Indoor Chimney Inspection Checklist
35 common defects found on chimneys by inspection indoors
CHIMNEY INSPECTION INDOORS - CONTENTS: Photo guide to chimney defects on building Interiors, attics, living space, basements, crawl spaces & utility areas that contain chimney components. Home inspector responsibilities during building chimney inspections. Limits of view in chimney flues, external signs of serious internal or hidden problems. Critical chimney life safety or fire defects. How to inspect building chimneys from indoors. CHIMNEY INDOOR INSPECTION POINTS - 34 indoor chimney inspection points
Here is a chimney inspection checklist built from multiple contributors. Contact Us if you have corrections or additions for this chimney inspection checklist.
Watch out: no checklist can be complete, and you should never rely only on a checklist to perform a building inspection.
A checklist is useful to help avoid forgetting certain key steps, but it is always possible that other defects are present that are not on your checklist. Readers of this outdoor chimney inspection checklist should be sure to review the illustrated chimney defect and inspection procedures at CHIMNEY INSPECTION INDOORS.
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.
We list these observations in a order (not the only possible order) that might be followed by a visual inspection beginning outdoors and continuing indoors throughout the building, basement to attic, and including appliances or devices that vent through a chimney.
Responsibility of an Home Inspectors Regarding Chimney Inspections
The ASHI Standards and most other home inspection standards (CREIA TAREI FABI etc) require reporting on the exterior condition of a
chimney, the cap, the flue, the roof flashings and the vent connectors from the
Some indoor clues (photo at left) might indicate such serious safety hazards (blocked flue, carbon monoxide poisoning) as to deserve immediate professional attention and appropriate warnings to building occupants.
This basic visual inspection can be expanded to provide a more complete
understanding of the components with concurrent recommendations to the client
for the necessary repairs.
The chimney inspectionlinks listed at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article provide an encyclopedia of chimney functional and safety defects.
A starting-point indoor check list for a chimney inspection
includes the following items:
Chimney Cap & top seal - if missing, leaky, or damaged, you may have spotted this from outside; inside you may see leak stains and brown or black bleed-through marks on the chimney, or bubbled, damaged plaster or drywall covering the chimney
Chimney construction on excessive angle (more than 30 deg) (typically viewed inside an attic)
Chimney cleanout door missing, ajar, not closed, not openable
Chimney cleanout door close to combustibles
Chimney flue - view is normally limited unless using professional chimscan type equipment, but views into the chimney from barometric dampers, draft regulators, or cleanouts can indicate chimney damage (such as pieces of chimney liner) or blockage (debris).
Roof Flashings & leaks around chimneys (very common): inspect inside for leak stains may on chimney sides or on ceilings or even interior walls near an outside wall chimney; also look for leak stains inside fireplaces & in or on heating appliances or their flue vent connectors
Chimney materials in attic with careful attention to movement, cracks, leaks, stains, gas and fire hazards
Chimney materials & condition in basement with careful attention to movement, cracks, leaks, gas and fire hazards
Chimney not continuous through roof (metal flues, fire-rated roof passage thimble)
Chimney passages through intermediate building floors: leak stains, indications of prior and improperly sealed chimney openings, fire clearance issues - abandoned vent closures such as where a woodstove or coal stove was previously connected to the flue
Multiple appliances vented into single flue: too many, inadequate draft, back-drafting, CO hazards, operating defects
Chimney flue vent connector has improper slope (wrong direction)
Chimney flue vent connector is too long
Chimney flue vent connector enters a dead end flue
Flue vent connector not sealed at point of entry into chimney
Flue vent connector or thimble extending too far into chimney interior (disassembly or inspection through draft regulator may be required)
Clearance to combustibles especially at flue vent connectors and with metal chimneys
Chimney flue conditions: mirror view inside flue when possible, via openings listed above
Dead end flue, high risk of blockage
Inspect heating systems for evidence of inadequate combustion air such as soot on or around gas-fired equipment (photo above) (WARNING: this is a very dangerous sign and merits immediate attention to avoid potentially fatal carbon monoxide poisoning).
Also see BOILER OPERATING PROBLEMS and also FLUE SIZE SPECIFICATIONS (undersized flue means backpressure or inadequate draft, but an over-sized flue can spell draft problems too, especially with gas-fired equipment).
Combustible clearances inadequate - between metal or other flues and nearby combustibles;
Fire stopping missing or inadequate (often not visible)
Metal flue not rated for application - wrong flue type
Metal flue sections loose
Metal flue sections connected in wrong order (water leaks)
Chimney & Fireplace Labels: all parts of a factory-built fireplace or chimney system (except in some jursidictions locally-made covers) must bear labels identifying the parts as listed for use with the fireplace model installed in the building. Examples of labeling issues and even counterfeit labels are at CHIMNEY SHROUD, Decorative
Chimney & Fireplace Installation: all parts of a factory-built chimney must be installed according to instructions provided by the manufacturer and no parts can be damaged to an extent that would impair the function of that part.
