The Complete Guide to a Level 1 Inspection [2020]


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.

<<Download this Guide as a PDF>>

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.

NFPA 211 suggests you get an annual inspection if you continually used your chimney and you didn’t change anything with it.

It also requires that you 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. The person should also meet the requirements set by the fire marshal, with regards to licenses, insurance, and certifications.

Important Definitions

To help you understand the inspection requirements, I thought it’d be helpful to share the terms: readily accessible, accessible, and non-accessible (concealed). These are a pretty big part in defining which type of inspection you need to have.

Readily Accessible

These are areas that can be reached for inspection or maintenance without the use of tools or ladders.

Accessible Areas

These are parts of your chimney that can be reached without destructive action to the building or building finish. Though, access may require the removal or opening of doors. Panels and the use of common hand tools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrenches, or ladders may be required.

Non-Accessible (Concealed)

These are areas that cannot be reached without damage or destruction to the chimney building or building finish. It also includes areas requires special tools to reach. 

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.

House Purchase

You should have a level 2 inspection of a chimney before purchasing a home with an existing chimney or vent.

Things Change

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.

What is a Level 1 Inspection?

As I mentioned before, a Level 1 inspection is the most basic inspection and is required with each chimney swept. You should have your chimney inspected once a year to ensure all the elements  of your chimney are running safely and efficiently.

A Level 1 inspection is typically limited to readily accessible areas of the chimney, structure, and flue. Interestingly enough, ladders are not required, unless the inspection is in conjunction with a sweep or repair that requires your technician to go up on your roof.

NFPA 211 requires that we inspect all flues within the chimney and the appliances connected to them. This is a big reason we always inspect flues with a camera so that we can get a full top-to-bottom inspection, including everything in between.


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.


What to Expect During a Level 1 Inspection

It’s pretty hard to speak for all chimney companies. But I can tell you what you can expect with a Patriot Chimney inspection, though I do think that we do things a bit differently.

It all starts with seamless scheduling, then moves to the actual inspection, and a review of it all with your technician.

<<download our full inspection condition report>>


The first thing you’ll do is schedule your appointment. We use an online booking system, so you can schedule online. Once you do that, someone in our office will give you a call to coordinate some time on the calendar.

Or if you’d prefer you can call our office at 540-225-2626 to book your appointment.

Once you’re on the schedule, you’ll get periodic emails and texts reminding you that your appointment is coming up. Of course, if anything changes, just let us know!

50 Point Inspection

On inspection day, we’ll arrive at your home and introduce ourselves. Then we’ll get to work!

We go through a proprietary 50-point inspection to check everything that we can. Your safety is our priority and we sure don’t want to miss anything.

Here is our list of everything we check (Buckle up. It’s a lot):

  1. Level of the cleanliness of the venting system
  2. Verification that the flue is not blocked
  3. Verification that the flue is not significantly restricted
  4. Verification that the flue is not obstructed in any way
  5. Appliance Clearance
  6. The general condition of the appliance
  7. Chimney or vent and its connector for general suitability for appliance
  8. Chimney or vent and its connector type
  9. Chimney or vent and its material
  10. Chimney or vent and its condition
  11. Chimney or vent and its connector clearance
  12. Chimney or vent and its connector joint security
  13. Chimney or vent and its connector for support and stability
  14. Chimney or vent and its connector for offset
  15. Chimney or vent and its connector for rise
  16. Chimney or vent and its connector for slope
  17. Chimney or vent barometric damper
  18. Chimney or vent damper
  19. Chimney or vent draft hood
  20. Chimney or vent heat reclaimer
  21. Chimney liner for proper support
  22. Appropriateness of the chimney liner type for appliance
  23. That the chimney liner is present
  24. That the chimney liner is free of readily visible defects, distortion, and spalling
  25. That flue cleanouts are present
  1. That flue cleanouts are properly installed
  2. Condition of wash when readily accessible
  3. That the chimney cap exists
  4. That the chimney cap does not contribute to flue blockage/restriction
  5. That the spark arrester is present
  6. That the spark arrester is not obstructed
  7. That the top installed damper is present
  8. That the top installed damper does not obstruct the flue
  9. Wall pass-through general condition
  10. That the connector is secure where it meets the wall pass-through, chimney, or vent
  11. The general condition of the hearth
  12. The general condition of the hearth extension
  13. Hearth extension sizing
  14. The general condition of the fireplace facing
  15. The general condition of the fire chamber
  16. The general condition of the smoke chamber
  17. Type of fire chamber lining
  18. Condition of the fire chamber lining
  19. Clearance to combustible trim and mantels around the fireplace opening
  20. Operation and closure of damper assembly
  21. Smoke chamber accessibility
  22. Smoke chamber transition to the flue
  23. That the air circulation grilles (openings) around the factory-built fireplace are not blocked or restricted
  24. Freedom from rust or corrosion of readily accessible metal parts in factory-built fireplaces and chimneys
  25. That mechanical draft systems are operable and free from rust and corrosion.

Camera Inspection

As I mentioned before, a Level 1 Inspection is pretty limited to what is “readily accessible.”

I don’t like this because it’s not possible to get a full grasp of the safety and efficiency of your chimney without looking in the flue. I don’t know how many times you’ve looked in a flue, but it’s pretty dark and hard to see even with a flashlight.

That’s why we always try to run a camera to get a better view and understanding of inside your chimney with a camera.


Once we have pictures, video, and filled out the condition report, we meet with you. This is to go over everything with you so that you can understand the full condition of your chimney. 

If there is anything that you should be concerned about, your technician will discuss his or her recommendation to fix it. After the recommendation, we will send a proposal for the work via email within the next 24 hours.

It all starts with seamless scheduling, then moves to the actual inspection, and a review of it all with your technician.

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