Courtesy Michael Boudart
Getting an annual chimney inspection from a certified chimney sweep will help ensure your farmhouse stays safe throughout the cold winter months.
As a chill begins to rip through the late-autumn air, ‘tis the season to snuggle up in front of a fire. But as cozy as the crackle from a burning hearth can be, it’s important to take chimney maintenance seriously to prevent a chimney fire or carbon-monoxide intrusion that could harm your family.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 24,500 residential fires happened in 2005 due to problems with chimneys, fireplaces and solid-fuel appliances, resulting in 20 deaths and $121.1 million in property damage. An annual chimney inspection by a certified chimney sweep is recommended to prevent a similar catastrophe in your household.
To find a qualified professional, it’s important to do your homework. Ask the chimney-sweeping companies you’re considering how long they’ve been in business, if they offer current references, if they carry a valid business liability-insurance policy, and if their technicians have been certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, the only nationally recognized chimney-sweep certification program in the U.S. Find a certified professional in your area using CSIA’s database.
"CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps are knowledgeable about the three levels of chimney inspections and have proven knowledge of common troubleshooting and corrective practices,” says Melissa Heeke, CSIAÕs director of communications and marketing.
While it’s advantageous to perform an annual chimney inspection before you begin using your fireplace for the season, it’s never too late to take the steps necessary to keep your house and family safe. Here’s what you can expect during an annual inspection:
Level 1 Chimney Inspection
If you haven’t experienced any problems with your chimney, you’ll probably only need a Level 1 inspection. During a Level 1 inspection, a chimney sweep surveys the readily accessible portions of the chimney’s interior and exterior, the basic chimney structure and flue, and basic appliance installations and connections. He ensures the chimney is free of obstructions, checks the nature and volume of creosote and other combustible materials in the chimney, and cleans accordingly. Only basic tools are used during a Level 1 inspection, and no damage should occur to your chimney or home’s interior.
Level 2 Chimney Inspection
A Level 2 inspection will be necessary if you’ve made changes to your heating system, such as fuel type or flue relining; added or changed an appliance; experienced a chimney malfunction, fire or natural disaster that caused damage; or recently purchased your home. During this inspection, the chimney sweep examines all accessible parts of the chimney and uses a video camera to survey internal surfaces and joints of the flue.
Level 3 Chimney Inspection
A Level 3 inspection might be required if the chimney sweep observes any problems during a Level 1 or 2 inspection. Special equipment is used to access concealed areas of the chimney, and the removal of items around the chimney (including drywall) might be required.
Regardless of the inspection level, request a written report afterward and keep it on file. While yearly inspections are best left to the professionals, you can do your part throughout the year to ensure proper chimney use.