The chimney inspection is essential for the safe operation of the fireplace. It helps contain the heat protecting combustible building materials from fire. It also vents smoke and fumes, protecting your family from breathing in toxic fumes. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other fire safety experts agree that annual chimney inspections are essential for fire prevention. It also helps protect its structural integrity. The following are the essential areas chimney sweeps will examine:
The chimney sweep will examine the exterior and interior masonry for signs of damage or water leaks. Periods of pounding rain, snow, and heat can eventually cause the masonry surface to crack, allowing the porous materials to absorb moisture and erode the mortar joints. The bricks absorb water like a sponge causing cracks to continue widening during the winter freeze-thaw effect. It can cause the brickwork to crack, splinter, and chip and cause gaps in the mortar joints that can affect its structural integrity.
The combustion process creates several byproducts, including creosote, that accumulate in the flue with every burn. As the creosote continues to build-up, it hardens into a tarry, crusty, and flammable substance. Sweltering temperatures or hot embers can spark a fire. Even a small fire can be hot enough to cause the flue liner to crack or burst, increasing the risk of fire spreading to other parts of the home. The chimney sweep will visually inspect the flue liner for excessive creosote and any signs of damage. A video scan of the flue is also recommended. It can help the chimney sweep spot flue liner cracks challenging to spot with the unaided eye.
The chimney sweep will also need access to the roof to inspect the chimney crown. Its location on top of the chimney makes it susceptible to weather damage that can allow water to leak inside the chimney. Small hairline cracks are easily repairable. However, extensive damage may require the chimney crown to be rebuilt. The chimney cap will also be checked to ensure it is secure and free of damage and obstructions.
While on the roof, the chimney sweep will look at the flashing. The flashing is a piece of metal that secures the chimney to the roofline with an airtight seal. Over time, the flashing can warp, rust, or corrode, requiring repair or replacement to prevent water leaks. If you notice a water stain on the ceiling or walls near the fireplace, contact your chimney sweep right away. It is a sign that moisture may be leaking through the flashing.
The damper needs to open and close smoothly for the safe operation of the fireplace. It also helps prevent energy loss and water intrusion when the fireplace is not in use. The chimney sweep will check to ensure the damper is in good operating condition and forms an airtight seal when shut.