Inspection: A thorough chimney inspection should include a survey of both the interior and exterior of the entire chimney system. It should examine both the functional and structural features of the system. You should always have an inspection performed when you are buying a home or moving into a new property, installing/replacing a gas appliance (this goes for masonry and metal chimney's), at the beginning of each heating season. Most importantly if you every see sooting on the face of the fireplace, you should discontinue use until an inspection has been performed.
There are 3 Levels of Inspection:
Level 1 - The most common type of inspection. The chimney readily accessible portions of the chimney are examined (i.e. the firebox, smoke chamber, damper, visible portions of the flue, and the entire exterior). This type of inspection can very easily identify whether a system has deterioration, appliances are installed properly or if there is a blockage. A Level 1 inspection observes everything possible without the removal of doors or panels (Caps and stoves will be removed to access the flue)
Level 2- Includes all aspects of Level 1, plus examining the less accessible areas. Attics and crawl spaces adjacent to the chimney shall be accessed to review all areas of the chimney with-in. Verification of proper clearances in such areas shall be observed. All areas of the chimney that can be observed without permanent removal of or damage to the chimney or its surroundings. A camera shall be used to thoroughly examine the flue.
Level 3 - Level 3 Inspections have very rare applications. It requires access to the chimney and its components, through any means necessary. Access holes in ceilings, walls, floors or the exterior of the chimney are not uncommon. The goal is to certify every portion of the chimney is observed. This is usually only necessary after earthquakes, severe storms, lightning strike or chimney fire.
A chimney flue sweep is the most traditional (we like to joke that it's the second oldest profession) and common way of keeping your wood burning system safe after every heating season. It removes any creosote that has being left in the flue from burning. Sweeping the flue annually, or for frequent burners more, prevents the formation of dangerous second and third degrees creosote, which is highly flammable. It is essential in keeping the chimney operating in a safe manner and helps to avoid costly repairs caused by neglect. We recommend your flue be swept in the spring or summer to remove creosote once your flue is no longer in service for the heating portion of the year.