There are three levels of chimney inspections. Simply put, a level 1 inspection is the most basic inspection and is required with each chimney swept. Level 2 and level 3 are progressively more detailed and comprehensive.
Chimney techs can perform portions of a higher level of inspection without doing a total inspection. For example, at Patriot Chimney, we always run a camera, which is usually part of a level 2 and 3 inspections, even with Level 1 Inspections.
Chimney technicians also usually start with a Level 1 inspection and, based on their findings, may recommend a Level 2 or Level 3.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) — whose sole mission is to limit death, injury, and property damage from fire hazards — set the standard for chimney inspections in 2000 by providing the guidelines, procedures, and the three “levels” for chimney inspections in their Code 211.
Here’s what NFPA Code 211 suggests:
- Get an annual inspection if you’ve continually used your chimney and you didn’t change anything with it.
- Have your chimney inspected by companies that are responsible for venting, installing, inspecting, repairing, and/or servicing heat-producing appliances. Not a roofer, or a home inspector, or HVAC technician, or your friend that’s not a chimney technician.
- Have your chimney inspected by a company that meets the requirements set by the fire marshal, with regards to licenses, insurance, and certifications.
Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR)
This is understandable. This is a very long guide. But I did say that it’s everything you could ever want to know about chimney inspections. And Patriot Chimney’s not the type of place to cut corners, so I really wanted to deliver.
Level 1 Inspection
As I mentioned before, a level 1 inspection is the most basic inspection. If your chimney is under continued service, under the same conditions, and used with the same appliance, you should get a level 1 inspection every year.
Here’s what you need to know about Level 1 Inspections:
Level 2 Inspection
A level 2 chimney inspection is more detailed and thorough than a Level 1 inspection. You’ll get everything from the Level 1 Inspection, plus we add more items to check on the list.
Here’s what you need to know about Level 2 Inspections:
- Includes everything from the 50-Point Checklist in Level 1
- An additional 40-Point Inspection for all Level 2 Inspections.
- Includes accessible areas, such as attics, crawl spaces, and basements, so long as they are actually accessible.
- Does not include any specialty tools that are required to open doors, panels, or coverings.
- You should have a Level 2 Inspection if you are buying a house with a chimney. Or if you experienced an operation malfunction or external event that may have caused damage to your chimney. This includes building fires, chimney fires, seismic events, or major weather events.
Level 3 Inspection
This is the big boy. A Level 3 inspection is the most detailed of all inspection types and includes inspection of concealed areas of the building.
Here’s what you need to know about Level 3 Inspections:
- A Level 3 inspection includes all areas covered in a Level 1 and 2 inspections
- Adds a 20-Point Inspection with all Level 3 Inspections
- Includes the removal of certain components when the technician needs to check areas that are subject to inspection
- When serious hazards are suspected, a level 3 inspection may be required to determine the full condition of the chimney system.
Of course, if a level 3 inspection is required and removal of certain components is necessary, responsible and respectable chimney companies will consult with you and earn your permission first.
When To Get Your Chimney Inspected
The most current edition of the NFPA 211 recommends annual inspections for all chimneys, fireplaces. But there are other times that would require an inspection to ensure your chimney can safely be used.
If your chimney faced some sort of operating malfunction, any unusual or sudden event, like a chimney fire, lightning strike, or earthquake, you should call a technician to check it out.
You should have a level 2 inspection of a chimney before purchasing a home with an existing chimney or vent.
Whenever you make changes to your chimney or vent system you need to have a technician come inspect. This includes the replacement of connected appliances or installations of other appliances. This should also include if you relined or replaced your system.
Level 1 Chimney Inspections
Why Do You Need a Level 1 Inspection?
There are many reasons to get a Level 1 inspection, such as the reasons mentioned above: a malfunction or things changed with your chimney.
But you should at least get a Level 1 Inspection each year if your appliance or venting system has not changed and you plan to keep using it this year.
In other words, if your chimney is under continued service, under the same conditions, and used with the same appliance, you’ll be fine sticking with a Level 1 Inspection. Otherwise, you should consider a Level 2 or Level 3 inspection.
Level 2 Chimney Inspections
Why Do You Need a Level 2 Inspection?
A Level 2 inspection is required when you make any changes to your system. This includes changing the fuel, shape or material of the flue, or replacing the appliance.
Also, a Level 2 inspection is required upon the sale or transfer of your property. Some people think that the home inspection during the due diligence process is enough. But what they don’t realize is that chimney inspections must be done by companies that are responsible for venting, installing, inspecting, repairing, and/or servicing heat-producing appliances.
You definitely should get an inspection if you experienced an operation malfunction or an external event that may have caused damage to the chimney. This includes building fires, chimney fires, seismic events, as well as some other weather events.
Level 3 Chimney Inspections
Why Do You Need a Level 3 Inspection
Level 3 Inspections are rare and only come up in extreme cases where the previous two inspections uncovered potential issues and troubleshooting that issue requires your technician to look further in areas that are not accessible.
For example, let’s say that you had a chimney fire, or crazy weather knocked things around in your chimney, and you decide that you need an inspection. Both options will require a Level 2 inspection. During that inspection, while your technician is in the attic, he or she discovers a water spot on the wood near the chimney.
This could mean that you have a crack in your chimney that is causing water damage that is hidden behind the wood in your attic. To fully inspect, your technician may need to cut away some of the wood.
Another instance that may signal concern is broken flue tiles that are discovered with a camera inspection or even improper chimney clearances to combustibles.
A Level 3 Inspection may sound destructive and unnecessary but bear in mind that a Level 3 inspection is only needed when serious problems are hiding and a level 1 and level 2 inspection are insufficient.