Most homeowners ignore chimney inspections because they don’t think they use their fireplace enough to warrant it or because they have a gas fireplace and don’t think it’s necessary. Until you have a problem that is a result of a deteriorating chimney, you won’t realize that the cost of inspecting your chimney is far smaller than the expense that results from ignoring your chimney. The Chimney Safety Institute of America has a standard recommendation for not only the frequency of chimney inspections, but also for the depth of the inspection that should be performed. Here are the recommendations.
A level 1 inspection should be performed annually. This is the minimum requirement for a homeowner. This inspection will examine the readily accessible areas of your chimney such as the flue, the vents, the soundness of your chimney’s structure, the basic appliance connectors (in the case of gas fireplaces), and your damper. He will also check to see that your chimney is free of obstructions and creosote deposits which are combustible. This applies to wood-burning fireplaces and yellow and blue flame gas fireplaces.
A level 2 inspection is performed when you change anything within your system; fuel type, relining, addition of an appliance of a different rating efficiency. This inspection will also be required if a level 1 inspection suggests there may be a hazard that is hidden and requires special tools to provide access. Seismic events warrant this inspection, which addresses accessible areas of the chimney as well as attics, crawl spaces and basements. It also looks at the clearance of combustible materials.
A level 3 inspection is warranted by a level 2 inspection finding or a chimney fire. Don’t wait until you need one of these.