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A chimney inspection is a procedure in which a technician examines a chimney for any signs of safety concerns. Chimney inspections include identification of violations of the building code, along with recommendations for improvements which may not be required, but would be wise. It is a good idea to have chimneys inspected annually, and chimney inspections are often required when a property is about to change hands, when people plan to perform chimney work, or when there is an accident or fire involving the chimney.
In the United States, the National Fire Protection Association has set very clear standards for chimney inspections which are designed to eliminate ambiguity from the inspection process. During a level one inspection, the technician examines all of the areas of the chimney which are readily accessible, meaning that no doors or coverings need to be removed, and the accessible areas of the appliance attached to the chimney, along with the chimney connection, are also examined. The NFPA defines “accessible” as meaning that standard tools can be used to open flaps, doors, and other coverings for inspection.
A level two inspection is more in depth. Level two inspections are required for property transfers and to clear a chimney for use after an accident or incident, or if substantial work is being done on a chimney. In this type of inspection, the inspector examines everything which can be reasonably looked at without damaging or altering the chimney, connection, and appliance. If an area of concern is identified during a level two chimney inspection, the technician may recommend a level three inspection.
During a level three chimney inspection, portions of the chimney may be removed for closer examination, and this can change the finish of the chimney or damage it. After a level three chimney inspection, it will be necessary to reassemble areas of the chimney which have been taken apart for examination. Level three inspections often occur when a chimney needs to be replaced or repaired, so the damage is considered acceptable.
The goal of regular chimney inspection is to reduce the risk of fire by ensuring that chimneys are operating safely. Inspections are used to identify hazards which can range from the simple need to hire a chimney sweep to clean out the chimney, to a recommendation to replace a chimney. They are also used as part of the code enforcement mechanism; older chimneys which are not up to code are gradually brought up to code over time as a result of mandatory inspections.