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If you have a fireplace, wood or pellet stove, or use a flue to vent your heating system, it’s important to have your chimney inspected at least once a year. No matter what you are burning or what it is made from, it can develop issues over time, from minor cracks to significant structural problems that could contribute to fires.
Regular inspections ensure that your chimney is safe for use. There are different levels of inspections, just as there are different types of chimneys and different numbers of flues. For this reason, there can be a range of costs associated with having a chimney inspected. The national average is $100 to $500, with most homeowners paying around $400 for a level 2 inspection and cleaning of a wood stove chimney. At the low end of the spectrum is a level 1 inspection and cleaning of a gas stove chimney for $85, while at the high end is a level 3 inspection and cleaning of a wood-burning fireplace chimney and multiple flues for $5,000.
|Chimney Inspection Price|
|National average cost||$400|
There are three different levels of inspections outlined by the National Fire Protection Association. They range from routine to invasive and can be conducted on any type or size of chimney. The timing of these cleanings and determining when you should have them done varies by your own circumstances. Each one carries a different cost, with level 1 and level 2 inspections being able to take place at the same time as cleaning, with additional costs.
|Inspection Level||Cost Range (Cleaning Included)|
|Level 1||$85 - $950|
|Level 2||$150 - $1,000|
|Level 3||$500 - $5,000|
A level 1 inspection costs about $85 to $950, depending on the size and type. Level 1 inspections should be performed yearly if you use it regularly. If you have not used your chimney in a while or have purchased a new home, then a level 1 inspection should also be conducted to make sure that it is in good condition and ready to use. A level 1 inspection is frequently conducted at the same time as cleaning, as part of regular maintenance.
During a level 1 inspection, the sweep performs a visual examination using a flashlight. They check the interior and visible parts of the exterior, looking for cracks, excessive creosote buildup, or signs of wear and damage.
A level 2 inspection price ranges from $150 to $1,000. If the level 1 inspection shows any signs of wear or damage, if you have experienced a recent significant storm or environmental disaster or have had a minor fire, then a level 2 inspection is warranted. In a level 2 inspection, cameras are used to view the interior better. It will be inspected from the roof, as well as from the fireplace or flue opening. The sweep will likely need to access your attic, crawl space, and other areas to visualize as much of the structure as possible. Cleaning is also frequently conducted at the same time as a level 2 inspection.
Depending on where the suspected damage is located and how hard it is to reach, a level 3 inspection could cost $500 to $5,000 to complete. Level 3 inspections are not conducted unless your sweep suspects serious structural issues. If you have had a significant fire, or the level 2 inspection has shown serious signs of damage that cannot be fully assessed with the camera, then a level 3 inspection is done.
This is an invasive inspection where some parts of the main structure will be removed to visualize the flues better. This may mean removing drywall or other surface coverings as well. For this reason, once the inspection is complete, you will likely have repairs to be made not only to the chimney but also to the surrounding areas.
Your chimney may include more than one flue or chamber inside of it. It’s very common for some homes to have multiple flues, one for a fireplace, one for a wood stove, and more for things like the HVAC system to vent through. Inspections don’t need to be performed on every chamber every year, particularly if you aren’t using them all. But, if you use more than one chamber or plan to start using additional chambers, you will need to have them all inspected. For this reason, costs for level 1 and level 2 inspections can be prorated for additional flues. Because a level 3 inspection involves opening up the structure itself, costs are the same regardless of how many flues, since complete demolition is often necessary to fix the issues.
|Number of Flues||Level 1||Level 2||Level 3|
|1 Flue||$85 - $250||$150 - $400||$500 - $5,000|
|2 Flues||$150 - $550||$300 - $600||$500 - $5,000|
|3 Flues||$450 - $750||$500 - $800||$500 - $5,000|
|4 Flues||$550 - $950||$600 - $1,000||$500 - $5,000|
Most inspections include cleaning as part of the process. This is done so that the sweep can better visualize the interior chambers. Creosote build-up on the walls can obscure some issues. However, it is possible to have an inspection done after years of disuse, before or after a sale, or after an earthquake or other natural disaster.
