For Chimney Inspections, We’re Montgomery County’s Trusted Team
When the winds begin to shift and the leaves begin their annual waltz, there are few things more comforting than curling up in front of a nice warm fire, right in your living room. However, as with many of life’s other greatest joys, maintaining a healthy, usable fire-burning appliance – whether fireplace or stove – requires a certain level of responsibility.
Just like you can’t expect a car to run without gas and regular oil changes, you can’t expect your chimney and fireplace to function optimally without regular professional care. Proper fireplace and chimney ownership requires annual inspections to ensure your system is suitable for use when those colder months come rolling in.
Fortunately, for homeowners in the Montgomery County area, Mid-Valley Chimney Repair and Sweeps is a mere phone call away. With nearly 20 years of industry experience, we are Southwest Ohio’s premier chimney repair and service company. From your firebox to your flue liner, our team is professionally certified to address all of your venting questions and concerns – including preventive maintenance, like leak repairs and chimney inspections.
Book right here online or by calling 513-727-0994 today.
What Is a Chimney Inspection & Why Do I Need One?
Just like it sounds, a chimney inspection is a thorough analysis of your chimney system – and all its parts – to make sure everything is in proper working order. With three different levels (which we’ll get into a bit later), these services are meant to locate any troublesome areas that require repair, replacement, or restoration. Inspections are both an overview and a diagnostic exam that serve to keep you, the homeowner, up to date about the overall health of your entire system.
However, chimney inspections are not to be confused with general chimney cleanings (or, as the industry calls them, “sweepings”). They’re similar, certainly, but they are not the same service. In a chimney sweeping, one of our certified technicians will sweep out the system – flue, firebox, smoke chamber, etc. – to ensure it is clear of all soot, creosote buildup, and other debris or rubble that might be causing your chimney to function inefficiently.
Rest assured, regardless of what your chimney system needs, Mid-Valley Chimney Repair and Sweeps is the place to call. We’d love to work with you.
How Often Should You Check Your Chimney?
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), homeowners should have their chimney professionally inspected and swept at least once every year before the burning season is underway. Why? Well, this ensures that before you begin to use your system regularly and rely on its heat production throughout the chillier months, you won’t have any safety or functionality issues that prohibit you from doing so safely.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also periodically check on the various components of your system yourself just so that you’re aware of anything that seems off or abnormal. What kinds of things should you keep an eye out for?
- Strange odors coming from your firebox
- Any signs of water leaks, like dripping inside the flue
- Gas logs having trouble igniting or staying lit
- Downdraft issues or smoke billowing back into your living space
- Excessive soot or creosote buildup accumulating on the inside of the firebox
In general, if you notice anything out of the ordinary – whether it’s an odor or an inefficiency – it’s best to call a professional out to give it a look. No matter what the problem is (or isn’t), operating a chimney system that is not performing properly can introduce a host of dangers.
How Often Do I Need To Book an Inspection?
Both the CSIA and the NFPA recommend yearly chimney inspections to help prevent fire hazards and carbon monoxide poisoning. While eliminating the risk of these entirely isn’t possible, inspections are the most effective way to drastically reduce it.
Other than that, you’ll also want to schedule an inspection if:
- you’ve made a change to your system (replacing the liner, changing fuel types, etc.)
- you’re having unusual problems with the fireplace or chimney
- you’re experiencing poor performance or inefficiency
- you’ve had a chimney fire
- you’ve experienced a hazardous weather event
- you’re buying or selling a home
- you’ve recently renovated or remodeled
How Often Does a Chimney Really Need To Be Cleaned?
Ok, so a chimney should be checked annually, but does it really need to be cleaned annually, too? Even if you don’t use it?
Yes, and yes. It’s actually quite common that people think they do not need to clean their chimneys/fireplace systems because they never use them, but this is, unfortunately, not the case. Even in instances where chimneys are not frequently (or ever) used, there is still damage that can occur to the system and pose dangers to not only your chimney system, but also your home and family.
In terms of frequency of sweepings, this mainly just depends on both the system and your operational habits of it. If you’re using your fireplace nearly all day everyday in those long, cold, Ohio winter hours, your system will naturally accumulate more soot, dust, creosote, and overall grime than a system used only for a few hours once or twice a week.
The important thing here is just to maintain an awareness of your chimney/fireplace (as well as schedule annual chimney sweepings), so that you know how it looks when it’s “clean” and when maybe it’s time to schedule a cleaning/sweeping with a professional.
Are There Different Types of Chimney Inspections? Is There a Checklist?
