Q. Inadequate Chimney Inspection?

Q. Hey Mark

I just had a home inspection done, and I am a little concerned about the chimney portion of the inspection. It didn’t seem very thorough. What should a chimney inspection be like? What things should be checked?

Michael L.

A. Hey Michael,

You should go to this link: InterNACHI Standards of Practice

There you will find a section titled Fireplaces, which lists what will and will not be examined in the fireplace during a typical home inspection. Within a standard home inspection, the chimney portion is a very basic visual inspection and you are right, it is not very thorough. The reason for this is that chimney and fireplace inspections require very specialized skills and tools. The typical home inspector is not qualified to do more than what the Standards of Practice spells out. I once saw an inspector peek up a flue, turn to his client and say, “It looks pretty good.” However, in my opinion, that was a disservice to his client. If you take a peek into the chimney yourself, you’ll see what I mean. What can you see? Not much, and neither can your home inspector.

Because chimney and fireplace inspections are so important for the safety of our clients, at KiNG we always recommend that a Level 2 inspection be performed by a qualified and certified chimney sweep. By industry standards, a level 2 inspection will include a thorough routine sweep so the chimney inspector can actually view the surface of the hearth, firebox, and flue. It should also include a visual inspection of the bricks, mortar joints, hearth, and damper system. If possible, the chimney should be examined from the basement and the attic should be examined to ensure clearances are proper. In addition, a roof top inspection should be performed to check flashing, check brick work, check crown mortar, and make sure the rain cap and spark arrestors are installed properly. Most importantly, a Level 2 inspection utilizes a small video camera, which is put into the flue system. The camera will show the entire smoke chamber and flue liner and allows the inspector to look for anything that could allow heat, smoke, creosote and carbon monoxide to escape before reaching the top of the chimney.

In summary, if you only had a home inspector examine your chimney rather than a certified chimney sweep, you are correct to be concerned. Before using any fireplace (regardless of whether it is gas or wood) you should have a level 2 inspection performed, and then have it professionally serviced on a regular basis.

You can download a free flier explaining what is entailed in a Level 1 and Level 2 chimney inspection here or from the gray download box located in the right hand sidebar.

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

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