However, it is most common for any cleaning process to include a level 1 inspection as part of the process, with some including a level 2 inspection as needed. During the cleaning, creosote and any debris are loosened from the top down, then vacuumed away. If obstructions are in the flue, such as birds’ nests, these are removed. Depending on the state, it may be inspected first and then cleaned, or cleaned first so that the inspector can better visualize areas that may have been obscured by soot or other obstructions.
The average cost of an inspection with cleaning is around $175 for a level 1 inspection for one flue and around $450 for a level 2 inspection for two flues. Usually, professional sweeps charge a flat rate per inspection or cleaning appointment. However, a home inspector may charge by the hour at a rate of $50 to $80 per hour. A level 1 inspection takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. A level 2 inspection takes at least 60 minutes. A level 3 inspection can last several days if major structural changes are needed. If inspection reports are generated on-site, an additional 20 minutes of service time is required.
The inspection reports are usually generated quickly following an inspection. Many inspection reports are broken down into checklists and include different scenarios the inspector found. Examples include chimney cap damage, heavy soot or creosote buildup, crown defects, flue damage, flue blockages, rusty or damaged dampers, unlined flues, unsafe clearance, and missing cleanout doors.
Using a camera to inspect the interior chambers is part of a level 2 inspection. This helps the sweep or the inspector better visualize the structure, flue, and liner. The cost of a camera inspection is from $150 to $400 for a single flue.
If video inspections are done, an inspector usually provides a digital copy of the recording via email.
Most of the maintenance tasks are something that you will take care of yourself. This includes removing the ashes from wood-burning fireplaces and stoves as soon as they cool and using only dry, seasoned wood or manufactured logs with the CSIA Seal of Approval. The damper should always be opened before fires are lit in a fireplace. Fires should be burned no longer than five hours each day. After the fire is extinguished, close the damper and wait for the area to cool before removing the ashes. In addition, you should clean the firebox once a week when the fireplace is in use and wipe the firebox out entirely at the end of the season.
Additional maintenance tips include occasionally inspecting the damper to make sure it is functioning. If it is not closing, this can cause elevated energy bills because heat can leave your home, requiring more frequent use of a fireplace or stove. You should also make sure that waterproofing is also on, as well as chase cover, crown, and flashing. It may need to be reinstalled if it is not working correctly. Take time to make sure the bricks and joints are not damaged because moisture can enter the home.
It’s a good idea to have your chimney cleaned regularly, which can be done at the same time as the inspection. Cleaning reduces the amount of creosote build-up on the interior. Creosote is one of the leading causes of fires. Having it cleaned helps prevent this from occurring. The average cost of a cleaning session is $100 to $500.
If you live in an area that may be impacted by earthquakes, you may want to have your chimney inspected for defects that can lead to a collapse in the event of an earthquake. Crumbling mortar, missing steel straps, and separation between the structure and the building can all cause significant problems in the event of an earthquake. Having a level 2 inspection done for $150 to $1,000 can help prevent future issues.
In addition, if your home has already been affected by an earthquake, you should have a second inspection done before you use the fireplace. The earthquake could cause interior cracks that can lead to fires. A level 2 inspection done after an earthquake can identify any potential issues.
As part of a home maintenance plan, every homeowner must hire an inspector. On an annual basis, before the weather turns cold, an inspector confirms the safety of your chimney. During an annual inspection, a certified inspector looks for any potential clearance issues that could negatively affect operation. Deposits such as soot, creosote, and debris can build up over time. Birds and other wildlife may block the flues with their nesting materials.
Even if the structure looks solid without any damage on the exterior, interior issues may be present, including cracks and rusting metal. Inspectors identify any issues that could lead to a fire or carbon monoxide exposure. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment is responsible for 15% of all residential fires and 19% of home fire fatalities. Addressing any issues identified during an inspection improves heating efficiency and overall safety.
Inspectors are also contracted when home heating issues occur. Signs that an inspection is needed include a burnt odor when heating a room, excessive smoke from a fireplace, and poorly burning fires. When a fireplace is not in use, you can reach inside the liner to check for evidence of greasy buildup of soot or creosote. Grease increases fire risk, while creosote emits dangerous odors that can be toxic to humans.