Appropriate repairs are recommended based upon the items presented in
this article series. The inspector has to be very careful about how he/she states the
reason for the recommendation since home inspectors are seldom code authorities or
trades people and do not want to open the door to a liability action if an improper
or delayed repair is made. But failure to state a reason for a needed repair risks that the building owner, occupant, buyer may fail to recognize an unsafe condition.
Continue reading at CHIMNEY SHROUDS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Questions & answers or comments about procedures for the inspection of chimneys for unsafe conditions, damage, or structural problems. .
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Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Home Inspection Education Home Study Courses - ASHI@Home Training 10-course program. Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Home Reference Book, a reference & inspection report product for building owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Home Reference eBook, an electronic version for PCs, the iPad, iPhone, & Android smart phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter inspectaehrb in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones.
Thanks to Luke Barnes for suggesting that we add text regarding the hazards of shared chimney flues. USMA - Sept. 2008.
Arlene Puentes, an ASHI member and a licensed home inspector in Kingston, NY, and has served on ASHI national committees as well as HVASHI Chapter President. Ms. Puentes can be contacted at email@example.com
Roger Hankeyis principal of Hankey and Brown home inspectors, Eden Prairie, MN, technical review by Roger Hankey, prior chairman, Standards Committee, American Society of Home Inspectors - ASHI. 952 829-0044 - hankeyandbrown.com
NFPA #211-3.1 1988 -
Specific to chimneys, fireplaces, vents and solid fuel burning appliances.
NFPA # 54-7.1 1992 -
Specific to venting of equipment with fan-assisted combustion systems.
Gas Appliance Manufacturers' Association has prepared venting tables for
Category I draft hood equipped central furnaces as well as fan-assisted
combustion system central furnaces.
National Fuel Gas Code, an American National Standard, 4th ed. 1988 (newer edition is available) Secretariats, American Gas Association (AGA), 1515 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA22209, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Batterymarch Park, Quincy MA 02269. ANSI Z223.1-1988 - NFPA 54-1988. WARNING: be sure to check clearances and other safety guidelines in the latest edition of these standards.
Fire Inspector Guidebook, 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.
Uniform Mechanical Code - UMC 1991, Sec 913 (a.) Masonry Chimneys,
refers to Chapters 23, 29, and 37 of the Building Code.
New York 1984 Uniform Fire
Prevention and Building Code, Article 10, Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Requirements
New York 1979 Uniform Fire Prevention & Building Code, The "requirement" for 8" of solid masonry OR for use of a
flue liner was listed in the One and Two Family Dwelling Code for New
York, in 1979, in Chapter 9, Chimneys and Fireplaces, New York 1979
Building and Fire Prevention Code:
"Top Ten Chimney (and related) Problems Encountered by One Chimney Sweep," Hudson Valley ASHI education seminar, 3 January 2000, contributed by Bob Hansen, ASHI
"Rooftop View Turns to Darkness," Martine Costello, Josh Kovner, New Haven Register, 12 May 1992 p. 11: Catherine Murphy was sunning on a building roof when a chimney collapsed; she fell into and was trapped inside the chimney until rescued by emergency workers.
"Chimneys and Vents," Mark J. Reinmiller, P.E., ASHI Technical Journal, Vol. 1 No. 2 July 1991 p. 34-38.
"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.
Natural Gas Weekly Update: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/ngw/ngupdate.asp Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government
US Energy Administration: Electrical Energy Costs http://www.eia.doe.gov/fuelelectric.html
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Ceramic Roofware, Hans Van Lemmen, Shire Library, 2008, ISBN-13: 978-0747805694 - Brick chimneys, chimney-pots and roof and ridge tiles have been a feature of the roofs of a wide range of buildings since the late Middle Ages. In the first instance this ceramic roofware was functional - to make the roof weatherproof and to provide an outlet for smoke - but it could also be very decorative.
The practical and ornamental aspects of ceramic roofware can still be seen throughout Britain, particularly on buildings of the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Not only do these often have ornate chimneys and roof tiles but they may also feature ornamental sculptures or highly decorative gable ends. This book charts the history of ceramic roofware from the Middle Ages to the present day, highlighting both practical and decorative applications, and giving information about manufacturers and on the styles and techniques of production and decoration.
Hans van Lemmen is an established author on the history of tiles and has lectured on the subject in Britain and elsewhere. He is founder member and presently publications editor of the British Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society. Also available at the InspectAPedia Bookstore.
Chimney & Stack Inspection Guidelines, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2003 - These guidelines address the inspection of chimneys and stacks. Each guideline assists owners in determining what level of inspection is appropriate to a particular chimney and provides common criteria so that all parties involved have a clear understanding of the scope of the inspection and the end product required. Each chimney or stack is a unique structure, subject to both aggressive operating and natural environments, and degradation over time. Such degradation may be managed via a prudent inspection program followed by maintenance work on any equipment or structure determined to be in need of attention. Sample inspection report specifications, sample field inspection data forms, and an example of a developed plan of a concrete chimney are included in the guidelines. This book provides a valuable guidance tool for chimney and stack inspections and also offers a set of references for these particular inspections.