Yes, there are! Well, technically, it’s more of a difference in levels, depending on the circumstances. In terms of a checklist, it’s a bit more convoluted only because the different types of inspection all build upon the other.
All that said, there are certain components and procedures that are standard in every chimney inspection. While each professional chimney service company is different, every chimney inspection should include – in some way, shape, or form – the following:
- Check the flashing to verify that all seams are properly sealed and that there are no uncovered areas that could allow for water permeation. Depending on what we find, we might also check the attic or ceilings near the fireplace for signs of water damage.
- Inspect the chimney cap and make sure it is properly installed atop the flue. Over time, it is common for the metal to corrode and rust, and if there are any signs of damage, it’s important to replace it right away.
- See that the crown is properly protecting the chimney. We see it all the time… incorrectly installed crowns made of leftover mortar instead of the cement or concrete mixture it’s supposed to be made of. Our experts can rebuild it right. Or, if you have a metal chase cover, we’ll check to make sure nothing has rusted or shifted.
- Verify the strength and soundness of your bricks and mortar. Brick may be sturdy, but it is not indestructible. Over time, especially if it hasn’t been properly waterproofed or serviced in a few years, it’s possible that the bricks and mortar could be deteriorating and/or spalling, ultimately leading to inefficient operation of the entire system.
- Investigate for signs of animals in or around your cap/crown area. All too frequently, animals find a dormant dark place to build a family or retire and it’s much better (for both parties) that they are rescued and relocated before using your fireplace.
- Ensure that the flue liner has no cracks, holes, or any other signs of damage. With the liner being one of the most crucial elements in the whole chimney system operation, it’s important to check for buildup and signs of general deterioration. The extent of this part of the inspection is determined by what kind of inspection it is – level 1, 2, or 3.
- Check to see that the damper is functioning how it should, so that the system is both venting properly and has the ability to be closed when the system is not in use.
- Inspect the firebox, mantel, and other surrounding area to ensure that bricks and all other elements – especially those that are in direct contact with flames – aren’t damaged.
Remember that a basic chimney inspection checklist is just that – a basic outline for this common service. If you have specific concerns or questions about any part or piece of your chimney system, tell your technician! That way they can be sure to address that area and tell you what they see.
Questions? Call the Mid-Valley team at 513-727-0994 or reach out online today.
What Are the Levels of Chimney Inspections?
If you’re wondering about levels of inspections and which one you should schedule when, here is a quick snapshot of what each inspection type entails and the circumstances that require them.
Level 1 Chimney Inspection
This is the type of inspection most of our customers will need. It’s done when the chimney/venting system is easily accessible, hasn’t faced any recent remodels or renovations, and when the homeowner is planning to enjoy their unit as usual in the upcoming burning season. We’ll verify that your system is looking structurally sound and that the chimney is free of obstructions and combustible deposits, like creosote.
Level 2 Chimney Inspection
Level 2 inspections are required after the addition of a new home heating appliance, after a change in fuel type, upon the sale or transfer of a property, or after an operating malfunction or external event (like a tornado, flood, lightning strike, etc.) has occurred that may have caused damage to the chimney. These will include everything in a level I inspection, plus the inspection of accessible portions of the attic, basement, and any crawl spaces. You’ll also receive a video inspection and possibly a performance test such as a smoke test or a pressure test.
Level 3 Chimney Inspection
When a level 1 or level 2 inspection suggests a hidden hazard in a normally concealed area, a level 3 inspection is recommended. During these, parts of the home walls or chimney may be removed or demolished to gain access to the potentially affected areas.
Still have questions? Concerns? Reach out to someone from our team, and we’d be happy to help walk you through which inspection best suits your current needs. You can schedule online through our website or by calling 513-727-0994.
What Are the Parts That Make Up My Chimney? Why Is It Important for Me To Know Them?
In order to properly care for your chimney, it is a good practice to familiarize yourself with all the components that work together to create a fully functional chimney system. We tend to care for things a bit better – or at least pay more attention to them – when we understand what they are and how they work.
While there are slight variations across different types, models, and modes of fuel, for the most part, all chimney systems contain the following:
- Chimney Cap: Starting at the very top of the system, the chimney cap is usually constructed of a corrosion-resistant metal that both protects the flue from water damage, animal intrusion, and other debris, while also allowing for ventilation.
- Crown/Chase Cover: Right below the cap, the chimney crown is the cement/concrete-like shelf that acts as a barrier between the chimney and the outside. Similarly, a chase cover is traditionally found on prefab models, made of varying metals, and sits atop the entire top of the chimney chase, providing both protection from intrusion and allowing the flue to properly ventilate.
