The primary goal of chimney inspection is to enhance safety. Hidden problems can cause a chimney fire or release toxic vapors like carbon monoxide.

Chimney SweepChimney Inspection Charleston SC examines a chimney’s basic soundness, ensuring the flue is free from harmful deposits and has proper clearances to combustible materials. A Level 2 inspection is also recommended before a home sale or after an event that may have caused damage.

The flue is a duct or pipe through which smoke, gases, and other combustion products are carried away from a fireplace, wood stove, or furnace. A chimney is necessary to safely transport these byproducts of burning fire out of the house, but it can become clogged with soot and pose a fire hazard if not regularly cleaned. A chimney sweep will use a metal brush attached to a drill to remove this flammable buildup from the walls of your flue pipe. They may also take a utility knife and masking tape to clean off hard deposits, rust, and other debris.

The chimney flue must be sized properly for the heating appliance or fireplace that it services, as well as smooth and well-lined to prevent toxic carbon monoxide fumes from leaking back into the house. If it is not, it can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and fires in the home.

A chimney flue is also a danger to the household when it is not protected against water. Moisture can seep into the chimney and damage the clay tiles, causing them to crack and crumble. Often, this is the start of a chimney leak which can then lead to serious problems.

Before lighting a fire, the chimney will be checked for cracks, creosote buildup, damaged and blocked flues, and other issues that could cause carbon monoxide poisoning, dangerous chimney fires, or costly repair bills. Identifying these vulnerabilities early is the best way to prevent them and to keep you, your family, and your pets safe.

Chimneys should be inspected if the homeowner has made changes to their fuel type or to the chimney structure since the last inspection; before a new home is purchased; after a chimney fire; or in the event of an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane. A Level 2 chimney inspection will include video scanning of the interior chimney surfaces. If a Level 1 or Level 2 inspection suggests a hidden hazard, a Level 3 inspection may be required. This is a more extensive inspection that involves opening doors, panels, and coverings to verify the condition of concealed areas.

The Firebox

The firebox is the fireplace’s lining that protects the chimney wall from heat and flame. It is also important to make sure it is in good condition so that it can support the logs you burn for warmth and to create a nice fire. The firebox should be clean and free of cracks. Also, the grate that supports the logs should be properly placed to allow for proper airflow around the logs. This helps the logs burn evenly and reduces creosote buildup.

The sizing of the damper is also very important. It should be large enough to easily open and close. If it is too small, the logs may not fit properly. This can lead to smoke backdrafting into the house and it can cause a fire hazard. The damper should also be free of cracks.

In addition, the inspector will look at all of the readily accessible parts of the chimney, including the lining, flue opening and venting systems. The chimney cap will also be inspected. This is a critical part of the chimney that prevents debris from entering the flue and it can also keep a home’s resale value high.

A Level 1 chimney inspection is usually sufficient if a homeowner keeps up with annual maintenance and has no significant issues with the fireplace and chimney system. However, a new fireplace, change in fuel type or an external event that could have caused damage to the chimney system may require a Level 2 inspection.

A Level 2 chimney inspection includes everything from a Level 1 chimney inspection and will include a video scan of the interior of the flue and fireplace. It is also possible that a technician will need to use specialty tools to remove doors, panels or coverings in order to fully inspect all areas of the fireplace and chimney. This is done in accordance with the standards set by NFPA 211 and it is a requirement of any real estate chimney inspection. It is also the recommended inspection level if there has been an operating malfunction or external event that has likely damaged the chimney system.

The Exterior

The exterior of your chimney is important for a number of reasons. First, it protects your home from the elements and keeps rain, snow and other debris from getting into your fireplace. It also protects the chimney from water damage and corrosion. Home inspectors will look for signs of damage, such as cracked masonry. Cracks in brick can grow larger over time and jeopardize the stability of your chimney and allow water, smoke and vapor to slip indoors. They will also look at the condition of the chimney chase, if you have one, and make sure it is not leaking or in need of repair.

Chimneys are built from a porous material, which means that it can expand and contract with heat and cold. When this happens, it can cause the mortar between the bricks to crack. Over time, this can lead to the need for repointing and other repairs. Home inspectors will also take note of the type and color of mortar, and if it is missing a cap or flashing.

A level 2 inspection is more in-depth than a level 1 inspection. It includes all the items checked in a level 1 inspection plus a visual inspection through video scan or other means of the interior surfaces and joints of all flue liners incorporated within the chimney. It will also address proper clearances from combustibles in accessible locations.

Level 3 inspections are necessary when the findings of a Level 1 or Level 2 inspection suggest that a hidden hazard exists and cannot be assessed without special tools to access concealed areas. A level 3 inspection will confirm the proper construction and condition of concealed portions of the chimney structure and flue. It will include all the items in a level 1 and level 2 inspection, but may require removal or destruction of permanently attached portions of the chimney or building structure to access concealed areas.

A chimney collapse is extremely dangerous, especially in an earthquake-prone area. They can destroy chimneys, damage homes and injure occupants. Chimneys should be inspected regularly to check for signs of structural instability, like deteriorated masonry, loose or damaged flashing and expansive soil under the footing. A professional can identify these issues and determine whether a seismic bracing system is necessary for safety.

The Cap

Fireplaces and chimneys add warmth and character to homes but they also need to be inspected, cleaned and repaired. It’s important to include chimney inspections on your home maintenance checklist, especially if you have a wood-burning fireplace and chimney. If your chimney isn’t properly inspected and maintained, it could become vulnerable to dangerous fires, carbon monoxide leaks and other hazards.

A chimney cap is a metal cover that sits on top of your chimney. Its job is to keep unwanted things from entering your chimney. Things like rainwater, debris, critters and animals’ nests can all get inside a chimney without a cap. In addition, a chimney cap keeps moisture and smoke from getting into the house.

Chimney caps come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are tall and wide, while others are small and narrow. It’s important to make sure the cap you have is the right size. If it’s too big, embers may escape and can cause chimney fires. If it’s too small, ice can form inside the chimney and block off airflow during a fire.

Some chimney caps are designed with turbines to improve the flow of flue gases. If your chimney cap has a turbine, it’s important to ensure that the blades are free of obstructions. A clogged or non-turning turbine can prevent proper ventilation, which can lead to chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

During Level 2 inspections, our chimney professionals examine the interior and exterior of the chimney system and its components. They look at the flues, the chimney structure and all of its connected parts. They also check that the venting path is clear of obstructions and that critical clearances are maintained to flammable materials.

This is the most in-depth inspection process and involves removing masonry and drywall to access the structural components of your chimney. It’s generally required before selling your home, making major changes to the chimney system and any time a chimney is damaged by fire or natural disaster. A Level 2 inspection can also help you qualify for your homeowners insurance policy’s fire-related coverage.