Photograph of a damaged masonry chimney. Chimney Inspection Checklist
15 Most Frequently Found Chimney Defects
     


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Chimney inspection checklists:

This article provides a checklist of the most common chimney defects found during a home inspection. We include links to two additional detailed chimney inspection checklists for outdoors and indoors. Three other detailed chimney inspection checklists for outside inspection, inside inspection & flue interior inspections are listed at the top of this article.

These articles on chimneys and chimney safety provide detailed suggestions describing how to perform a thorough visual inspection of chimneys for safety and other defects. Chimney inspection methods and chimney repair methods are also discussed.

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Chimney Inspection Checklist of 15 Most Common Chimney Defects

Photograph of a damaged unsafe brick chimney in an attic.

This chimney inspection checklist is a companion to our detailed photo guide to chimney inspections & problem diagnosis found at CHIMNEY INSPECTION GUIDE.

Watch out: no checklist is ever a complete guide to building inspection or diagnosis since no checklist can contain every possible hazard or every clue that suggests a problem.

Therefore do not rely on this or any checklist to assure that your inspection of a chimney is complete.

Instead, use this list to suggest additional topics that you otherwise may have omitted from your inspection.

The more detailed chimney inspection and repair articles at the links at page-left and below suggest further, more-detailed chimney inspection points and procedures.

 

Contact Us by email to suggest changes, corrections, or additions to this material.


15 Frequent Chimney Defects, Problems, Unsafe Conditions

© Copyright 2015 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.

Item # Chimney Defect, Concern, Hazard Comment / More Detail

Building ID & Location: __________________________________________

Date & Time: _________________________________________________

Inspector: ____________________________________________________

1 Chimney cap and crown defects: missing chimney cap, damaged chimney crown or top seal, leaks into the chimney leading to rust damage on metal flues or frost and water damage to masonry flues, leading to an unsafe chimney. CHIMNEY CAP & CROWN
CHIMNEY SHROUD, Decorative
CHIMNEY CHASE CONSTRUCTION
2 Creosote or heavy soot in chimneys: a possible chimney fire hazard, especially at wood-burning fireplaces or woodstove flues CHIMNEY FLUE INSPECTION CAMERA
3 Chimney thimble ports abandoned or hidden, covered-over by drywall, wallpaper, or a simple metal "pie-plate" enclosure - a fire and flue gas leakage hazard.

ABANDONED CHIMNEYS

4 Cleaning: chimney has not been cleaned for a protracted time; risks are greater for oil-fired equipment and for fireplaces & woodstoves. CHIMNEY CLEANING PROCEDURE
CHIMNEY CLEANING FRAUD
5 Damaged, blocked, or unsafe chimney flues: a damaged chimney flue risks leaking dangerous combustion gases into the building or risks sparks which could start a building fire. Movement and cracks in a masonry chimney, rusted metal flues, unlined single-brick wythe flues, water leaks through chimneys, frost damaged chimney clay flue tiles, missing or open chimney cleanouts, dead-end flues, are examples.

Look for conditions likely to rust a metal flue; look for conditions likely to cause cracking, breaking, or spalling of clay flue liners. Look for improperly constructed clay-tile lined masonry chimneys leaving concrete between joints that prevents thorough chimney clearing, or causing leaks and frost damage to the chimney flue or chimney structure.
CHIMNEY INSPECTION, FLUE INTERIOR
6 Dead end flues - a chimney that is entered by a flue vent from a heating appliance, woodstove, or similar device right into the very bottom of the chimney flue. Common in older homes, such flues are easily blocked by falling debris - an unsafe condition. DEAD END CHIMNEY FLUE HAZARDS
7 Fireplace inserts for wood or coal installed into an existing masonry flue without chimney inspection and if needed, re-lining. FIREPLACE INSERTS
8 Inspection: chimney has not been inspected for safety or cleanliness for some protracted interval  
9 Missing chimney cleanout doors, open cleanout doors: a fire hazard as well as a cause of improper, unsafe heating appliance operation CHIMNEY CLEANOUT DOOR
10

Movement in chimneys, especially masonry chimneys: a dangerous condition, movement can cause hidden cracks and breaks that make a chimney unsafe, risking flue gas leakage into the interior or causing a building fire.

