Guide to Buying a Home with a Chimney
The stress may come from the fact that there are a lot of things that can go right over your head if you’re not careful. It certainly doesn’t help that most of the real estate rules and information are written in legalese.
I can’t speak intelligently on things like ad valorem or caveat emptor or anything about your mortgage. But I can help you understand what you should expect when you’re buying a house with a chimney in it.
Table of Contents
Home inspectors are not chimney inspectors
Let me help explain this with a little story.
When I was a freshman in high school, I tore my meniscus playing football. I went to my family doctor first because my knee was swollen. That’s all that was wrong. After looking at my knee the doctor told me that I needed to go to a specialist.
This is the same thing with chimneys.
You Need a Thorough Check
Home inspectors are like family doctors. They do a general inspection. But if you have need inspections for your chimney, roof, pests, radon, electrical, or anything specific, you should be sure to hire a specialist to inspect.
There’s a lot that goes into a chimney. It’s a very complex system. And it takes a lot of learning and reading and maybe even classroom time to be sure you don’t miss things that could be potentially hazardous.
You should look for companies that are members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) and those companies that will send certified members of the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
The CSIA allows each certified chimney sweep to further his or her education with added designations, like chimney physics, inspection & report writing, or even installing & troubleshooting gas hearth appliances.
You can use the CSIA’s search tool to find members of the CSIA and even select which designation you’d want them to have.
What’s Involved with a Chimney Inspection?
Chimneys are getting safer but are still very dangerous to have in your home, especially when they’re not kept up with and maintained as they should be.
Chimneys are actually still one of the most common causes of house fires. It causes 22,300 house fires, 20 deaths, and $125 million in property damage every single year in the United States alone.
You want to be sure that the chimney in the house you are buying has been maintained and is safe to use.
Not Just Any Chimney Inspection will Do
There are three levels of chimney inspections. Level 1 is the most basic and is required with each chimney swept. You should have a level 1 inspection at the very least each year. A level 1 inspection is typically limited to only readily accessible areas of the chimney, structure, and flue.
A level 2 chimney inspection is much more detailed and thorough than a level 1 inspection and includes inspection inside your attic, crawl space, and basement, so long as they are accessible. At Patriot Chimney, we include a visual camera inspection with all three levels, but all level 2 inspections should include a camera inspection.
A level 3 chimney inspection is the big boy. It’s the most comprehensive and is actually pretty rare. The only time that you would need a level 3 inspection is if we need to remove a part of your wall to make sure that your chimney is safe.
If the seller said that they’ve had an inspection recently, ask for the condition report. Here are a few things to look for:
- Make sure that it was a level 2 inspection
- Look at the date. Make sure that it was within the year. Make sure that it was after the burn season (October to about April)
- Make sure the company is a reputable company – remember the CSIA and NCSG
- Read the condition of the chimney and what the technician wrote about the condition.
If any of those things are missing or off, then get a new inspection. If you need help reading a seller’s condition report, feel free to scan the document and email it over to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to help out.
Here’s our condition report for reference.
NFPA Requires It
What Happens if the Chimney is Damaged?
It happens and with older fireplaces, it’s inevitable.
But you need to know what to do when it happens. When it happens, there are four things that you can do:
- Walk away
- Negotiate with the seller.
- Eat the Cost
- Leave it be.
Of course, there could be lost due diligence fees and it may not be a good idea to just avoid right upfront.
If you don’t have the money to repair upfront, then you could see what you can do to negotiate with the seller.
Negotiate with the Seller
Eat the Cost
Look into the chimney company’s websites. At Patriot Chimney, we offer discounts for teachers, veterans, and first responders. We also offer financing and I know we’re not the only ones that do.
Leave it Be
Your mantel can still be a great centerpiece and you can still hang your TV. Even without a working fireplace.
Hiring a Chimney Company
How to Hire, What to Look For
- Can the company provide references?
- Does the company carry a valid business liability insurance policy?
- Does the company ensure that a certified chimney technician will be on the job?
If they guarantee all three of those, then you are in a good spot. The technicians don’t necessarily need to be certified by the CSIA, but I do recommend putting in a bit more due diligence before accepting a certification that’s not by the CSIA.
This is because certifications are a tricky thing, especially in an unlicensed industry like ours. Any company can craft a list of job-related questions and sell them as an exam and certify those who pass.
I recommend you take a few extra minutes in your research before making your hiring decision to learn more about the certification the company has. Here are a few tips to make sure the certification is reputable:
- Is the word “certified” just part of the business name or is it an earned designation?
- Is the certifying body a for-profit business or non-profit?
- Does the certification need to be maintained and renewed through continuing education as the industry evolves, or is it well enough to be certified through a one-time exam?
- Is the certifying body well-established or are they relatively new to the scene? New doesn’t mean “bad” but you should make sure the requirements for certification are more or at least equally stringent as those of more established certifications
- Is the mission statement of the certifying body focused on educating and protecting homeowners or is it more focused on making it easier to earn a certification?
- Does holding the certification require following a code of ethics?
If you can answer all of these questions, then I think it will be safe to allow the company in your home to work on your chimney. It doesn’t matter if you are in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Blacksburg, or some other city anywhere in the USA — if you have any questions about the safety of hiring a chimney company, please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com or call me at 540-225-2626. I’m happy to help!
We’re licensed, insured, certified, and guarantee you’ll be happy with your service.