All chimneys should be inspected ANNUALLY and swept when needed
The way you use your chimney - and the appliance it vents - will determine how often it needs to be cleaned. A wood burning fireplace used for occasional fires may only need to be swept every few years, while a homeowner that uses a wood stove to heat the house will usually need a chimney sweep once a year, and perhaps even more often.
Most calls we get are to inspect for the need for chimney sweeping, but there are many reasons to inspect a chimney, and there are 3 recognized LEVELS of inspection.
Reasons to inspect a chimney
To determine if chimney sweeping is needed
To determine the interior integrity of the chimney liner, smoke chamber and fireplace
To determine the cause and any needed repair for water leaks around the chimney or inside the fireplace
For structural stability after getting struck by lightening or after an earthquake
To determine if there are structural problems or degradation leading to performance problems
Three Levels of Inspection
There are THREE Levels of inspection recognized by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), the nationally recognized training and certification organization for the chimney sweep industry.
A Level 1 inspection is a visual inspection is the minimal standard and requires no more equipment than a flashlight. A Level 1 inspection may be considered for a chimney and appliance that has been in continuous service under the same conditions as it has been in the recent past. A Level 1 inspection includes readily accessible areas and checks for basic soundness of the venting system as well as review of the appliance's required connection to the chimney and that clearances to combustibles have been met.
A Level 2 inspection is a more comprehensive inspection; it is defined as an inspection that may incorporate common tools to inspect easily accessible areas of the appliance, vent connector and chimney. A video camera is commonly employed to enhance visibility of less accessible areas of the chimney. A Level 2 inspection includes a Level 1 inspection with the addition of other portions of the chimney including attics, crawl spaces and basements so long as no destructive measures are needed to access these areas. A Level 2 inspection should not cause damage to areas of the chimney system. We use the Chim-Scan video system for viewing inaccessible areas of the chimney and documenting any problem areas in your chimney.
A Level 2 inspection is necessary when
Changes have been made to the appliance or the chimney and venting system such as a new appliance or vent connector.
When a home is sold or a new tenant moves into the property.
After a chimney fire or building fire
After a severe weather event (tornado, hurricane, lightening strike)
After a seismic event
A Level 3 inspection is the most comprehensive. It includes everything done in both a Level 1 and Level 2 inspection but may also include intrusion into or even removal of other components of the building or chimney where necessary. When serious hazards are suspected, removal of parts of the chimney may be required in order to gain access to areas not seen with either a flashlight or video camera. A Level 3 inspection is rarely needed, but is available when the need for these more extreme measures arises. Of course we would never initiate a Level 3 inspection without a thorough discussion of the need for it.