As Certified Chimney Professionals®, we believe that all home inspectors involved in property transactions should continue their education in the area of chimney inspections. As such, we hope you will read the following and take it to heart to better serve your clients.
In the “old days”, the average home inspector, and even chimney sweep inspected a chimney and only looked at 2 items: “Is the chimney flue open?” and “Is it somewhat clean?” That was it – 2 items! Sadly, many home inspectors and even worse, many sweeps still believe this nonsense and are living in the 1700’s.
Most home inspectors will typically open and shut dampers on a fireplace to make sure they’re working, and shine a flashlight up the chimney to check for big obstructions like a bird nest. But that’s typically where their inspection ends. This is wholly acceptable as long as each client is then informed that the chimney must be inspected by a Certified Chimney Professional®.
Let us be clear here – we at Certified Chimney Professionals® are not asking that home inspectors be experts at chimney inspections. Chimney Inspections are the job of a Certified Chimney Professional®. Your job is tough enough and to truly add a Level 2 chimney inspection for each flue as part of your job is unrealistic.
The NFPA 211 (National Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents, and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances) has levels of inspection which are required to be performed as part of any real estate transaction. The NFPA 211 is the minimum safety standard which every chimney professional or home inspector performing a chimney inspection should abide by, and meet the requirements of, at every service performed for any client.
The average NFPA 211 Level 2 Chimney inspection can add 2-3 hours of just chimney inspection not counting the reporting requirements and reports. Many times the chimney also needs sweeping or even de-glazing before a thorough inspection can be performed. It is not unusual for a thorough chimney sweeping and full Level 2 inspection to add 3 hours or more, including video inspections of all enclosed flues!
As an FYI – In the NFPA 211, there are 3 levels of inspection which are required for different services or situations.
Levels of Inspection
Level 1 – Required at every chimney sweeping. There are 33 items listed in the NFPA 211 annex which must be inspected at every chimney sweeping. Gone are the days of looking for only 2 things! Sadly, many non-certified sweeps, and most home inspectors, have not even heard of the requirements! NOTE: We are so glad you are educating yourself by reading this material!
Level 2 – If a property is involved in a real estate transaction or an appliance is being changed, or a chimney flue relined, or if when performing a Level 1 inspection a sweep notes that further inspection is warranted, a Level 2 inspection is required. This includes Level 2 inspecting all the flues in a chimney, even if only one is suspect or being serviced. To perform a Level 2 inspection, a level 1 inspection must be performed, and then a Level 2 must be performed. There are an additional 33 items listed in the NFPA 211 annex which must be performed as part of a Level 2 inspection, and a video inspection of each flue is a requirement!
Level 3 – A level 3 inspection must be done when during the course of a Level 2 inspection, further inspection is required in concealed areas; areas where destruction of property is required to properly inspect a chimney structure. For example: Removing part of a wall might be required to properly inspect a chimney… Level 3 inspections include concealed areas of the chimney suspected of damage or malfunction. There are an additional 17 items listed in the NFPA 211 annex which must be performed as part of a Level 3 inspection.
For a complete list of the required items please see the NFPA 211 Annex A.15.1.1 and following.
As a home inspector should you be involved in chimney inspections?
That is your call. If you decide that you will be involved in performing a Level 2 chimney inspection for your clients:
- Do charge for it. Understand it can add 3+ hours of time/labor + reports.
- You will need a complete chimney sweeping set of tools/ladders/vacs/brushes and a quality video system for chimney flues!
- Commit to doing the inspection of the chimney right or don’t do it in the first place. This will involve a major commitment in getting trained first as a competent chimney sweep and chimney inspector before you engage any client’s home or potential home in a chimney inspection. As we said above: Your job is tough enough and to truly add a Level 2 chimney inspection for each flue as part of your job is unrealistic – without months of full time chimney training.
Instead, we encourage you to refer all chimney inspections (Level 2 chimney inspections) to a competent Certified Chimney Professional® in your area.
How do you find a Certified Chimney Professional® in your area? Just go to our home page at. Type in your zip code and hopefully you will find a Certified Chimney Professional® in your area!