What to Expect From a Chimney Inspection

Lydia Schapiro
Written by Lydia Schapiro
Updated May 10, 2022
An American contemporary house with a chimney
Photo: John Henley / Corbis / Getty Images

No, they probably won't tap dance

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Who doesn’t love cozying up by the fire on a cold winter evening? If you live somewhere that gets chilly, an indoor fireplace is a huge help through the cold months. To enjoy this benefit, though, you need to ensure chimney inspections are on your home maintenance checklist

Getting regular chimney inspections—at least once a year—allows you to ensure your chimney is functioning properly and that there are no serious issues. But if you’ve never gotten a chimney inspection before, it can seem a little daunting. Luckily, this quick primer will help demystify the process and get you well on your way to nights with hot cocoa by the fire. 

Chimney Inspection Levels

During a chimney inspection, the inspector will look for damage, abnormalities, and hazards–this may be a damaged flue system, exterior damage, or cap and camper damage. 

Chimney inspectors typically offer three levels of inspection, and your inspector will determine the level based on your chimney condition and whether your home has undergone any major changes, incidents, or weather events. The standard for chimney inspections is a level one, but certain factors may qualify you for a higher level.

Level One

If your chimney is in good condition, you haven’t had issues in your fireplace, and you haven't changed your venting system, you’ll probably have a level one chimney inspection, which is the most basic type. Your inspector will examine and check the accessible components of the chimney to ensure the structure is intact and each part is functioning properly. 

The readily accessible chimney parts usually include the fireplace, firebox, damper, flue opening, and exterior parts sticking out from the roof. In addition, the inspector will confirm there are no obstructions or combustion deposits. 

Level Two

During a level two chimney inspection, your inspector will check the same accessible parts of your chimney as in level one, but they will also likely examine the attic, roof, crawl space, and basement to ensure nothing is damaged.

You’ll usually have a level two inspection if you’ve made changes to your chimney—this might be a change in fuel type, change to the shape of or material of flue, or purchasing a new liner. Your inspector will examine all internal surfaces and joints of flue liners with a camera.

Typically, you’ll be required to have a level two inspection if you’re selling your home or after an operation malfunction. Additionally, accidents such as hurricanes/bad storms, building fires, or chimney fires warrant a level two inspection. 

Level Three

If your chimney has a suspected hazard and your inspector can’t access concealed components–such as the chimney crown and interior chimney wall–you’re looking at a level three inspection. Your inspector will use special tools to access these hidden parts and ensure manufacturing is sound. Sometimes this requires rebuilding or removing certain parts, which often increases the total cost depending on the job’s complexity.

Chimney Inspection Costs

A chimney inspector sitting on chimney
Photo: Inga / Adobe Stock

The cost of a chimney inspection depends on the level of inspection and your chimney size. Below are some typical costs for chimney inspections. 

  • Level 1: $80–$200

  • Level 2: $100–500

  • Level 3: $1,000–$5,000

Chimney Inspection vs. Chimney Sweep

Chimney sweeping and chimney inspections are both vital to the health and safety of your home and both should be done annually. Chimney sweeping is a cleaning that involves removing all the soot, debris, and other buildup that you’ve accrued over a year of burning fires. A chimney inspection is just what it sounds like—a check of all your chimney’s important components that ensures it’s up to snuff.

If it sounds like the two go hand in hand it’s because they often do: A chimney sweeping service will often include a standard inspection. If you know you’re interested in getting both done at once, be sure to ask your chimney sweeping company before they visit.

How to Prepare For a Chimney Inspection

You can do a few things to prepare for a chimney inspection to make the whole process go as smoothly as possible. If you have any major questions or concerns beforehand, you can always contact your local chimney inspection pro and get answers quickly.

You’ll want to move all furniture at least a few feet away from the chimney and cover it with either plastic or a drop cloth. In addition, move away rugs and tapestries and anything delicate from your mantle. 

Before a chimney inspection, the chimney must be cooled for at least 24 hours, so don’t make a fire during this period. 

If your door will be locked, ensure you’re home when the inspector(s) come so you can let them in and show them where to go. If you have easily frightened pets (or some who might be a little too curious), make sure you have a contained area for them during the inspection. 

When your chimney inspector hands you the bill, they’ll probably also give you a chimney inspection report—this will help you understand your chimney’s condition and any problems. Your inspector may also suggest you schedule your future chimney inspection since lots of companies book up in advance.

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