There are a variety and many important reasons to have your chimney inspected and cleaned regularly. Most importantly is for the safety of a home’s occupants, then the safety of the home itself, and finally for the preservation of a home’s resale value.
What exactly is a fireplace inspection?
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)’s 211 (Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances) is the standard upon which CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps base their services. This new standard now classifies chimney and venting system inspections into three levels—Level I, Level II or Level III. Each level of inspection has a specific scope of work and specific criteria. Both theChimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fire Protection Association recommend yearly chimney inspections to help prevent fire and carbon monoxide poisonings.
Level I Inspection
This inspection is recommended when the chimney and venting system is easily accessible and when the homeowner is planning to maintain its current use. In general, this the level of inspection performed in most homes. In a Level I inspection a certified chimney sweep verifies that the chimney structure is sound and that the chimney is free of obstructions and combustible deposits, such as creosote.
Level II Inspection
The addition of a new home heating appliance or a change in the type of fuel a homeowner is burning requires a Level II inspection. This inspection level is also required upon the sale or transfer of a property or after an operating malfunction or external event that is likely to have caused damage to the chimney. The scope of a Level II inspection includes that of the Level I inspection plus the inspection of accessible portions of the attics, crawl spaces and basements. It may also include a performance test such as a smoke test or a pressure test and possibly an interior chimney video inspection if recommended by the certified chimney sweep.
Level III Inspection
When a Level I or Level II inspection suggests a hidden hazard and the evaluation cannot be performed without access to concealed areas, a Level III inspection is recommended. This type of inspection confirms the proper construction and condition of concealed portions of the chimney structure and the flue. Level III inspections are generally necessary when investigating an incident that has caused damage to a chimney or building, or where a hazard is detected and suspected.
What does a chimney sweep look for during an inspection?
Since Californians live in an active earthquake zone, the earth is constantly moving, whether you feel it or not, your chimney does. The liners in the chimney can crack or the mortar between the liners can loosen and fall out as a result of this seismic activity (or from something as mundane as repeated heavy traffic in front of your house) which then allows the poisonous gases and highly heated air to access the interior walls and attic of your home which can result in a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning of the home’s residents. Regularinspection can and does detect if there is a problem with the liners and firebox.
Spark Arrester (aka chimney cap).
Very few people are aware that a spark arrestor (chimney cap) is required by the Uniform Building Code. There are specific requirements that each chimney cap must meet in order to be in compliance with the UBC and Smokey Joe’s installs only stainless steel, code compliant caps.
Imagine if you had a hole in your living room ceiling all the way through your attic and roof to where you could see the sky – wouldn’t you fix it? That’s what your chimney is – an opening to the sky that allows not only rain water and dew to access the porous cement interior of the chimney, but bats, birds, bees and raccoons and squirels as well.
Spark arrestors serve many important functions other than keeping sparks off your roof. Rainwater and dew mixes with the residual fire particles in the chimney forming an acidic mix that degrades and ultimately corrodes the interior of the chimney which can lead to large repair bills.
Birds and other small animals like to nest in chimneys. Chimneys provide a very safe place for them to raise their young. If birds or other small animals nest in your chimney, the nest blocks the rising smoke when you start your first fire of the season. Having no way to exit through the chimney, the smoke backs up and pours back into your home coating and permeating every surface. If you compare the cost of a chimney cap to repainting your walls, cleaning your carpets as well as any upholstered furniture, a chimney cap is a very inexpensive investment.
Over time, California homes experience earthquakes, as well as settling of the ground they are built on and any number of other maladies, which causes the damper inside the chimney to close improperly or not at all, which means it is not sealing the opening completely. A top closing damper will seal the chimney from the top which then will keep out all of the aforementioned critters but also the smallest of insects (bees) and keep them from building a hive in your chimney PLUS it will keep your airconditioned air from escaping your home in the summer months and your centrally heated air from escaping during the winter when you are not burning a fire. The cost savings over time more than pay for the top closing damper.