- Level 1 inspections
If you appliance or your venting system has not changed and you plan to use your system as you have in the past, then a Level 1 inspection is a minimum requirement. A Level 1 inspection is recommended for a chimney under continued service, under the same conditions, and with the continued use of the same appliance. In a Level 1 inspection, your chimney service technician should examine the readily accesibleªª portions of the chimney exterior, interior and accessibleª portions of the appliance and the chimney connection. Your technician will be looking for the basic soundness of the chimney structure and flue as well as the basic appliance installation and connections. The technician will also verify the chimney is free of obstruction and combustible deposits.
- Level 2 Inspections
A Level 2 inspection is required when any changes are made to the system. Changes can include a change in the fuel type, changes to the shape of, or material in, the flue (i.e. relining), or the replacement or addition of an appliance of a dissimilar type, input rating or efficiency. Additionally, a Level 2 inspection is required upon the sale or transfer of a property or chimney. Building fires, chimney fires, seismic events as well as weather events are all indicators that this level of inspection is warranted. A level 2 inspection suggest a hidden hazard and the evaluation cannot be performed without special tools to access concealed areas of the chimney or flue, a Level 3 inspection is recommended. A Level 3 inspection addresses the proper construction and the condition of concealed portions of the chimney structure and the flue. Removal or destruction, as necessary, of permanently attached portions of the chimney or building structure will be required for the completion of a Level 3 inspection. A Level 2 inspection includes everything in a Level 1 inspection, plus the accessible portions of the chimney exterior and interior including attics, crawl spaces and basements. It will address proper clearances from combustibles in accessible locations.
There are no specialty tools (i.e. demolition equipment) required to open doors, panels or coverings in performing a Level 2 inspection. A Level 2 inspection shall also include a visual inspection by video scanning or other means in order to examine the internal surfaces and joints of all flue liners incorporated within the chimney. No removal or destruction of permanently attached portions of the chimney or building structure or finish shall be required by a Level 2 inspection.
- Level 3 Inspections
A Level 3 inspection includes all the areas and items checked in a Level 1 and a Level 2 inspection, as well as the removal of certain components of the building or chimney where necessary. Removal of components (i.e. chimney crown, interior chimney wall) shall be required only when necessary to gain access to areas that are the subject of the inspection. When serious hazards are suspected, a Level 3 inspection may well be required to determine the condition of the chimney system.
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Annual inspections of chimneys, fireplaces, and vents are recommended by the National Fire Protection Association to prevent fires, carbon monoxide poisonings, and to ensure safe and efficient operation of your home heating system, fireplace and solid-fuel appliances.
A clean chimney will not catch fire.
Get regular inspections and cleaning’s as needed.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 1998, there were 18,300 residential fires in the United States due to chimneys, home heating systems and solid-fuel appliances. These fires resulted in 40 deaths, 160 injuries, and $158.2 million dollars in property damage.
What causes these fires?
Usually 3 things: Creosote Build-up, Cracks, Birds Nests
The accumulation of creosote, a tar-like substance, is the main reason for cleaning a chimney. If the build-up of creosote in the chimney ignites, a fire can result. Chimney systems are not designed to handle the high temperatures of a chimney fire. These extremely high temperatures can actually warp metal chimneys and crack the fire clay liner in masonry chimneys.
Just one quarter-inch of creosote build-up can be a fire hazard. Wood burning stoves tend to generate larger amounts of creosote and should be cleaned twice a year if used frequently. Oil burners generate the next highest amount and should be addressed once a year. Gas burners, while cleaner, still generate exhaust gases and carbon. Gas systems should be checked every 18 months to 2 years.
Excessive creosote build-up can be caused by restricted air supply, burning unseasoned wood, blockages, debris or a partially closed damper. The longer it takes for smoke to move up the flue, the more likely for creosote to form.
If a crack or hole in the flue isn’t repaired or goes un-noticed, sparks generated by a fire could go through the openings and into an attic or wood framework surrounding the chimney and cause a house fire.
Birds’ nests in and around chimneys are also a major cause of house fires. It’s common to find birds’ nests inside the metal chimney chase, which is basically a decorative surround that covers the chimney pipe that comes through the roof.
During the course of a chimney inspection, the technician on the job will usually check for missing mortar joints, deteriorated brick, excessive creosote accumulation and to see if the damper is working properly.
For the cleaning part of the job, specially designed wire brushes attached to long poles and high-powered vacuums are used. Even high-tech video cameras are being made available. Average cleanings usually will remove a pint of creosote from chimneys.