Many states require an inspection when buying or selling a property. This type of inspection is more detailed than a visual inspection performed annually. Any issues found during the inspection may need to be resolved prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy. Furthermore, homeowner insurance policies will likely require an inspection before providing coverage.
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), they need to be inspected regularly under certain circumstances. If you use it regularly, it should be inspected and cleaned yearly. If you have not used it in a while, and want to start using it, having it inspected first can help you ensure that it’s safe to do so.
The exact timing of when you should have an inspection performed can be impacted by several factors. Those structures connected to open masonry-style fireplaces may need inspections sooner if there is evidence of soot buildup in excess of 1/8-inch. A common misconception is that those connected to gas fireplaces do not require an annual inspection like wood-burning fireplaces. However, gas fireplaces are still prone to blockage issues from wildlife like birds. Also, debris builds up from the ceramic logs throughout the year. Cracks may occur and lead to condensation issues. Condensation damages the flue tiles and eventually causes them to break off.
Homeowners who use their fireplace only minimally often choose to forego an annual inspection and opt for an inspection every other year. However, aging structures should be inspected at least once a year, as they are more susceptible to structural failure. New construction projects should be inspected before initial use and midway through the fire heating season.
In addition to yearly cleaning, it should be swept if the home is being bought or sold. Choosing to clean it before a house is put on the market makes the property more attractive to buyers. Home inspectors also may recommend an inspection to homebuyers to ensure a detailed report about its condition. In some cases, home inspectors can also inspect the chimney.
A home insurer sometimes requires an inspection. When an earthquake or a hurricane has occurred, this is another time when a complete inspection of the structure is a good idea. In addition, if it has visual damage, is causing strange odors, or causing an internal fire, an inspection should be done.
These types of repairs may be needed after an inspection. The average cost to have a replacement cap installed by a professional is $300 to $600. A cap replacement is needed if your cap has been damaged due to poor weather conditions or wildlife. When the crown is damaged, the excess water can cause bricks to separate and damage clay tiles. The total cost of a crown repair is around $750 to $1,000.
A liner replacement costs from $1,800 to $4,000. Your chimney will be lined with clay, tiles, or metal. This can develop cracks and other issues over time and may eventually need replacement.
Rebuilding or tuckpointing the masonry to the roofline costs between $300 and $800. If the masonry is cracking or crumbling, a repair will be necessary to prevent it from collapsing.
There are many factors that can impact the total cost of your inspection. Most people pay around $400 for an inspection with cleaning.
This depends on the type of inspection. Level 1 inspections are fairly quick. They take about 20 to 30 minutes. Level 2 inspections take longer, up to one to two hours, depending on the chimney. Level 3 inspections are all individual and require some demolition, so some could take hours, while others could take days to complete.
It can be, but isn’t always. You will need to ask the inspector what he or she includes.
This depends on the number of flues, the amount of creosote, and how long it’s been since the last cleaning. It can take 1-2 hours on average.
The exterior of the structure is visually scanned for any masonry defects. All working parts are evaluated to confirm they are functioning properly. The roof, attic, and flue will be looked at through Level 2 inspections and above.
Creosote is a mixture of chemicals created when burning wood. When oils in wood aren’t burned, they travel with smoke. As it cools, the creosote condenses and accumulates inside the flue. It starts as a flaky deposit that is easy to remove but can turn into a tar-like substance or even harden and be difficult to extract. According to the CDC, creosote can be harmful to human health, and exposure should be limited.
Yes. If you own other heat-creating units that use one, it should be inspected and cleaned regularly. For instance, furnaces or pellet stoves might use one and leave residue inside it. Proper inspection ensures the contaminants can leave the home through the chimney instead of building up inside the home.
In most cases, the seller will be responsible for the costs of this type of inspection. Many will choose to have an inspection done before listing the home to prove the fireplace is in good shape. If you are buying a home without a recent inspection, you can request that one be done before you make an offer on the house.
It depends on the state, but it is in some locations. For instance, Maine requires a level 2 inspection when buying or selling a home. The Chimney Institute of America also explains that these types of inspections are required upon sale or transfer of property after an operation malfunction or other events may have caused damage.