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Chimney Inspection Answers

What is a chimney inspection?

A thorough examination of the interior and exterior of a chimney to discover any damage, deterioration, comestible buildup or other obstructions that could deter ventilation and create a hazard. This is separate from a chimney sweeping, in which soot buildup is removed from the chimney. For more information visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)

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How should I choose a chimney inspector?

Be sure the inspector you select is certified by the CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) and the NFI (National Fireplace Institute). Find out how long the company has been in business and how long your technician or sweeper has been inspecting and cleaning chimneys.

Always request and then call recent references. Check to see if the company has any unresolved complaints that have been filed with the city or state consumer protection agency or Better Business Bureau. The company should also carry business liability insurance to protect your home and furnishings from accidents.

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How is a chimney inspected?

There are three types of inspections designated by the National Fire Protection Association. Level one is a general examination of all areas of the chimney structure (joints, flue liner, connectors, chimney crown and interior walls) that are not hidden behind doors, panels or other coverings. The technician will check that the structure is sound and free from any obstructions and deposits that could cause a fire.

A Level 2 inspection is required for a sale or transfer of a property or following an event that has damaged a chimney (such as a fire or a seismic event). The technician will use special tools to access concealed areas to look for hidden hazards. He may recommend a Level 3 inspection, which involves removing parts of the structure to gain access to areas of concern.

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What is a chimney sweep?

A person trained to clean a chimney.

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How often do I need a chimney cleaning or inspection?

You should have an inspection when you purchase a home. A yearly inspection is recommended. Even if you do not use your fireplace often, birds may build nests in the chimney flue and other debris can clog the space, creating a fire hazard.

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America open masonry fireplaces should be cleaned when there is a quarter of an inch of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present on the chimney walls. Factory-built fireplaces should be cleaned when there is enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home.

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How much does a chimney inspection cost?

Depending on the age and state of the chimney, the inspection can cost anywhere between $50 and $130 or more if sweeping is required before the inspection. A chimney sweeping is around $50-$75.

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Who pays for the chimney inspection?

The buyer usually pays for the inspection, but a seller may want to have his chimney(s) cleaned and inspected prior to putting the property on the market, as an extra benefit.

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I use a gas fireplace, do I need regular inspections?

Yes. Even with clean-burning fuel, chimneys can get clogged with debris, which can cause a hazard. As the chimney ages, there are more opportunities for cracks and damage to the structure itself.

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