CHIMNEY LEANING, SEPARATION, MOVEMENT
CHIMNEY COLLAPSE Risks, Repairs
CHIMNEY CRACK DIAGNOSIS

11

Orphaned gas-fired water heaters not venting into any chimney, or a gas-fired water heater venting alone into a large masonry flue. The water heater may never develop sufficient heat in the old masonry flue to establish a working draft - flue gases spill backwards into the building, an unsafe condition.

COMBUSTION GASES & PARTICLE HAZARDS
12 Rusted or damaged chimney or fireplace components: rusted, damaged, inoperative or missing fireplace dampers. Examples include a damper that has rusted through, a metal damper enclosure in the chimney throat rusted through, a metal fireplace insert rusted out at the chimney base. FIREPLACE INSERTS
FIREPLACE INSPECTIONS
FLUE TILE DAMAGE in CHIMNEY
13 Unlined chimney flues in single-brick wythe chimneys of older homes - a fire and flue gas leakage hazard

UNLINED FLUE INSPECTIONS

14

Un-sealed flue-vent connectors at chimney thimbles: metal flues not sealed in the thimble, missing thimble, risking flue gas leaks or sparks; common at woodstove and heating system metal flue connections into a masonry chimney.

FLUE VENT CONNECTORS - Boilers, Furnaces
15 Unsafe fire clearances between metal flues or other types of chimneys and nearby combustibles. CHIMNEY HEIGHT & CLEARANCE CODE
FLUE SEPARATION REQUIREMENTS

PYROLYSIS EXPLAINED
     

Notes:

Inspection checklist warning: This chimney inspection checklist is a companion to our detailed photo guide to chimney inspections found at CHIMNEY INSPECTION GUIDE.

No checklist is ever a complete guide to building inspection or diagnosis since no checklist can contain every possible hazard or every clue that suggests a problem. Therefore do not rely on this or any checklist to assure that your inspection of a chimney is complete. Instead, use this list to suggest additional topics that you otherwise may have omitted from your inspection. The more detailed chimney inspection and repair articles at the links at Related Links and the citations below below suggest further, more-detailed chimney inspection points and procedures.

Adapted from chimney inspection safety sources including these documents cited at REFERENCES

  • [3] Wood Heating Alliance, "Building Inspector's Checklist for Factory Built Fireplaces" [PDF]
  • [4] Baird, David J., C.B.O., "Factory-built Chimney Chase Fires: A case for More Detailed Inspection", Building Standards, March-April 1991, pp. 14-17.
  • [5] Purdie, Roger K., "Chimney Fire Safety Bulletin", Vista Fire Protection District, 2001, report of house fire related to the home's metal chimney. Contains advice for chimney * fire safety & sketches of approved and not-code-approved metal chimney tops, caps & crowns. [PDF]
  • [12] Fire Inspector Guidebook, [BOOK] A Correlation of Fire Safety Requirements Contained in the 1987 BOCA National Codes, (newer edition available), Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA), Country Club HIlls, IL 60478 312-799-2300 4th ed. Note: this document is reissued every four years. Be sure to obtain the latest edition.
  • [15] "Top Ten Chimney (and related) Problems Encountered by One Chimney Sweep," Hudson Valley ASHI education seminar, 3 January 2000, contributed by Bob Hansen, ASHI
  • [16] Chimney Inspection Checklist, Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, Ontario
  • [18] "Chimneys and Vents," Mark J. Reinmiller, P.E., ASHI Technical Journal, Vol. 1 No. 2 July 1991 p. 34-38.
  • [19] "Chimney Inspection Procedures & Codes," Donald V. Cohen was to be published in the first volume of the 1994 ASHI Technical Journal by D. Friedman, then editor/publisher of that publication. The production of the ASHI Technical Journal and future editions was cancelled by ASHI President Patrick Porzio. Some of the content of Mr. Cohen's original submission has been included in this more complete chimney inspection article: InspectAPedia.com/chimneys/Chimney_Inspection_Repair.php. Copies of earlier editions of the ASHI Technical Journal are available from ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors.
  • [20] "Chimney Inspection Procedures & Codes," Donald V. Cohen, draft, was to be published in the first volume of the 1994 ASHI Technical Journal by D. Friedman
  • [25] Chimney Inspection Checklist, Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, Ontario
  • [26] Chimney & Stack Inspection Guidelines, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2003

 

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