Sometimes there’s a big difference between the two, and sometimes there’s not. Inspections alone are evaluations of the fireplace/chimney structure (if its masonry built), fireplace/chimney installation (if its prefab manufactured) and the overall condition of either system. Sweeping removes any creosote deposits that have built up from use. Many chimney sweep professionals include a basic Level 1 inspection as part of the chimney sweep service. Chimney inspections and chimney sweeping each have their purpose and are both important to managing the risk of building a fire in the middle of your home.
How Often Should I Schedule a Chimney Inspection or Sweeping?
According to the National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 (NFPA211), all fireplaces, chimneys, and vents should be “inspected annually and cleaned as needed” to monitor their condition in regards to operation, efficiency and safety factors. Inspectors are looking for cracks, leaks, creosote deposits, or any other potentially hazardous development since the last inspection. If the attached appliance (fireplace/stove/gas logs/dryer) has been heavily used, it should be monitored regularly. Heavy use is generally going to create more buildup of soot and/or creosote.
OK…so What Happens with Inspections and/or Sweepings?
Most professionals will protect your home with drop cloths in their work area and document what they find. After the inspection/sweeping, the homeowner should be provided with a condition report outlining any issues and recommendations for resolution of said issues. In addition, they will receive estimates for any recommended work that the service provider themselves can provide.
According to NFPA 211 Standard, there are 3 different levels of chimney inspection:
- Level 1 Inspections verify structural soundness and basic usability of the chimney. Many companies include a full Level 1 inspection as a courtesy when performing a sweeping. This inspection will identify any issues related to safety, usability, functionality and maintenance.
- Level 2 Inspections include everything that is part of a Level 1 and more. It is more in-depth and includes a video scan, attic and foundation inspection, if those areas are accessible. NFPA says it must be part of a real estate transaction, whenever changing fuel types, installing a new appliance, or after a major weather event. Most home inspectors do not have the skills, tools, training or inclination to thoroughly inspect a chimney and fireplace. As a result, a buyer will want to hire a CSIA Certified chimney professional to check the chimney.
- Level 3 Inspections are usually recommended after observing something “unexplained.” Therefore, there is a need to go into concealed areas to get an “explanation”. It may require removing chase covers or opening walls adjacent to the chimney. We also check for improper installation, structural defects or damage contributing to potentially hazardous conditions. We recommend this inspection if there are serious safety concerns.
- Our considerate and efficient team will use drop cloths in the work area and traffic area to protect your home.
- During the sweeping, our commercial, industry-specific, and professional vacuum system controls all of the dust.
- We remove creosote deposits and debris from the flue system and fireplace with special tools.
- Completion of a level 1 inspection.
- If minor repairs are recommended and can be done at the time of sweeping, they will be done on the same visit – only with your authorization. Sometimes this can even provide savings. Otherwise, we leave an estimate for any recommended repairs with you on the spot or via email or post.
- Our well-trained, professional chimney sweeps should leave your home looking and feeling like they haven’t even been there, except for the fact that the chimney is now swept and ready for use.
How Do I Know if I Need a Simple Inspection, Sweeping, or Both?
Well, the “experts” at the National Fire Protection Association and the Chimney Institute of America, both recommend an annual inspection of your chimney and appliances (fireplace, gas logs, wood stoves, furnaces, etc). After two to three years of annual inspections, we can recommend how often your system will need full service. We base this on your historical usage and the resulting condition of your chimney. Following the advice of your experienced CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep/technician is probably a good way to go. Annual inspections and regular sweepings as directed can help prevent costly repairs.
Let our trained professionals here at Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps | Bless Your Hearth help determine overall condition, need for maintenance, issues with functionality, and even project solutions for long-term issues. Regular inspections/maintenance guarantee your family’s enjoyment of your fireplace!