The difference between a chimney sweep and chimney inspection is slight but crucial. Cleaning removes the deposits that have built up over time. Inspections are professional examinations of the installation, condition, and structure of your chimney.  A professional chimney sweep in Washington DC always includes a basic inspection as part of the chimney cleaning.  Chimney sweeps and inspections are both essential to maintaining the safety of your home.

chimney after inspection

How Often Should A Chimney Be Inspected?

According to the National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 (NFPA211), all fireplaces, chimneys, and vents should be inspected annually to make sure they are safe to use. That means they have no cracks or leaks, no deposits, and are clear of hazards. If the fireplace, chimney, or vent heavily used, it should be monitored more closely because heavy use is naturally going to create more potential for buildup of soot and creosote.  All fireplaces must be cleaned every year including gas fireplaces.  A cleaning will reveal whether or not a more enhanced inspection is required.

chimney cleaned in Washington DC

What Happens During Inspections?

Inspections should be done by a chimney sweep professional who is qualified, certified, and familiar with your local codes. They should protect your home with drop cloths in their work area and document what they are doing.  Afterwards, you should have a detailed report and an estimate of any needed repairs.

There are three different levels of chimney inspection

  • A Level One Inspection is verification of structural soundness and readiness for the use of the chimney.  Cleaning should always include a level one inspection.  The chimney tech should look for warning signs.
  • A Level Two Inspection is commonly part of a real estate transaction.  Most home inspectors do not have the skills or tools to inspect a chimney and fireplace properly.  As a result, the buyer will hire a licensed chimney company to check the chimney.  Level 2 inspections are also done when the homeowner is installing a new home heating appliance or changing the type of fuel.  A level 2 inspection should include everything in Level One plus inspection of accessible areas.  There should be a video scan of the flue system.
  • A Level Three Inspection are required when something has been observed to indicate a need to go into concealed areas. The inspector has to go behind the walls surrounding the chimney and flue to check for damage and hazardous conditions. If this level of inspection is recommended, it is dangerous to ignore the advice.

chimney after level 3 inspection

What Happens During Chimney Cleaning?

  • A professional chimney sweep will leave your home cleaner and safer than it was before.
  • Since cleaning out soot and creosote is a messy job, they will use drop cloths in the work area to protect your home.
  • All deposits and debris are removed from the flue system with tools designed for the task.  The whole mess is removed from your home.
  • A level one inspection is completed. If minor repairs can be done during the visit and you give permission, there is usually a discount for work done during the visit. Otherwise, an estimate of the repairs that will be needed will be given to you.
  • The crew cleans up after themselves, and all that remains is a fireplace or stove in good working order.

Do I Need Both Inspections and Cleanings?

All chimneys should have a chimney sweep including a level one inspection every year.  The sweep will determine if a higher level of inspection is needed.  Following the advice of your chimney repair technician is essential.   Complete any suggested repairs so that you and your family can be safe and warm.  Annual chimney sweeps help prevent costly repairs.

7 Replies to “The difference between a chimney sweep & inspection”

  1. You mention that a chimney should be cleaned and inspected annually. Is there a possibility of having both of them done at the same time? I don’t think that my chimney has had either service done since I moved into the home, so it is about time that it happens. I would like it if I didn’t have to schedule two different appointments.

  2. I’ve been using my chimney a lot, so I want to make sure that I take care of it. It makes sense that I would want to get a professional to inspect it for me every once in a while! That seems like a good way to ensure that it continues to work properly.

  3. Thanks for pointing out that chimneys should be inspected annually so they aren’t hazardous to your health. My wife and I are moving to an older home that has a working fireplace. Because we want to stay safe as we use it, we’ll be sure to find a chimney service near us to clean it out!

  4. It’s great that you touched on how the home will be much safer after the chimney is repaired and cleaned. My sister is buying a new house this year that has an old chimney above the fireplace. She wants to use the fireplace this winter, so it’s important to get it fixed up.

  5. As you mentioned, a chimney sweep will come and clean out the chimney, and make sure there isn’t a mess left behind. You also mentioned that it is important to have the chimney cleaned and have a level 1 inspection done every year. We just purchased a home, and there isn’t any record on when the chimney was last cleaned and inspected. Would it be a good idea to have it done this year just to be on the safe side?

  6. It’s a good point that a professional is able to leave your home much safer than it otherwise would be. My spouse and I are going to buy a new home that has a big chimney on it. We need to clean it out this summer so that it’s ready to be used in the winter.

  7. It’s great that you elaborated on how professional chimney sweepers can fix anything wrong with your chimney while still leaving the place clean. Having a chimney is great, but sometimes the maintenance can get a little frustrating especially if you’re short on time while preparing for the holidays. To make sure our chimney is safe and clean enough to operate, I’ll look for a chimney sweep service right away.

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