Why Are There Different Levels of Chimney Inspection?

What do you know about chimney inspections? It's good to have a little know-how on what certified chimney technicians do to ensure that your chimneys are safe and efficient.

What do you know about chimney inspections? It’s good to have a little know-how on what certified chimney technicians do to ensure that your chimneys are safe and efficient.

The first time you schedule a chimney inspection, the terminology we use might take you off guard. If you’re not a chimney technician or a longtime fireplace/stove user, hearing “Level 2 chimney inspection” probably puts you in the market for a little explanation.

Short answer: Those levels come via the National Fire Protection Association — the authority on fire, electrical and building safety in the U.S. — and they’re outlined in NFPA 211, the standard that guides professional chimney sweeps’ work. (As CSIA-certified sweeps, Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps technicians, of course, follow this standard.)

The more detailed answer: Before 2000, when NFPA 211 came into being, the process of chimney inspection was largely left up to individual sweeps’ discretion. That could be fine — plenty of experienced and diligent sweeps likely did a good and careful job, even without guidelines to ensure it. But a thorough inspection, based on the individual chimney and the circumstances surrounding it, certainly wasn’t a guarantee — and when we’re talking about a system that does work that’s as important to safety and comfort as a chimney’s, guidelines that ensure a thorough, proper job are key.

With NFPA 211’s Levels of inspection, certified chimney technicians follow a roadmap that ensures we’re taking the proper steps to find any issues that might be hiding in your system.

Different Levels Of Inspection Are Chosen For Different Circumstances

The three levels of NFPA-guided chimney inspection include different processes, but the reason for those processes are based on different circumstances. It doesn’t make sense to follow the exact same process to inspect a brand new factory-built chimney system as an older one that’s experienced a chimney fire and/or had a new appliance attached to it. The different approaches are based on needs and circumstances.

When A Level 1 Inspection Makes The Most Sense

Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps technicians will likely recommend a basic Level 1 chimney inspection in these cases:

  • Nothing has changed in your system over the past year — you’re using the same appliance, burning the same fuel under the same conditions
  • You have no plans to make any changes to your chimney system
  • We’re performing an inspection during a routine chimney sweeping appointment

A Level 2 Inspection Is More Likely When Changes Are Made

A Level 2 chimney inspection, as you’d probably assume, is more thorough — we’ll take a look at the chimney in attics, basements or crawlspaces and use a special video camera to get closer and more complete images of the state of your flue. We’ll recommend this if:

  • You’ve added a new appliance
  • You’re burning a different type of fuel
  • Your flue has been relined
  • The property is being transferred, bought or sold
  • A problem (like a fire or weather event) makes it possible that some damage has occurred

A Level 3 Inspection Is The Most Thorough

Blue Sky techs won’t recommend a Level 3 inspection unless there’s a very real possibility of a hidden hazard, either because we found indications of a problem during a Level 1 or 2 inspection or because outside damage has occurred (like, say, a lightning strike or seismic event) that makes it increasingly likely that a hazard is present. We perform these inspections when it’s necessary to get access to areas or parts of the system that require the removal or destruction of portions or components, or if specialty tools are needed to gain closer access to covered areas.

The intent, with all of these levels of inspection, is to ensure that you’re getting the most accurate indication of the state of your system, so that you — with help and guidance from our experienced technicians — can make the best decisions about its maintenance.

If you ever have any questions about inspections and why and how we do what we do, we’re always glad to help. Give Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps a call!