What is a chimney inspection? | Types of chimney inspection | Chimney inspection cost by type | Why do I need a chimney inspection? | Can I DIY my chimney inspection? | My chimney inspector found damage. Now what? | How much does chimney repair cost? | Chimney maintenance tips | FAQs
The average cost of a chimney inspection in the U.S. is $450, although prices generally range from $300-600. The price of a chimney inspection is dependent on a number of factors such as:
- The level of chimney inspection necessary
- The size of the chimney
- The number of flues
- How often the chimney is used
- The ease of accessibility
Chimneys require regular maintenance, including cleaning and inspection to ensure everything is in safe working order. Chimney repairs can be complex and expensive, and operating a damaged or dirty chimney can be dangerous.
If you're buying a house with a chimney, it's important to know its condition to avoid unexpected expenses.
What is a chimney inspection?
A chimney inspection is the process of examining and assessing chimney and fireplace performance. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certifies inspectors that check for compliance with the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) National Code of Standards.
Recommended annually, regular chimney inspection and cleaning can help prevent the occurrence of harmful incidents like chimney fires and carbon monoxide intrusion in a home.
Types of chimney inspection
The CSIA has determined three levels of chimney inspection that include well-defined services. Each is prescribed for specific situations.
The three levels of chimney inspection are standardized and utilized by most chimney industry pros.
|Level 1||Level 2||Level 3|
|Visually inspects accessible portions of chimney exterior and interior||✔||✔||✔|
|Assesses soundness of chimney structure and flue||✔||✔||✔|
|Checks basic appliance installation and connections||✔||✔||✔|
|Examines attached structures, including attic, crawlspace, and/or basement||✔||✔|
|Includes visual inspection of chimney and flue interior via camera or scope||✔||✔|
|Investigates construction and condition of concealed portions of chimney and flue||✔|
|Involves removal or destruction of chimney structure and flue to identify and address issues||✔|
Most chimney sweeps offer a Level 1 inspection in combination with a routine cleaning. The CSIA recommends that you have your chimney swept and inspected at this level annually as part of regular chimney maintenance. Often, homeowners schedule this service as they prepare for using their fireplace in the winter.
A Level 1 inspection includes a visual examination of the readily accessible portions of the chimney, including the interior, exterior, and associated appliances. It verifies the basic soundness of these structures as well as proper installation and connections.
Chimney sweeps will clean the chimney, so it is free of obstructions and combustible deposits.
This level of service is suggested when a chimney has been in good working order since its last service and the conditions of its use have remained the same.
A Level 2 chimney inspection includes the same services as Level 1 plus a more in-depth physical inspection and the use of a camera or scope to view areas that are not otherwise visible.
Additional areas surveyed in a Level 2 inspection include elements of the chimney interior and exterior only reachable via scope and the internal surfaces and joints of the flues. A Level 2 inspection also examines areas of the home that could be impacted by the chimney such as the attic, crawlspace, or basement.
A Level 2 inspection is recommended when:
- A property with a chimney is changing hands
- Any changes or updates are made to the chimney system, such as the addition of an appliance or the installation of a new flue liner
- There has been a malfunction like a chimney fire
- The home has experienced a seismic or weather event that potentially caused damage to the chimney
Although a Level 2 chimney inspection is recommended during the home buying process, it is not required in any U.S. state, according to Nick Gromicko, founder of the International Association for Certified Home Inspectors.
If you are getting ready to sell your home and wonder whether it will be beneficial to have the chimney inspected beforehand, a smart realtor will be able to provide guidance.
A Level 3 chimney inspection includes everything in Level 1 and Level 2 inspections, plus more invasive procedures that involve dismantling parts of the chimney to pinpoint problematic elements.
In a Level 3 inspection, the inspector will use specialty tools and demolition equipment to open any doors, panels, and coverings in the chimney. They may also need to remove permanent portions of the home structure and the chimney's construction and finish to locate issues.
This in-depth inspection also addresses the construction and condition of concealed portions of the chimney structure and flue.
The CSIA advises a Level 3 inspection when:
- A Level 1 or Level 2 inspection suggests a hidden hazard that can only be accessed with special tools or demolition
- Serious hazards are suspected, such as damage to the chimney structure or flue liner
Chimney inspection cost by type
|Chimney inspection level||Low-end cost||High-end cost|
A Level 1 chimney inspection costs $100-950 depending on the chimney size and number of flues it has. Additionally, the level of creosote build-up can impact the price.
Creosote is a residue that can build up in the interior of your chimney and flue. It is a carcinogenic byproduct of burned wood oils.
