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What do Chimney Fires and Termites have in common?

Both can cost you thousands of dollars if you don’t get an inspection!

What do chimney fires and termites have in common - Spartanburg SC - Bless your hearth

Everyone knows that it’s required to get a termite inspection by a reputable pest control company when a house is being sold.  Have you ever wondered why it’s not required to have the chimney/fireplace inspected by a certified chimney professional when that same house is being sold?  Well, unfortunately, I don’t have the answer for that here today.  However, after being in this industry for more than 36 years, I can give you my perspective on why it should be a requirement.

Bad things can happen to chimneys!

  • Chimneys can be built badly – so badly that they will not work well.
    • The flue may be too small or too large
    • The chimney may be too short.
    • The smoke chamber may be unparged, too tall or not tall enough.
    • Pre manufactured chimneys may not be put together properly and sometimes they are even installed with pieces and parts missing.
    • Flue liners may have been constructed with large gaps between them where they have not been mortared together properly.
  • Chimney fires can cause damage that can cost thousands of dollars to repair.
    • The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 stipulates that ceramic chimney liners (terracotta flue tiles) that have cracks or gaps should be repaired or replaced before use.
    • Some manufacturers of prefabricated fireplaces even stipulate that manufactured chimneys that have sustained a chimney fire must be replaced.
  • Deterioration due to age, neglect and water intrusion can render a chimney unusable.
    • Many unlined chimneys in very old homes have collapsed wythes (the interior walls of the chimney that separates the different flues) effectively blocking the flue passage

These are just a few of the things our technicians find when we are called out to inspect chimneys for a house under contract.  Some of these defects are impossible to see without an internal scan of the chimney.  Therefore we follow the guidelines set out by the National Fire Protection Association in their published inspection standard (NFPA 211).  Their requirement is that a Level 2 inspection be performed where a house sale is involved.


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 after an operation malfunction or external event that is likely to have caused damage to the chimney. Building fires, chimney fires, seismic events as well as weather events are all indicators that this level of inspection is warranted….NFPA 211


Other “changes” requiring a Level 2 Inspection (per NFPA 211):

  • Fuel type –
    • gas to wood
    • wood to gas
  • Replacement of an appliance –
    • new upgraded wood stove
    • adding a wood stove or wood stove insert
  • Chimney fire occurrence


So…the bottom line in all this is — if you are buying a house and it has a (supposedly) functioning chimney, it is our opinion that it would be to your advantage to pay the extra for an NFPA 211 Level 2 Inspection by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep.  What you find out could protect you from disappointment or costly expense down the road.


Keep Birds Out of Your Chimney With a Cap

Keep these guys out of your chimney with a chimney cap!

Keep these guys out of your chimney with a chimney cap!

The crisp autumn weather is starting to settle in. Chilly winds have vividly colored leaves falling to the ground, and most people no longer leave the house without at least a light jacket. Many homeowners are starting to look ahead to heating their homes in the upcoming months. For those who use their fireplace or stove in the fall and winter, now is a popular time to schedule the necessary regular maintenance. Everyone is scrambling to make a chimney sweep appointment to clear out any debris that built up since last winter, but a lot of people forget about a simple yet very important part of the chimney: the chimney cap.

What is a chimney cap?

The chimney cap is a small apparatus that sits atop the chimney. Generally made with stainless steel or copper, it serves a few different purposes, not the least of which is keeping birds out of your chimney. Luckily, right now the birds are heading for warmer climates, but they will return next spring wanting a safe place to live. The interior of your chimney is as good a place for a bird to live as any. However, it can cause some serious health hazards for you.

A blocked chimney is a broken chimney

The function of the chimney is to allow smoke and other toxic gases created by the fire to escape the home. If an animal builds a nest and lives in your chimney, the function of the structure is suddenly lost. With the path of the fumes blocked by the animal and debris, the poisonous gases have no option except to flow back in your home. The debris can also catch fire and can lead to a lethal chimney fire.

Hidden dangers

Smoke produced by fire consists of a wide range of dangerous chemicals, but you may know of the two deadliest. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, scentless gas produced during combustion, or any type of burning including gas. If carbon monoxide cannot escape through the chimney because of a bird and its nest, the gas will build up inside the house. This can result in suffocation in a matter of minutes. Creosote is another harmful chemical that results from burning wood. This tarlike particle floats through the air while hot and clings to nearly everything as it cools. If creosote is forced to infiltrate your home due to a chimney obstruction, you will inadvertently inhale it or consume it, causing health problems like cancers and birth defects.

All things considered, keeping birds out of your chimney is in the best interest of your and your family’s health. Right now, while the birds are heading for warmer areas, is the best time to have a mason out to install a chimney cap that can keep birds out. This low-cost option is a very effective solution for blocking access to your chimney. If you live in upstate South Carolina, contact Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps today to talk to a specialist about your chimney needs.