Fireplaces are a wonderful feature in many homes. They provide heat as well as a comforting sense of home. But, just like any other part of the home, fireplaces and chimney systems require care and upkeep to ensure that they are functioning properly and safely. Chimney inspections are a great way to make sure that your chimney and fireplace system are working as they should.

How often should I inspect my chimney?

The National Fire Protection Association states that chimneys should be inspected and swept at least once a year. 

What should I expect during an inspection?

Chimney inspections typically follow a three-level format. Each level determines how in-depth the inspection will be. 

The Three Levels of Chimney Inspections

Level 1: 

A Level 1 chimney inspection is the standard base inspection. The chimney technician will examine the chimney to ensure that there are no structural issues, obstructions, or damage to the chimney system. This inspection covers the easily accessible areas of the chimney exterior, interior, and connections. A Level 1 inspection does not require specialized tools. 

Level 2:

Level 2 inspections are required when a change occurs within the chimney system. Such changes can include change of fuel type, shape or material in the flue (such as lining). Adding or replacing an appliance will also require an inspection. Additionally, a Level 2 inspection is required when selling or transferring a property. Malfunctions and damage caused by external factors such as extreme weather or building or chimney fires also call for a Level 2 inspection.

No specialty tools are required to perform a Level 2 inspection. However, it does include an internal visual inspection performed with video scanning or other means.

Level 3: 

A Level 1 or a Level 2 inspection may reveal hidden hazards. In this case, a Level 3 inspection will be required. Level 3 inspection involves specialized tools and may require the removal of some of the building or chimney to access problematic areas. 

Annual inspections ensure that your chimney system is operating properly.

Contact Sootmaster to schedule your chimney inspection. 

chimney cap

Caps, Covers, & Damper Repairs

Living in the south, mainly along the Gulf Coast, then you know there are lost of rain storms. Actually, we get more rain than anywhere else in the country, including Seattle. The ranking of the most amount of rainfall goes as follows: Mobile, Pensacola, and Seattle in 41st.

This region has such a big deal about rain when it comes to chimneys and fireplaces. As the Chimney Safety Institute of America explains, “water, not fire, causes most chimney damage.”

“Whether masonry or factory-built,” says the CSIA, “prolonged water exposure can result in cracks or gaps in chimneys where creosote can collect and increase the risk of fire or where noxious gases can escape into your home and expose your family to carbon monoxide.”

Fireplaces, Chimneys and Leaks

In basic terms the problem with fireplace and chimney leakage is that water combines with the creosote that remains from fires to form an acidic mixture. Over time that mixture can eat out the silica in the mortar joints.
Once the joints are no longer secure, moisture — remember all that Gulf Coast rain — can get into the house through the chimney. For example, if water comes in through the chimney and is released under the shingles it can lead to the need for a roof replacement.

Also, without proper sealing, heat from fires can travel into areas which should not be exposed to heat, dry out wood, and in some cases actually cause the wood to catch on fire.

In fact, according to a staff report by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are about 22,000 fires a year which are associated with fireplaces, chimneys and chimney connectors. Such fires can cause substantial damage and in some cases may lead to fatalities.

Also, without caps it does happen that birds and animals get into fireplaces. Sometimes nests are built and in some cases animals unable to get out die inside chimneys and fireplaces. Noises and odors can result from such problems.

Caps, Covers and Dampers

You can protect your household with caps, covers and dampers. Caps with spark arresters are devices that go over the flue. They keep out both moisture and animals, plus they help prevent sparks from leaving the chimney. Covers are at the top of the chimney, go around the flue, and protect against moisture. Dampers are inside the chimney itself. They can help create a proper draft to achieve the best fire, plus when closed they prevent animals from getting into the house.

Cap, Cover and Damper Services

We can install, repair and maintain caps, covers and dampers. We inspect such devices as part of our basic chimney sweep services. We have many devices in stock and can recommend the equipment which is right for your fireplace and chimney, whether it is masonry or metal, new or historic.

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