Smoke cools as it rises up your chimney, ultimately condensing with water and other chemicals on the inside of your chimney and flue, creating creosote build-up.
If you use your chimney more often, it will have more creosote. However, if you maintain it and clean it regularly, there will be less build-up.
It's important to clear creosote build-up because it can cause obstructions in your chimney and even chimney fires if it is ignited.
A Level 2 inspection costs around $200 for a chimney with a single flue, though it can range up to $1,000 for those with four flues.
A Level 3 inspection can cost $500-5,000. The span is great because the scope of demolition is so variable.
Other elements that impact chimney inspection cost
The price of a chimney inspection increases per flue, though it is often prorated for multiple flues.
A chimney may include more than one flue (or chamber) inside of it. The flue is a duct, pipe, or opening in the chimney designed to remove exhaust gases from your home.
A flue is installed at the center of the chimney to direct combustion products to the outdoors. It also protects the chimney walls from heat and corrosion.
Fireplaces are not the only things that vent through flues in your home. Anything that gives off heat vents through a flue, including wood stoves, furnaces, clothes dryers, and water heaters.
Chimney inspection costs can also increase if access is difficult for the inspector. For example, if the home has more than two stories or if the roof is steeply pitched.
Although the use of a specialized scope or camera is included in a Level 2 inspection, its use in other types of chimney inspection can increase the price by $200-400 per flue. The price can even reach up to $1,000 if there are four flues.
Cleaning (or "sweeping") is usually bundled into most Level 1 inspection prices, but it can cost $130-365 if offered à la carte. It can sometimes reach up to $800 if creosote build-up is extreme.
Why do I need a chimney inspection?
The purpose of a chimney inspection is to make sure your chimney is free of obstructions and signs of wear-and-tear or damage. If your chimney is not well maintained, it can be dangerous.
Creosote build-up is the No. 1 cause of chimney fires. In 2014, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported an average of 23,000 chimney fires and more than 20 related deaths in the U.S. alone.
When do I need a chimney inspection?
Industry pros recommend a chimney inspection in the following situations:
- Annually: Your chimney should be cleaned and serviced once a year as a preventative service measure.
- As part of a home transaction: Your general home inspector may recommend a chimney inspection because they've flagged a potential issue or they don't have the ability to give a thorough report on the condition of the chimney. In some cases, a home inspector may be licensed as a chimney inspector as well.» MORE: What Happens After a Home Inspection? A Step-By-Step Guide
A home seller may want to proactively conduct a chimney inspection to show the chimney is in working order. This can make the house more attractive to buyers. A knowledgeable real estate agent can provide additional tips to smooth your sale.
» MORE: Find a Top Agent in Your Area
- At the request of your insurance company: Some home insurers may request a chimney inspection as a condition of coverage.
- After a natural disaster: If you recently experienced a weather event such as a hurricane or an earthquake that might have damaged your chimney structure, an inspection is advised.» MORE: 5 Best Places to Live to Avoid Natural Disasters
- If you've noticed issues with your chimney: Visible cracks or other damage to your chimney warrants a closer look by an inspector, as does a strange odor or ignition of an internal fire.
Can I DIY my chimney inspection?
You can survey your chimney for potential issues, but it is not recommended in lieu of a professional chimney inspection, especially when you are considering purchasing a home with potential chimney issues.
You can check out the condition of your chimney just to gauge whether a deeper level of inspection is necessary. For example, after a small earthquake, you may want to look things over for cracks or other signs of damage.
If you want to give your chimney a DIY inspection, here are some things you can watch out for:
|On the ground, inspect the exterior surface of the chimney.||
|Clear any moss, tree branches, or shrubs from the chimney surface.||
|If you are comfortable on a ladder, climb up to check the upper portion of the chimney’s masonry.||
|Use a strong flashlight to view the firebox walls.||
|Open the damper.||
|Check that the smoke chamber appears smooth.||
My chimney inspector found damage. Now what?
It's important to note that chimney repair is different from chimney inspection. Fixing a problem identified in a chimney inspection will be an additional cost.
Sometimes, the same company or individual who did the inspection can tackle the repair. However, be careful of conflict of interest in these cases as this will incentivize the inspector to find problems.
Chimney repair might also involve the assistance of outside contractors like a brick mason or roofer depending on the specific problem and the extent of the damage.
Additionally, since Level 3 inspections involve disassembling the chimney, keep in mind that putting things back together will involve a supplemental cost.
How much does chimney repair cost?
Chimney repair costs are dependent on the unique chimney and issues discovered. However, most chimney repairs cost $160-750, with an average price of $455.
