Fireplaces are wonderful but can be very dangerous if they’re not properly maintained. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends an annual inspection to keep your fireplace in tip-top shape.
If you haven’t considered a fireplace inspection, it is time you did. Here’s what you can expect, why an inspection is important, and the various levels of service offered.
Your inspector will check the cleanliness of the chimney. Creosote created by incomplete combustion can condense within the chimney and catch fire.
If you’re unsure whether the chimney’s dirty, scratch your fingernail across the chimney wall. If you find a dark brown or black gooey substance, it’s time for an inspection and cleaning. A chimney fire can damage surrounding masonry, structure, and even burn down your house.
An accredited fireplace technician can also repair or replace faulty or damaged components such as the damper that regulates the air intake. They have the training and equipment needed to safely assess the crown on the top of the chimney that diverts water away from the house, the flue liner that protects the chimney walls, and the rooftop masonry.
Any chimney obstruction is potentially dangerous as it can force harmful smoke and vapors into the home, including lethal carbon monoxide.
Your inspector will check for pesky critters such as raccoons, birds, and squirrels that often choose to nestle into the protection of a snuggly chimney. Chimneys may also become constricted due to debris such as leaves, twigs, and branches. Plant material and animal nesting substances just need a small spark to ignite.
Home Maintenance is Your Responsibility
All Rhode Island homeowners insurance policies include clauses that require you to maintain your home and many consider regular chimney inspections normal home maintenance.
If you choose to skip the inspections, you could foot the bill if your home catches fire. That would be a costly mistake, especially considering how affordable these inspections usually are.
Choose the Correct Inspection Level
Most homeowners will need a Level 1 inspection. However, at times you may need the in-depth information Level 2 and Level 3 provide.
Level 1 Inspection
This is the lowest priced inspection which may cost anywhere from around $75 to $250. It is an appropriate first step, providing you have not changed the fuel or flue and the chimney is intact. Your inspector will look at the parts of your fireplace and the chimney.
Level 2 Inspection
This inspection level includes a video scan of the chimney. This is the best choice if you have changed the fuel, you suspect an event may have damaged the chimney, or you intend to sell. It usually costs between $100 and $500.
Level 3 Inspection
This is the highest level of inspection. It is typically required if your inspector uncovers serious safety hazards in a Level 1 or Level 2 inspection. It includes a partial tear down of the chimney to check for hidden problems. It usually costs between $1,000 and $5,000.
Choose a Certified Inspector
CSIA offers a search function to help you find a qualified chimney specialist or chimney sweep in your area. Schedule an appointment and review your insurance coverage with your agent too. Fire damage can be costly and the last thing you want to discover is that you’re uninsured when you need your coverage the most.
It’s important to stay on top of maintenance issues before they become major problems. Before you decide to light another fire, make sure you can do so safely.