Fireplace Inspection: How Do You Inspect a Fireplace

Fireplace Inspection
Fireplace Inspection

In addition to heating your home, a fire is a lovely, cozy, and picturesque way to enjoy your chilly winter nights. Gathering around a fire provides a central location for everyone in your home to spend time together—just try not to sink into a comfy chair once that fire starts crackling! On the other hand, fireplaces need to be taken care of regularly to keep being the winter staple you’re used to. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about gas fireplace inspection and cleaning, potential hazards, and the costs you can expect from a licensed fireplace inspector.

Fireplace Inspection Check these Features

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, a home inspection covers some fireplace components but not all. The flue, seals and gaskets, fireplace surrounds, and other parts are not part of a home inspection.

That is why a fireplace inspection should be performed every one to two years (or more often if you use your fireplace frequently). What it includes is determined by the level of fireplace inspection requested.

Chimney Inspection Types

Not all inspections are created equal. Chimney inspections are classified into three levels. The type you require is determined by your circumstances.

Level One

A Level 1 inspection is the bare minimum and is usually recommended when usage, service, materials burned, and the parts themselves have not changed. A Level 1 is also appropriate if no damage has occurred. “It’s just routine maintenance,” Dimmitt explains. The National Fire Prevention Association says that a fireplace should be checked and cleaned once a year.

Level Two

If changes are made to the system, such as fuel type, flue shape, flue relining, or the replacement or addition of a different type of appliance, or if something is discovered in a Level 1 inspection, a Level 2 inspection is required, according to Dimmitt. It is also needed when a house is sold or given to someone else, or when the chimney is damaged by a malfunction or something from the outside. Some examples of external events are building fires and chimney fires, earthquakes, and weather events like lightning strikes.

Level Three

Level 3 inspections are uncommon, according to Dimmit. A Level 3 inspection is needed if an inspector can’t figure out what caused a problem found during a Level 2 inspection or if a hidden hazard is suspected but can’t be reached without special tools or taking the structure apart. It addresses the proper construction and condition of the chimney and flue’s concealed parts.

Do I Need a Fireplace Inspection? 

A fireplace inspection is an evaluation of your fireplace’s condition and safety. A fireplace inspector will look in your chimney and fireplace to see if there are any structural problems, blockages, damage, or chemical buildup. It is critical to understand that a chimney sweep and a fireplace inspector are not the same thing. Although the terms are frequently used interchangeably, a chimney sweep is someone who cleans your chimney to keep it free of creosote and other debris.

A fireplace inspector, on the other hand, is licensed and trained to look for conditions and safety issues. A fireplace inspector may sweep your chimney if necessary to see more detail, but it is not their primary job as a chimney sweep.

The major issues that a fireplace inspection will look for fall into four categories:

Creosote Buildup 

Creosote is a compound formed when the wood is not completely burned. It is light and gets blown up into your chimney by heatwaves and smoke from your fire, where it remains until removed. Creosote is a leading cause of chimney fires and can also cause a variety of health problems, ranging from skin irritation to increased cancer risk.

Chimney Cap Issues

Your chimney cap is critical to the operation of your fireplace system. It keeps out the elements, as well as birds, rodents, and other creatures looking for a place to nest. Even minor flaws in the integrity of your chimney cap can cause problems.

Chimney Birds

We named a bird for its habit of nesting in chimneys “chimney swifts.” Their nests, which are often in chimneys that aren’t being used or that they move into during the summer, pose a big risk of chimney fires. They bring in a variety of combustible materials such as dry sticks, twigs, scraps of paper, and yarn—essentially anything that could cause problems when you start your first fire.

Cracks and Gaps

As your hearth and firebox settle with age, the mortar used to seal your chimney may crack or the structure itself may shift. Cracks allow moisture and critters into your chimney, putting you at risk of fires and even chimney collapse. While hairline and superficial cracks are often overlooked, they should be repaired as soon as possible.

