Fireplaces and chimneys stand strong against the heat of fire and the chill of winter, so many homeowners naturally assume these structures are indestructible. While they can withstand a lot of wear and tear compared to other parts of the house, fireplaces and chimneys do need regular attention to ensure safe and proper function. In fact, homeowners should schedule a professional inspection along with a chimney sweep every year.
Inspections vs Estimates
A common question homeowners run into around this time of the year is why chimney service companies charge for inspections when they claim to offer free estimates. Free estimates are cost quotes for services the company has already determined the fireplace or chimney requires. In order to determine what repairs or services are necessary, the fireplace and chimney must undergo an inspection. While the estimates are free, an in-depth inspection requires time and expertise, so this professional service must be performed at cost.
The National Fire Protection Association has created codes that chimney inspections must follow. Level 1 and 2 chimney inspections are the most common types. A Level 1 inspection is also known as a visual inspection, and the serviceperson inspects the readily available areas of the chimney and fireplace. Inspectors look for a variety of issues such as water damage and improper installation. Water damage can cause a masonry chimney to collapse if left untreated and improper installation may cause toxic smoke and fumes to backup into the house. Creosote buildup is another issue inspector watch for. This tarlike product of wood combustion can clog the chimney, increasing the risk of chimney and house fires.
A Level 2 inspection includes everything from the Level 1 inspection, but it also utilizes video to view areas of the chimney that are less easily inspected. Chimney services recommend this type of inspection if the house was recently purchased or if a severe weather event like a tornado or earthquake may have caused damage to the structure.
Recall that you should have your fireplace and chimney inspected at least once every year. These inspections ensure your home and family are safe from potential dangers hidden in your chimney. If the inspector finds an issue in your chimney – creosote buildup, water damage, chimney obstruction, or structure damage – only then will he or she offer you free estimates for the services that apply to your situation. To give free estimates prior to inspecting the fireplace or chimney would be misleading at best and possibly even dangerous. You need to have your chimney professionally inspected every year to keep everyone safe.
If you live in upstate South Carolina, contact Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps for a professional consultation. Blue Sky will provide you with a comprehensive inspection of your fireplace and chimney and free quotes for any other services you may need.