Curling up next to a crackling fire is a cozy way to spend a winter afternoon, but it can also be dangerous if you don't handle regular chimney maintenance. A yearly chimney inspection is essential for reducing the risk of chimney fires or carbon monoxide buildup. Find out what's involved and how much you can expect to pay for the service.
A chimney inspection is a safety check to ensure your chimney is in good condition and safe to use. This inspection can identify damage or problems you need to have fixed to use your fireplace safely. You need a professional with extensive experience to perform the inspection.It's a good idea to schedule a chimney inspection every year, usually before you start using your fireplace for the year. You might need to schedule additional inspections for special circumstances. Always have the chimney inspected when you buy a new home — you never know how well the previous owners maintained the chimney. Hire a chimney inspector if you notice a difference in the performance or suspect a problem. It's also a good idea to have an inspection if you've experienced severe weather or other events that could have damaged your chimney.
Chimney inspections involve visual checks to look for issues. How in-depth the process is depends on the level of chimney inspection you choose. No matter which level you choose, the inspector checks for a buildup of creosote and soot, as well as obstructions in the chimney that could make it ineffective. If your chimney is dirty, the person performing the inspection will also clean it.
When you have an inspection performed on your chimney, you can choose from three levels, depending on how detailed you want the inspection to be. Each level is good for different purposes.
A Level 1 chimney inspection is ideal for your annual inspection if nothing has changed and you don't suspect any issues. Choose this option if you're using the system in the same way as you have in the past with no updates to the heating appliance.Chimney inspectors performing this type of evaluation check to ensure the flue and chimney are structurally sound and to check for combustible buildup and obstructions. They do this with a visual inspection of easily accessible interior and exterior parts of the chimney. In other words, they check the already exposed parts of the chimney.
Level 2 inspections are more detailed and are recommended when something changes about your system, or there's a safety concern. If you have a new fireplace or stove installed, change the fuel type or make changes to the flue, you should have a Level 2 inspection. Severe weather events, earthquakes, chimney fires and similar events warrant this type of inspection. This is also a good inspection type when you're moving into a new house.
This type of inspection includes everything from Level 1, but it goes deeper to check internal surfaces and flue liners. The chimney inspector might use a chimney inspection camera to do this. They'll also access areas like attics or crawlspaces to look at the chimney from those areas.
If there is a suspected hazard in the chimney, you might need a Level 3 inspection. This option goes beyond Level 1 and Level 2 inspections to evaluate hidden parts of the chimney. It requires special tools to remove some parts of the chimney to evaluate the damage. Sometimes, the inspector has to remove or demolish part of your chimney or building structure.
Most chimney inspections also include chimney sweeping or cleaning when necessary to remove creosote and soot. You can have your chimney swept without the detailed inspection. This helps keep your chimney safer by removing combustible buildup, but you could miss issues with the chimney if the company doesn't also do a thorough inspection of the structure.
Chimney inspection costs depend largely on the level of inspection you need. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, Level 1 and Level 2 inspections usually cost $100 to $500. For a Level 3 inspection, you could spend up to $5,000 based on how much removal needs to happen to inspect the chimney. Contact local chimney inspectors for quotes to get a better idea of what you'll spend.
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