The average à la care pricing for certain common repairs is included below.
|Animal removal||Dependent on situation|
|Total chimney rebuild||Up to $5,000|
Chimney maintenance tips
To avoid the need for in-depth inspections and potential repairs, keep your chimney in good shape by taking proper care of it.
- Have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional annually.
- Burn a chimney cleaning log occasionally to clear creosote build-up. The Creosote Sweeping Log (CSL) is rated "acceptable" by the CSIA and is about $20 in most retail stores. It can help clear creosote build-ups but it does not replace the need for annual professional cleanings.
- Remove ashes from wood-burning fireplaces and stoves immediately after cooling and store in a metal container that's kept at least 10 feet from the home.
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood or manufactured logs with the CSIA Seal of Approval.
- Open the damper before lighting any fires in the fireplace. Close the damper after the fire is extinguished.
- Never burn a fire for longer than 5 hours in a single day.
- Clean the firebox at least weekly when the fireplace is in use. Wipe out the firebox completely at the end of the season.
Can I clean my own chimney?
It is possible to clean your own chimney, but it probably makes more sense to hire a pro for a number of reasons.
Chimney sweeping involves specialized tools like a wire chimney brush, extension pipes, a dust mask, and an extension ladder. Purchasing those specialized tools could be pricey. And finding storage for tools you only use once a year may be difficult for many homeowners with limited space.
If you're planning to DIY a chimney sweep, you need to be comfortable climbing and standing on your roof. If you have a fear of heights or the roof is just not a place you enjoy hanging out, this task is probably not for you.
Cleaning a chimney is a very dirty job. Everything you sweep will be pushed down into your fireplace. This means dust, ash, dirt, and yucky creosote build-up will be inside your home, where you will have to clean it up.
Save yourself the headache and hire a professional who knows what they're doing and owns the proper tools to do it.
A final word
If you own a home with a chimney, keeping it clean and safe is imperative. And if you're considering purchasing a home with one, you'll definitely want to know about your chimney's condition and any potential issues before you purchase it. Your realtor should be able to guide you through the process.
Trust the professionals when it comes to chimney inspection and cleaning. Though there are some elements of chimney care and maintenance you can DIY, it's best to enlist the experts since chimney repair can be costly and improper upkeep can put you and your family in danger.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when maintaining your chimney, so make sure you stay on top of routine sweeps and inspection.
Is there a difference between a chimney sweep and a chimney inspection?
A chimney sweep is a cleaning while a chimney inspection is the act of checking that the chimney is clean and in good working order.
Many professionals are certified to do both chimney sweeps and inspections. In fact, many annual chimney cleaning services include a Level 1 inspection.
Do gas fireplaces require chimney inspection?
Yes. Gas fireplaces still have a flue that needs to be inspected and cleaned annually even though they are not burning wood.
Although gas is a generally clean burning fuel, the chimney can become non-functional from bird nests or other debris blocking the flue.
Do houses with a chimney but no fireplace still need to have chimney inspections?
Yes. If you don't have a fireplace but you do have a chimney, it's likely that the chimney is venting other heat-creating appliances in the home like a wood-burning stove or a furnace.
The chimney structure should undergo regular inspection to confirm that it is sound and there are no obstructions.
Who pays for a chimney inspection during a home transaction?
A buyer or a seller can pay for a chimney inspection depending on the unique situation. Generally, the party who holds a bigger interest in the inspection pays for it.
Most times, a buyer will want an inspection if they suspect there is an issue and they intend to negotiate repairs or a credit. Additionally, a buyer should be aware of potential issues from a safety perspective.
A seller might want to do an inspection proactively to show the chimney is in order. The presence of a clean, functional chimney can make a home even more appealing, considering that 40% of home buyers are willing to pay more for a home with a fireplace, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Neither party can "force" the other to pay for a chimney inspection. Essentially, if you want it done, you will have to pay for it.
Is a chimney inspection mandatory when buying or selling a home in certain states?
No. A Level 2 chimney inspection is advised but not required during a home transaction, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
How do I find a reputable chimney inspector?
Your realtor and general home inspector may be able to share names of chimney inspectors with whom they've worked in the past.
Chimney inspectors should be certified by the CSIA. The organization has a tool to help you find chimney inspectors in your area: https://web.csia.org/search.
Recommendations from friends and neighbors can be another good resource. You can ask for input online using a tool like Nextdoor or a Facebook neighborhood group.
The Better Business Bureau and other review sites also offer online resources to look into company ratings and reviews.