With the New Year well under way, the colder weather has made itself right at home. Most people have willingly abandoned outdoor activities in favor of cozying up on the couch under the warmest blanket. In some homes, staying warm could also involve lighting a fire in the fireplace or wood stove. To ensure proper and safe functioning throughout the season, these units need routine service. One major component of proper fireplace and stove care is the chimney inspection.
The most common chimney service performed is the chimney sweep, which involves clearing the chimney of any debris, soot and creosote. While this service is vital to a safe and functional chimney, it does not take the place of an inspection. The chimney sweep cleans the chimney, and the chimney inspection checks the chimney for damage or deterioration. To the untrained eye, the chimney seems to remain relatively unchanged year after year, even decade after decade. However, many problems can develop and cause costly damage before a layperson would ever recognize an issue. For example, the acidic nature of creosote can lead to the corrosion of the chimney liner, and the resulting holes in the chimney liner allow poisonous carbon monoxide to leak into the house. At the same time, a damaged or missing chimney cap may be letting water seep into the chimney, causing irreparable water damage to the chimney and even the interior of the house. The expertise of an inspector catches issues like these and helps the homeowner intervene before serious damage occurs.
The National Fire Protection Association has strict inspection regulations that all chimney inspectors must follow. These rules consist of three levels of inspection designed to provide the most precise information to the homeowner on an individualized basis.
The first inspection level is the most basic. If the ventilation system has not changed since the last inspection and the fireplace will be used in the same way as in the past, a Level 1 chimney inspection is often the best choice. In this case, the inspector examines all “readily accessible” areas of the chimney to check for problems.
Level 2 inspections are more involved and become necessary when the type of fuel changes, the flue is relined, the home is owned by someone new, or an unintended fire has occurred in the chimney. Encompassing everything in a Level 1 inspection, the Level 2 inspection also checks the more concealed parts of the chimney, like parts of the chimney that reach into the basement, crawl space, or attic.
When a more basic inspection determines the presence of damage or other hazards in the structure of the chimney, the chimney must undergo a Level 3 inspection. This inspection consists of partial demolition to allow complete access to the chimney structure, which permits a more complete check for any damage.
When performing an annual chimney sweep, we also give your chimney a Level 1 inspection. If you live in Washington D.C., contact Winston’s Chimney Service for a professional consultation.