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Chimney Inspections - Safe for Santa?

Updated: Dec 20, 2023


Chimneys and vent pipes are an important part of the safety system for your home or business. These devices remove the products of combustion from solid fuel or fossil fuel appliances and devices in use.

Improper maintenance can lead to accumulation of deposits that can be highly combustible and reduce the efficiency of the ventilation allowing introduction of flue gases, including carbon monoxide into the structure. You should inspect your chimney and vent pipes as part of normal preventative building maintenance.


When to inspect?

NFPA 221 The Standard for Chimney, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances recommends an annual inspection. There are three levels of inspection activity that can be done.

Inspection Levels

  • Level 1 – Inspect the readily accessible areas of the chimney. Look for evidence of obstructions or combustible deposits in the flue. Check that appliances connected are properly installed and connected to the vent.  If you burn sold fuel equipment, the Level 1 inspection may reveal the need for cleaning.

  • Level 2 – All of the above and add evaluation of proper construction and condition of accessible areas of the flue. Check for proper clearance to combustibles for accessible areas and verify proper sizing of the flue for connected appliances.

  • Level 3 – Inspect all of the above and include concealed spaces for inspection.


Degree of access required

  • Level 1 - requires visual inspection of immediately accessible areas.

  • Level 2 - may require video scanning of the flu and connections to verify condition.

  • Level 3 - may require opening the structure to gain access to the chimney and to verify proper clearance.


How to choose the appropriate level?

  • Level 1 - is appropriate to verify suitability of the chimney for continued service with the same connected appliances and devices. There have been no changes in the equipment or venting system. Routine cleaning can be part of the Level 1 inspection.

  • Level 2 - is indicated if you have changed appliance or devices that would require additional venting capacity. This is also needed when any damage has been reported, or if you are a new owner of an existing property.

  • Level 3 - is indicated if the chimney is in need or repairs or must be renewed to make operations safe.


Who can do this inspection?

The inspector should be “qualified” to do this work. This means training and experience in the type of chimney or flue involved. Professional chimney sweeps are available for cleaning and inspection work. For vents for non-solid fuel burning equipment, your HVAC contractor may be able to do the needed inspections as part of their routine preventative maintenance work.


Carbon Monoxide Detection - Part of your Safety System

In any building that uses fossil fuels or solid fuels there is a need for carbon monoxide detection. Carbon monoxide is a by product of combustion. It is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. It bonds to the oxygen in your system, preventing that oxygen from being used by your body. Low level exposure symptoms can mimic a cold or allergies. Headaches, coughing and a general feeling of illness are common.


You should have a UL listed carbon monoxide detector near any fuel burning device. Consider adding additional carbon monoxide detectors to your sleeping areas. UL Listed devices are designed to alert to higher concentrations of carbon monoxide that persist over a period of time that could cause illness.


There are other detectors that can alert you to lower levels of carbon monoxide. These can be beneficial if anyone in the household has underlying medical conditions that would be aggravated by carbon monoxide exposure.


Emergency Plan for Carbon Monoxide

If the detectors activate, have a plan. The plan should provide for an immediate evacuation, a head count to verify all are accounted for and call 911 for the emergency services to investigate. Since carbon monoxide gas is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, there is no substitute for a thorough investigation using carbon monoxide specific test equipment. The emergency services may also request the utility company that provides gas service to respond to the investigation.


The Driehaus Difference

No insurance product can replace the need for safety related inspections, maintenance, and planning. We encourage our clients to recognize hazards and take appropriate actions to protect themselves. Our series of Insight articles have covered a range of hazards and their potential controls. We offer this advice to help you avoid the need to consider if there is applicable insurance.  If you have questions or need insurance or risk management advice, call us at 513-977-6860 or contact us via our website at www.driehausins.com

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