- Flashing: Located between the base of your chimney and your roof, the flashing is made of metal and seals off the small joints between chimney and roof, protecting both your system and the house itself from water damage and leaks.
- Chimney/Flue Liner: The innermost cavity of your chimney system, the flue is the space via which the smoke, exhaust, and other byproducts exit from. A chimney or flue liner refers to the material lining the inside of the chimney. Usually constructed of terra cotta clay or different types of metal, flue liners come in different shapes and sizes to accommodate each system and provide appropriate ventilation dimensions.
- Smoke Chamber: Continuing down into the system, the smoke chamber is the area found between the flue and the firebox. Shaped like an upside down pyramid, the smoke chamber is where the smoke collects and mixes before ultimately rising into the flue.
- Damper: This is the device that is used to seal off the flue when the chimney is not in use. Usually, it is a manual mechanism that sits on the edge of the smoke shelf and is controlled by a lever found in the top of the firebox. Top-sealing dampers, sealing near the top of the chimney, are also an option.
- Smoke Shelf: A small ledge found right above the firebox, the smoke shelf helps to direct the exhaust to collect in the smoke chamber before rising into the flue.
- Firebox: Finally, the part homeowners with a chimney are already familiar with – the firebox. This is where your fire lives, breathes, and eventually dies. As the element of your chimney that has the most direct contact with the heat and the flames, it’s imperative that the materials that make up your firebox are flame-resistant and strong enough to withstand the heat created by combustion.
Simply knowing how your chimney system is structured and which parts do what can be helpful if you ever notice that something appears to be off. While we never recommend you to troubleshoot or diagnose chimney issues yourself, having a basic understanding can only benefit you and your chimney care maintenance.
Do you have questions about the functionality of the different parts of your system? Generally confused about how your chimney works? If you live in or near Montgomery County, contact the team here at Mid-Valley Chimney Repair & Sweeps. We’d love to help you out. You can reach us through our website or by calling 513-727-0994.
How Do I Know if My Chimney Is Safe To Use?
While there are some obvious signs of damage that signal using the system is dangerous, like excessive smoke production, intense soot and creosote buildup, and visible cracks anywhere in the masonry or firebox, issues might not always be so clear. In many instances, much of what can go wrong with a chimney is found deep within the walls of the system.
The best and most reliable way to know whether or not your chimney is safe to use is to have it appropriately inspected by a professional in a timely manner. To learn more about Mid-Valley, our team, and our services, give us a call at 513-727-0994. Learn why homeowners throughout Cincinnati, Dayton, and the surrounding areas prefer Mid-Valley for all their chimney and venting repairs, maintenance, and services.
Is a Chimney Sweep Worth It?
We’re sure you can imagine our answer to this question… but yes, hiring a certified chimney technician is absolutely worth it. Not only do they get in there and take care of all the dirt, grime, and nastiness found in the deepest and darkest parts of your chimney system, but they also can identify problematic – or potentially problematic – areas. Deceptively complicated, chimneys are dangerous structures that have a lot of parts at play, so it’s always best to trust a professional technician when it comes to all things chimney.
Besides, finding and working with a professional chimney service company, such as ours, will save you time and money in the future because we’ll be sure to get the job done right the first time. That way, you don’t have to worry about any malfunctions or major repair costs down the line.
Can You DIY a Chimney Inspection?
Technically? Well, sure. But, should you? Absolutely not.
It should really go without saying, but a structure meant to contain and vent a fire inside of your home, is safety-critical and thus requires expertise to ensure that it is set up and running properly and according to code. For this reason, it is never recommended that you attempt to inspect your chimney yourself – even if you’re a self-made professional according to the articles and YouTube videos you’ve ingested. Save yourself the trouble and give us a call.
Book Your Annual Chimney Inspection with Mid-Valley Today
If you’re ready to get your inspection booked, give us a call. It’s always going to be better to spot damages well before they become big problems that put your home and family in danger (and cost a fortune to fix). Most don’t schedule this maintenance until fall, but we’re happy to get it done in spring or summer, so you’re not fighting for a convenient spot. So, get on our books today, so that you don’t have to settle for a mediocre service from a lower-rated company.
Get ahead of the game and reach out online or give us a call at 513-727-0994 to get started. For all chimney services in and around Southwest Ohio, there is simply no one better than Mid-Valley Chimney Repair & Sweeps. We look forward to serving you.