By Brionna Farney | Published Sep 7, 2022 11:43 AM
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Fireplaces and heating systems provide essential functions within a home, made possible by the presence of a chimney. Chimneys remove the smoke and chemical by-products caused by burning oil, gas, or wood in a fireplace or furnace. To keep a chimney safe and sound, experts emphasize the importance of a chimney inspection every year before putting a fireplace or heater to use.
So, how much does a chimney inspection cost? According to HomeAdvisor, a chimney inspection costs anywhere from $100 to $5,000, with $450 being the average cost of chimney inspection. How much for a fireplace inspection depends on numerous factors, such as the size of the chimney, the number of flues it has, and whether or not waterproofing is required. Three levels of chimney inspections are available to choose from when homeowners are hiring a chimney inspection service.
How much should a chimney inspection cost? It depends on the level of inspection, chimney size, number of flues, and accessibility of the chimney itself.
How much are chimney inspections? There are three different levels of chimney inspections. The condition of the chimney dictates which level is necessary. A level one inspection costs $100 to $950 and is generally a routine chimney inspection completed on an annual basis. A level two inspection costs between $200 and $1,000 and goes a step further to include a more extensive investigation into potential structural issues caused by recent damage. Finally, a level three inspection costs $500 to $5,000 and looks at every square inch of the chimney, inside and out. This may require removing walls or portions of the chimney to access and inspect each part fully.
The size of a chimney is another factor in the total chimney and fireplace inspection cost. Large chimneys take longer to inspect; therefore, the larger the chimney, the higher the inspection cost. Since the inspector will be looking for cracks and damage, every surface of the chimney structure needs to be examined.
A chimney flue is the chamber or pipe inside the chimney through which the smoke travels. Residential chimneys usually have between one and four flues, with each flue typically serving a separate system, such as a fireplace, wood stove, or HVAC.. The more flues, the longer an inspection will take; therefore, the chimney inspection price depends on the number of flues. For example, a level one chimney inspection might cost between $85 and $250 for one flue, $150 and $550 for two flues, $450 and $750 for three flues, and $550 and $950 for four flues. This increase in pricing based on the number of flues applies to level two and level three inspections as well.
Chimney accessibility also plays a part in answering the question “How much is a fireplace inspection?” If the chimney is easily accessible from an extension ladder, homeowners can expect to pay the inspector’s standard rates, but if the inspector has to scale a steep roof, work within a tight area, or face another difficulty in accessing a chimney, the inspection cost will be slightly higher to reflect this added effort. In some cases, scaffolding or a motorized lift might be necessary to reach a chimney, resulting in increased costs as well.
How much does it cost to have a chimney inspected? In addition to the size and accessibility of the chimney, there are other elements that may affect the cost. For example, if cleaning is needed before the inspection or repairs are needed after, there will likely be additional costs. Waterproofing and camera inspection could also add to the total chimney inspection cost.
In most cases, chimney cleaning costs are included in the cost of a level one and level two inspection. After the cleaning, the surfaces are clear and an accurate investigation can be completed. If a separate chimney cleaning service is necessary, homeowners can expect to pay between $130 and $365. During a cleaning, a chimney professional will shake loose built-up creosote, soot, and other debris from the top of the chimney, and then vacuum them up from the bottom. If excess creosote is present that requires extra cleaning, the total cost of a chimney sweep can reach up to $800.
The cost to have a fireplace inspected is separate from any repair costs. If the inspection report comes back with recommended repairs, they will likely cost anywhere from $90 to $2,000. Common repairs include replacing a chimney cap (which closes off the top of the flue) at about $300 and repairing or installing a new crown (a flat area directly underneath the chimney cap) at about $900. More extensive masonry repair costs around $2,000. If the liner in the chimney flue is worn down, for example, a replacement will cost $2,500 or so. In a worst-case scenario, the inspection might find that a complete chimney rebuild is required, which can cost upwards of $5,000.
Some homeowners opt to waterproof their chimney to protect the brick or stone from water intrusion. As chimneys are exposed to water over a long period of time, the tiny holes inside of bricks or stones can grow and eventually allow water inside. This water will inevitably find its way to the interior chimney flue and cause further damage. Homeowners who want to waterproof their chimney will want to do so right after the chimney has been inspected; otherwise, the waterproofing might cover up structural issues that need to be repaired. Adding waterproofing after the inspection process is complete will increase the overall cost.
Inspectors may recommend a camera inspection to get a better look at the internal chimney stack. While this cost is usually included in a level two inspection, homeowners can expect to pay $200 to $400 for camera inspection in one flue if they are charged separately. Camera inspection of a chimney with four flues can cost up to $1,000. The inspector will share a copy of the chimney inspection video along with the final inspection report.
How much does it cost to have a fireplace inspected? Chimney inspections vary by level of detail from level one to level three. Level one is the least invasive and is a surface-area inspection, while level three requires inspection of every part of the chimney, inside and out. Level two lands right in the middle. The appropriate level of chimney inspection depends on the condition of the chimney.
A level one chimney inspection is a basic inspection that costs between $100 and $950 and is typically completed on an annual basis as part of a home’s safety routine. If a fireplace is used during the winter, a level one annual inspection is recommended in the fall before the chimney is put to use. It’s also recommended after homeowners purchase a new home to make sure the chimney is in good working order. The inspection includes sweeping the entire chimney clean and visually inspecting all visible surfaces. The inspector will look for cracks, excessive creosote buildup, or other signs of wear and tear and recommend any necessary repairs.
