First, we will evaluate the outside portion of your fireplace to see if there is any visible damage to the chimney and the roof. This will be noted on an inspection report, as will any other findings. The height of your chimney will be measured to ensure it is the minimum distance from the roof penetration, this is necessary for proper draft, and to ensure it is up to local codes. Next is the chimney cap and/or spark arrestor, this is checked for any rust or damage as it is vital for keeping out rain and wildlife that could otherwise enter your chimney. If found to be damaged or rusted out it will need to be replaced.
If you own a masonry chimney the crown will be checked for cracks or damage, or if it is a prefab the chase cover will be inspected for rust or damage. The crown or chase cover is one of the major defenses your chimney has from rain and keeps it from leaking. Replacement of the chase cover or adding mortar to the top of the crown may be required if it has become unusable. Next the brick work and mortar are checked for cracks, missing mortar or loose bricks, if you have a chase this too is inspected for any damage, cracks or breaks. After that the flashing will be inspected for bad or missing sealant, as it seals the chimney to the roof and should have a good watertight seal.
The flue liner is then checked for cracks, stability and support. If the flue or flue liner is damaged or rusted this will have to be replaced or relined. Finally, a moisture resistance check is done on the chimney.
At this point they move to the inside to continue the inspection. The first thing that is inspected inside is the smoke chamber and smoke shelf to be sure they have a nice smooth finish for the smoke to glide upwards on if it is not it will have to be parged to ensure a good updraft, some prefab units do not have a smoke chamber and therefore will not be listed on a report.. Inspecting the damper is next, the damper is what controls air flow if it is damaged, warped or rusty it will need to be repaired if possible or replaced. If it is not functioning properly it may prevent a proper up draft or allow cold air to blow inside your home when not in use.
The firebox and grate is then checked for rust and missing rivets on the firebox and the grates are checked to make sure it is in serviceable condition. The ash container or ash dump is checked and then the inside of the firebox, on a prefab unit the refractories are checked for cracks or breaks. Cracks or breaks will allow fire and smoke to penetrate into the areas outside of the unit such as walls and beams and can catch them on fire. These make up the floor, back and sides of your fireplace and are made of either masonry, ceramic or metal plates. On a Masonry fireplace there is the profile mortar joint, this is the joint between the firebox and the veneer into the living space. If you have an attic and a way to get to it, it will be inspected for clearance and insulation. And that is what is checked on a level one inspection, a level two inspection is all of the above as well as all portions accessible without damage to the structure they may require special tools, access to the basement or any crawl spaces or attics.. A level three inspection is all of the above plus all portions of the chimney and fireplace including those that may require destructive action to the building around the chimney and fireplace. These are usually done after a chimney fire, or during a major structural event such as remodeling or mold removal. No matter what your inspection reveals it is best to get the suggested work done as soon as possible to prevent more costly damage from occurring. And as always be sure to hire a professional chimney sweep that is licensed and insured.