialty in the inspection and sweeping of commercial & industrial flues. You can count on us for all your hearth needs.