When Should A Chimney Be Inspected?
How often should you have your chimney inspected? At least once a year is the answer. And it should be done by a professional chimney contractor or a licensed expert mason that specializes in chimneys and fireplaces.
Chimney inspections are something that only seem to occur when people are buying and selling homes. Thankfully, this is a common requirement for home purchasers during the overall inspection phase, because we often see people ignore their chimneys for years. So if it wasn't a requirement in home inspections for purchasing, there are some people that would never have their chimneys inspected or cleaned.
The Chimney Institute of America recommends an inspection before purchasing a home and every 12 months. So we clearly recommend the exact same concept, but we also want to emphasize that we live in Wisconsin. Here in this colder environment, we experience more temperature changes than other climates which can lead to masonry problems. A reliable inspection will also check tuckpointing and joints to see if any cracks are developing in a chimney.
Three levels of chimney inspections exist and they are conveniently labeled Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. For most annual inspections, you'll just need a Level 1 inspection. It's the most basic and involves general inspections of all elements of the chimney plus identifying any major issues that could cause fires or damage. It's mostly a visual inspection by a professional that knows what to look for.
Level 2 would be required if you are selling the home. It's more involved and can use equipment to examine the internal structure of the chimney for damage or fire hazards. Level 2 is also required if you change the structure or operation of the chimney (aka changing from wood burning to gas).
Level 3 inspections is usually only performed when the Level 1 or 2 inspection recommend it. That can occur when the first inspection notices a dangerous potential problem that can only be verified with special equipment. Level 3 inspections get detailed and often involve removing certain pieces of the chimney to gain further access into it. A crown or cap is often removed and special tools are used to analyze the interior of the chimney operation.
For most homeowners that use their chimney the right way, they will only need an annual Level 1 inspection just to ensure safe operation of the chimney. It's recommended to do this in the fall season before you use it full time in winter.