How Can you Tell if Your Chimney Needs Cleaning?

Your chimney requires cleaning for the following reasons:

  • If your fire isn’t burning well, it’s because it’s not getting enough airflow.
  • If your fire is emitting foul odors, you may have other, odorless gases in your home. Carbon monoxide, for example, can be fatal.
  • Greasy black soot and creosote accumulate in your chimney. Scrape the soot with a flashlight; schedule a cleaning every time there is 18″ or more creosote buildup.
  • A buildup of smoke inside your home indicates a chimney blockage.
  • If you hear noises inside your chimney, birds or animals may be present.

Fireplace Inspection Costs

Fireplace cleaning costs in the United States are $130, which includes a basic inspection. However, costs range from $80 for a well-maintained gas fireplace to more than $1,500 for a filthy or neglected wood fireplace. Some chimney sweeps charge by the amount of time it takes to complete a job, with rates ranging from $129 to $377 per hour. A basic fireplace inspection and cleaning take about an hour.

Costs by type of fireplace Inspection and Cleaning

The type and size of your fireplace will have a significant impact on the costs of inspection and cleaning. Because gas fireplaces do not accumulate creosote and soot, they are usually easier and faster to clean.
The following are the average costs for cleaning and inspecting the most common types of fireplaces. Each comes with a Level 1 inspection (see below).

  • Wood-burning fireplaces: $175–1,200
  • Gas fireplaces: $75–200
  • Pellet stoves: $150–340
  • Freestanding wood stoves: $175–400

Costs of Fireplace Inspection

Chimney and fireplace inspections not only keep your home safe but they are frequently required when selling a home or making structural changes. An inspection and cleaning are frequently performed concurrently. The National Fire Protection Association (NPA) and CSIA classify inspections into three levels.

Level 1 inspections. 

Basic safety issues, like buildup in fireplaces and chimneys, are looked for during visual inspections. Level 1 inspections are typically included in the cost of cleaning. Without cleaning, the average cost is $80.

Level 2 inspections.

These include video scanning and a careful look at the surfaces, flue joints, and other parts of the chimney where dirt and cracks can build up. This level of inspection may be required before the transfer of a property, as well as before making changes to a chimney or fireplace. Price range: $100–500

Level 3 inspections. 

Level 1 and Level 2 inspections are available, and the inner chimney walls or other parts may need to be opened or taken out. This may be needed after a fire or other event that caused damage to the building or a blockage. The average cost is $1,000–5,000.

Additional Services

During the inspection and cleaning of your fireplace, a professional chimney sweep may tell you that your chimney needs repairs or other services. This could be because of damage or normal wear and tear. These may include:

  • Installation/replacement of chimney caps: $130-540
  • Chimney liner (or flue liner) replacement: $1,400-4,100
  • Fireplace damper replacement: $150-350
  • Installing/replacing chimney flashing (a roof waterproof seal): $150-300

A chimney service may also recommend purchasing creosote logs ($8–15), which help reduce chimney residue between cleanings; a fireplace tray ($40–150), which is placed at the bottom to collect ashes; or a fireplace tool set ($50–200). Before agreeing to a total price, always discuss services and costs upfront.

Gas Fireplace Inspection

Some of the primary reasons for performing a gas fireplace inspection and cleaning are as follows:

  • Regular maintenance extends the life of gas fireplaces.
  • Prevent soot buildup in chimneys, which reduces the efficiency of the fireplace.
  • Clear the vent of any debris.
  • Clean the glass as well as any other exterior components.
  • Lower the cost of repairing the gas fireplace in the long run.

Cost of Gas Fireplace Inspection

A gas fireplace inspection costs between $75 and $100. A gas fireplace requires an inspection because it has an exterior vent that could become clogged. The inspection includes the frame, glass, ignition, log condition, gasket, screws and bolts, and heat output.

