According to Woodheat.org, about 10 million people in the United States use woodstoves or fireplaces to heat their homes. The U.S. Fire Administration adds that woodstoves and fireplaces cause just over a third of the fires in the United States. Poorly maintained and dirty chimneys are the major cause of these fires.
If you have a woodstove or fireplace in your home, the fall is a perfect time to get your chimney inspected. While you can do a basic inspection yourself, it’s better to call in a professional. A professional chimney inspector will have the tools and knowledge to ensure your chimney is safe, and they break down chimney inspections into three levels.
A level 1 chimney inspection checks a few basic elements of your chimney and can cost as little as $60 – depending on where you live and the size of your chimney. When the professional comes, they’ll sweep out the chimney and inspect the interior for critter homes, creosote build up, and any large visual cracks that could compromise the structure. The chimney inspector also makes sure the flue works properly and that all the pipes and connections are snug and sealed. If the inspector suspects something is wrong, they’ll recommend a level 2 inspection.
For a level 2 inspection, your inspector will perform a level 1 inspection plus take a closer look at the structural soundness of the chimney. They’ll more than likely use a camera with a live video feed to zoom in on potential problem areas. Your inspector should also climb on the roof and in your attic crawl space to also examine the exterior of the chimney for cracks.
If you purchase a home or if your chimney receives minor damage from severe weather, you’ll need to have a level 2 inspection performed as soon as possible. This type of inspection may cost you about $100 or more, but again it depends on where you live and the size of your chimney.
As the most serious and expensive chimney examination, a level 3 inspection can put you out a few thousand dollars. If your chimney inspector asks you to schedule a level 3 inspection it means you have serious structural problems with your chimney and more than likely it needs to be torn down and rebuilt. This also means that parts of your home near the chimney might need to be torn down as well. Serious damage like this generally comes from a home or chimney fire or severe storm damage.
Tips for Picking the Right Chimney Inspector
To ensure you get the most out of your chimney inspection, make sure to pick a reputable and trusted company. Make sure to do some research online for reputable inspectors in your area. Consider looking up reviews on Google or sites like Yellowpages.com. If your neighbor uses a woodstove to heat his or her home, ask them for a referral. When you find a company that works for you, call them and make sure they carry insurance. Also check to see if they have a certification from the Chimney Safety Institute of America or something equivalent.
When you don’t have your chimney inspected or cleaned regularly, you put your family in danger. Unsafe chimneys not only cause massive damage from fires, but they can cause carbon dioxide or smoke buildup in your home if they cannot vent properly. If you heat your home with this method, make sure to have your chimney inspected this fall. An inspection will ensure that your fireplace operates safely this winter – protecting your home and family.