Cleaning the combustible creosote from the chimney is important, but probably even more important is the subsequent inspection to try to detect the presence of potential hazards, defects, or deterioration that may pose a threat to your family and property!
Because it is such an important part of what a chimney sweep does, before hiring a company to clean your chimney, you should concern yourself with two questions:
A “typical” Inspection?
In the past, it was difficult for the consumer to distinguish exactly what an “Inspection” did and did not include. For years, even within the chimney industry, opinions and policies varied widely from one company to another on the exact parameters that a typical inspection should and should not cover. Having your chimney inspected by different chimney sweeping companies was like a box of chocolates…. You never knew what you were gonna get!
In response, the National Fire protection Association (NFPA) has helped set industry standards in this regard. Inspections come in many forms and you should be aware that not all inspections are alike. At A to Z, we follow the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommended inspection procedures, and as such, you know precisely the parameters of your inspection. Because we feel so strongly that an educated customer is a customer for life, we are one of the few companies in the Sacramento Area which adhere to these strict guidelines and procedures and give you the choice as to which inspection you desire to be performed on your home.
NFPA divides the inspection procedure into three categories, or levels. The circumstances which give rise to the inspection determine what level of inspection is to be conducted.
A Level I inspection is the most basic level of inspection while Level II and Level III inspections are progressively more detailed and comprehensive. A Level I inspection is completed during each chimney cleaning, or sweeping.
A Level I inspection is the recommended level when an evaluation of the chimney system for continued service is needed and the conditions of use are not changing. This could include:
A Level I inspection is limited to “readily accessible” portions of the venting system, and “readily accessible” portions of the connected appliance(s) and the chimney connection. “Readily Accessible” is defined as all areas exposed for inspection without the need for any tools. The inspector will check the readily accessible portions of the chimney, its enclosing structure, and the flue. A Level I inspection includes verification that the flue is not blocked or significantly restricted.
A Level II inspection is more detailed and thorough than a Level I inspection and is the recommended inspection when conditions of use for the appliance or venting system are changing, or when a Level I inspection reveals the need for a more detailed inspection. Several instances where a Level II inspection is specifically recommended include:
A Level II inspection includes all of the requirements of a Level I inspection as well as the following:
While the Level II inspection is a rather thorough inspection and requires access to many areas of the building, it does not require removal of permanent parts of the building, such as siding, drywall, chase covers or wall coverings.
A Level III inspection is the most detailed of all of the inspection types and includes inspection of concealed areas of the building. However, examination of concealed areas will be limited to areas reasonably suspected of containing hazards that cannot be evaluated otherwise.
A Level III inspection includes all areas covered in a Level I and Level II inspection, and inspection of concealed areas to investigate known or suspected problems. In as much as certain portions of a Level III inspection require destructive action to the building, the inspector will discuss these areas with the building owner prior to the inspection.
An example of a level III inspection would be if one of A to Z’s technicians noted smoke stains above your fireplace in the upper corner between where your wall and ceiling meet. Such smoke stains would suggest that 2X4 wood framing within he walls had reached a point of smoldering. Obviously, the drywall will need to be removed in order to inspect that otherwise inaccessible portion of your chimney.
NFPA recommends that all chimneys, fireplaces and vents be inspected annually. In addition to this requirement, there are other times when chimney and venting systems should be inspected, such as:
A video scan is where we use a camera system, which is lowered into the chimney (or pushed up from the bottom) to inspect the interior surfaces of the chimney’s flue to determine whether any potential safety hazards are present. The camera allows us to inspect the chimney from a range of just a few inches instead of just looking from the top or bottom with a flashlight like most sweeping companies. The camera image is viewed on a TV monitor (set up on the fireplace hearth) by the inspector, and oftentimes by the homeowner as well.
At no additional cost to the customer, A to Z includes Video inspections whenever we sweep a chimney serving an open face fireplace or an unlined/partially lined insert stove. Video inspections are often recommended after a chimney fire or some other form of damage to a chimney, and are a routine part of a Level II or Level III inspection, but is also included with all of our level I inspections as a part of our standard cleaning / inspection services.
To put it simply, Video Scanning your chimney after cleaning is not simply a nice luxury, but an absolute necessity! Hiring someone to inspect your chimney who only uses a flashlight is like using the services of a doctor who does not have an X-ray machine! Would you trust the opinion of a doctor who shines a flashlight down your throat to see if you have a cracked rib? Of course not! Shining a flashlight down a flue to spot potentially dangerous cracks or gaps in your chimney is just as impossible!
Why hire a chimney sweep who only uses a flashlight to inspect for hazardous conditions? Without reservation, we proclaim that simply using a flashlight is not an adequate means of inspecting the flue!!
When inspecting a flue with a flashlight from the top or bottom, Protruding Mortar Joints, Offset Flue Tiles, Acute Angles, and Sheer Distances make it impossible to Detect Most Potential Hazards in the Chimney’s Flue!
By hiring A to Z, should there be any conditions that need attention, our Chim Scan camera will record a digital picture of the situation. These pictures allow the homeowner to get a second opinion, and/or file a claim with an insurance company if necessary. In addition, the camera gives the customer peace of mind knowing that they don't have to take a stranger's word for it if something is wrong because seeing.
A to Z Chimney Sweeping scans every open-faced fireplace flue at no additional charge! It's included in the cleaning absolutely FREE! If keeping your family and home fire safe is truly important, make sure your chimney is swept and video inspected by a CSIA Certified Sweep from A to Z!
You should be aware that even the most thorough inspection may not reveal all problems. Some areas of a chimney simply are not accessible due to construction of the house. Be sure to discuss any specific concerns with your sweep. The recommended inspection technique will often be based on your comments and concerns.
This works similar to a visit to your doctor. Your doctor probably doesn't do an EKG and take a full set of X-rays during every visit. However, if you tell the doctor you have chest pains he will perform the tests related to that problem.