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It is surprising how many homeowners light a fire in their fireplace without considering what kind of shape their chimney is in. An alarming amount of people will still use their system, despite knowing it needs repair work, which can put their home and family at serious risk of a chimney or structure fire, or even carbon monoxide poisoning. Even the most minor repairs related to the safety of the system need to be addressed before it is safe to light a fire.

The fact is that there is no gray area when it comes to the health of your chimney. It is either in good condition, installed per code and applicable manufacturer requirements, and safe for continued use, or it isn’t. During the annual inspection, sweeping, and service recommended by The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), the National Fireplace Institute (NFI), and most appliance manufacturers any damage, noted deficiencies, construction defects, or build-up found should be addressed before building any further fires. Safety is not about how small of a fire we burn, but rather – knowing that our systems meet or exceed the minimum required standards for safe operation.

One of the greatest dangers to anyone who uses a wood, pellet, or gas appliance in their home comes from a process called Pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is one reason we look so closely at every system we inspect. It is a hidden risk that often results in structure fires that are deemed ‘accidental’ upon investigation. Structure fires resulting from pyrolysis may happen 5, 10, 15, 20, or 30 years or more after installation.

So what is pyrolysis? It is a chemical change that occurs in combustible materials when exposed to temperatures over 187 degrees F over an extended period of time. In the case of chimneys, vents, and heating appliances it occurs when combustible floors, walls, ceilings, insulation, or other combustible materials that are too close or that do not meet their minimum clearance requirements! When too close combustibles are slowly baked by the heating appliance and venting, the chemical bonds are altered, and the ignition point is lowered. A structure fire can then result when the ignition point of the wood drops to as low as 200-250 degrees and the heating appliance or vent nearby exceeds that temperature. When temperatures align the combustible material will simply spontaneously ignite and spread through the home. And don’t think it can’t happen to you – fireplaces of all types are just as much at risk as stoves, and any heating appliance that does not meet its minimum clearances to combustibles, or construction requirements. These requirements matter!

Here at The Chimney Doctor, our CSIA & NFI Certified Specialists can perform a thorough level 2 inspection, ensuring we can give you a clear picture of the state of your system present at the time of inspection. Once we are through, we are happy to address any noted issues to get you up and going again as quickly and safely as possible. Repairing systems to meet minimum standards per code or manufacturer guidelines is what we specialize in here at The Chimney Doctor. Knowing that you and your family will be safer, and can make more informed decisions regarding your own safety as a result of our inspections, is one of the main reasons we continue to sweep and service chimneys and vents of all types.

Learn more about these inspections below, then give us a call to get your appointment scheduled today. We can’t wait to work with you soon.

What Is Included In A Chimney Inspection?pyrolysis sign with four pictures

According to the CSIA, NFI, and industry NFPA standards, a chimney should be inspected at least once annually, and liners should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible if any type of damage is noted during an inspection. The inspection needed or required will vary depending on many factors, however, we strongly recommend the first time you hire any chimney sweeping or inspection company to come out a level 2 inspection be completed. In order to give you all the relevant facts about your chimney system, and look at every accessible area, a level 2 inspection is required. There are three levels of chimney inspections, with a level 1 inspection being the most basic.

During a level 1 inspection, our certified technicians and sweeps will look at your system where readily accessible, and then assess whether or not repairs, sweepings, or services are needed and inform you of any areas that may require repair, replacement, or additional inspection. If nothing has changed since the last inspection and you have consistently invested in the proper care and attention of your chimney, then a level 1 inspection may be all you need. This determination should be left to one of our certified technicians on site, however, as if a level 1 inspection is deemed insufficient to determine the suitability of your appliance or chimney for safe and continued use a more-in-depth level 2 inspection will be recommended. In our case, a level 1 inspection is only suitable if we have previously performed a level 2 inspection and no deficiencies were noted. Otherwise, we require that all new clients have a level 2 inspection of their system performed. This gives us a baseline from which to base future inspections and any and all recommendations.

A level 2 inspection involves all aspects of a level I inspection, plus the inspection of all accessible areas of the chimney system, including rooftops, attics, crawlspaces, all connected appliances to any flue in the system, and a video inspection of all enclosed chimney flues, from top to bottom. A level 2 inspection is required 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, or 7) when a Level I inspection is not sufficient to determine serviceability of a chimney.

Level 3 inspections are rare but involve the removal of permanently attached portions of the chimney or chimney structure to access and inspect areas of concern that are otherwise inaccessible. If a level 3 inspection is recommended it will always follow the completion of a level 2 inspection.

We Take Your Safety Seriously


When it comes to lighting fires inside of your home, you do not want to skimp on regular care. Even small gaps, cracks, and holes can allow fires to reach your adjacent woodwork in a hurry, triggering a house fire at any moment in time. As CSIA & NFI Certified Specialists our #1 concern is the safety and well-being of our customers, and their homes and families.

Schedule an inspection today and remember that, if your system does not meet its minimum required standards for safe operation it does not pass, but fail. Systems either meet requirements or they do not. There is no gray area and fire is no toy. Additionally, if repairs are needed, please do not put them off until next year, or the next, or the next, and continue to use your appliance hoping for the best. Lighting a fire in your home is always a risk, so make it less of a risk by assuring that your system meets or exceeds the minimum standards required for safe operation.

For better care and professional attention count on our team of experts today. We would love to set you up right!