Gas Fireplace Cleaning Cost

A gas fireplace cleaning costs around $75. A typical way to clean a vent is to remove debris and residue from rotting log sets, clean the glass, and remove any other debris (leaves, bird’s nests, etc.).

Do I Need a Gas Fireplace Inspection?

Gas fireplaces offer advantages that their wood-burning counterparts do not. Most of the time, they burn cleaner than traditional wood-burning fireplaces and need less cleaning and maintenance. not to mention the money saved and the effort required to keep a supply of wood on hand.

Gas fireplaces, like all gas appliances, pose a risk of carbon monoxide leaks. This is the most important aspect of a gas fireplace inspection. It is critical to have your gas fireplace inspected at least once a year. Even if you don’t use it frequently, this is an important aspect of home maintenance that should not be overlooked or forgotten. Carbon monoxide poisoning from a gas leak causes flu-like symptoms and can be fatal once the gas reaches a certain concentration.

To keep your gas fireplace a safe and cozy part of your home, yearly inspections are required, as are carbon monoxide detectors near your gas fireplace and any other gas appliances.

What is the Function of a Chimney Sweep?

A chimney sweep cleans the firebox, damper, flue, smoke chamber, and smoke shelf of your fireplace. They have been trained to collaborate closely with the fire department. They clean out any soot or creosote that has accumulated in the chimneys. The cost of cleaning the chimney depends on how long it has been since it was cleaned. The cost of chimney cleaning is also affected by the accessibility of the roof. Dead animals and heavy creosote should be expected to cost more.

How do you inspect a fireplace?

5 simple steps to ensure the safety of your fireplace:

  1. Inspect the firebox.
  2. Look for obvious smoke stains.
  3. Check that your grate is the correct size.
  4. Inspect the chimney.
  5. Check your fire extinguisher twice.

How often should a fireplace be checked?

Annual

An annual inspection is recommended by safety organizations. If you use your fireplace frequently, you may need to clean it more frequently. When there is 1/8″ of soot, the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends cleaning. If you haven’t used your fireplace in years, have it inspected before using it.

What does it cost to have a fireplace cleaned?

The average price of having a chimney cleaned is $252, but prices usually range from $129 to $377. Regularly maintained wood fireplaces can cost as little as $85 to $100 per cleaning, whereas those with heavy buildup can cost as much as $800.

How do I know if my chimney is safe to use?

How to keep your fireplace and chimney safe:

  • There is no evidence of a bird’s nest or debris buildup on the cap.
  • No tree limbs are above or near the chimney.
  • The chimney’s mortar and bricks are not crumbling or missing.
  • The chimney rises at least two feet above the point at which it exits the roof.

Does a fireplace need to be serviced?

So much so that it’s easy to forget that even a gas fireplace requires maintenance now and then. Annual maintenance is recommended to keep your gas fireplace running safely and efficiently.

How often should a wood-burning fireplace be cleaned?

The most effective way to keep your fireplace clean is to clean it after each use. While this is a recommended practice, it is not always required for the fireplace or the chimney. The average time between cleanings for a fireplace is about one month.

Conclusion

If you do it yourself, a gas fireplace inspection can be inexpensive. Expect to pay more than $100 per inspection if you hire professionals. When using a do-it-yourself approach, you must take the necessary precautions. Inspections aid in the development of proper maintenance procedures. In the end, you will save a lot of money.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the lifespan of a gas fireplace?

Between ten and fifteen years

What is the average lifespan of a gas fireplace? In general, you can expect to get ten to fifteen years out of your gas fireplace before it needs to be replaced.

What kind of maintenance does a gas fireplace need?

The first and most important rule for any gas fireplace system is to have it inspected once a year. You can usually schedule your annual chimney cleaning and gas inspection at the same time with professional chimney companies. Your entire system should be inspected from top to bottom once a year.

Will gas fires be phased out?

Gas will continue to play an important role in heating for the next 30 to 40 years. This is due to the difficulty and cost of converting existing properties from gas to alternative heat sources. It is different for newly constructed homes.

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