Chimney level two inspection cost is typically around $200 for a single-flue chimney and up to $1,000 for multiple flues. A level two inspection is recommended for chimneys that have experienced damage from a fire or storm and may also be recommended by an inspector who finds extensive damage during a level one inspection. A level two inspection starts with a cleaning service to expose any damage. From there, the inspector looks at the top and bottom of the chimney structure to assess the damage. This might require access to the attic, crawl space, or other locations that help the inspector view as much of the chimney as possible. The inspector may also use a camera to view inside the structure for damage.
The most thorough type of chimney inspection is a level three, which usually costs between $500 and $5,000. This inspection is for rare situations when a chimney has experienced extensive structural damage. The inspector may have to remove walls or portions of the chimney to adequately inspect the interior and assess the damage, hence the higher cost range. Once the chimney’s structural issues are identified, they can be fixed along with any drywall or other materials that have been removed.
If a chimney is working as intended or is not used often, completing a chimney inspection might be the last thing on a homeowner’s mind. Forgoing chimney inspections, however, poses a risk to everyone inside a home and the home itself. Any of the following situations indicate that a chimney inspection is warranted.
Noticing a burning odor while using a fireplace or heating system is a sign an inspection is needed. The smell may be due to creosote or other chemicals building up inside the fireplace. These conditions can lead to chimney fires if left unaddressed. A professional will inspect the chimney and find the root cause of the burning smell—a thorough chimney cleaning will likely be recommended.
If a homeowner notices excessive smoke leaving their chimney or fireplace smoke entering their home, it’s recommended they contact a chimney inspector immediately. Excessive smoke is usually a sign of an air ventilation problem but could also be a result of water seeping into the flue or something blocking the flue.
If a fireplace has a sudden change in performance, the system needs to be checked out. Poorly burning fires or fires that won’t start at all indicate an issue with a chimney’s cleanliness or other damage. A professional chimney inspector will test the function of the fireplace and determine the cause of the problem.
Creosote is a carcinogenic byproduct produced by burning wood. When wood is burned in a fireplace, oils in the wood are released in the smoke and build up on the inside of the fireplace in the form of creosote. If the creosote is not regularly cleaned and removed, the buildup can create obstructions in a chimney that could lead to a fire. If the chimney inspector does not remove built-up creosote as part of the inspection, homeowners may consider using one of the best creosote removers or hiring a separate chimney cleaning specialist.
Whether after a storm, earthquake, or another natural disaster, a chimney should always be inspected if it has potentially been damaged. These types of incidents can destroy the structural integrity of a chimney, meaning even if the chimney looks okay and functions well in the present, it could collapse in the future.
Chimney inspections are recommended annually by many experts, including the Chimney Safety Institute of America. An annual chimney inspection reduces the risk of fire and carbon monoxide–related incidents in a home. The inspection will note issues with the chimney that could cause a chimney fire or smoke entrapment, make recommendations such as removing creosote buildup and flue blockages or repairing cracks and damage. Annual chimney inspections are best completed right before winter, when a chimney starts to be used regularly.
A chimney inspection might be required as part of a home purchasing process by the particular state, the home insurance company, or even the home buyer. This type of inspection is usually more thorough than an annual inspection, as any issues must be resolved prior to the execution of the sale or issuance of the certificate of occupancy.
A DIY chimney inspection is not recommended. While a homeowner might take on small tasks associated with their chimney, like cleaning up soot around the firebox or noticing changes in performance, most chimney-related tasks should be reserved for qualified chimney professionals.
There is a lot at stake when it comes to the condition of a chimney and the associated fireplace or heating system. Chimneys that have not been properly maintained pose a serious risk to the household residents. Unkempt or damaged chimneys can create chimney fires or conditions that lead to carbon dioxide inhalation.
For the safety and soundness of their home, it’s recommended that homeowners hire a local chimney inspector near them to examine the condition of their chimney on an annual basis. The inspector will note any issues with cleanliness or damage that need to be addressed in order to keep the home and residents out of harm’s way.
While most aspects of a chimney inspection are best completed by a professional, there are a few things homeowners can do to save money throughout the process.
Before hiring a chimney expert to inspect or clean a chimney, homeowners will want to fully vet the company and completely understand what is included in the process. Asking the inspector the following questions is a good place to start.
Before hiring one of the best chimney cleaners or inspectors, it is important for homeowners to fully understand the inspection process. These frequently asked questions about the cost of chimney inspections and what the inspection involves provide more essential information.
During a chimney inspection, the inspector will examine every accessible part of the chimney, including the attached fireplace or heating system. They will note any buildup of soot or debris, check for structural soundness, and ensure the chimney is safe to use. If a more thorough inspection is necessary, the inspector will also check the internal chimney stack with a camera.
When a chimney needs cleaning, it may exhibit some of the following symptoms:
Contact a chimney inspector if your fireplace exhibits one or more of these issues.
A brief chimney inspection is typically part of a home inspection. This includes a visual assessment of accessible areas of the chimney, from the roof and inside the home, but it does not include an in-depth look of each part of the chimney or inside. For a comprehensive assessment, homeowners may want to consider hiring a professional chimney inspector.
If a chimney isn’t cleaned on an annual basis, soot, ash, and creosote can build up inside the flue. These conditions can lead to a chimney fire or carbon monoxide inhalation. To prevent these undesirable outcomes, it’s recommended that homeowners have their chimneys cleaned and inspected each year.
A chimney should be cleaned once a year. Some professionals recommend twice-a-year cleanings for oil or wood-burning fireplace chimneys. Ideally, homeowners should schedule a chimney professional to clean and inspect their chimney each fall before using the fireplace or heating system.
Homeowners can clean a small portion of a chimney themselves, such as removing the soot around an inactive firebox, but most chimney cleaning is best left to the professionals. A qualified chimney cleaner will have the right tools to clean a chimney from top to bottom and has the experience to remove heavy creosote buildup.
Sources: HomeAdvisor, Fixr
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