A fire is a lovely, cozy, and picturesque way to enjoy your chilly winter nights, in addition to heating your home. Gathering around an indoor fireplace provides everyone in your home with a central place to spend time together — just try to resist sinking into a comfy chair once that fire gets crackling! However, fireplaces do require regular maintenance to remain the winter staple you’re used to.
Read along to find out why you need regular fireplace inspections, the potential hazards, and what cost you can expect from a licensed fireplace inspector.
Do I Need A Fireplace Inspection?
A fireplace inspection is an assessment of the condition and safety of your fireplace. A fireplace inspector will look at the inside of your chimney and fireplace, checking for any structural issues, obstructions, damage, or chemical buildup. It’s important to note that a chimney sweep and a fireplace inspector are not the same things. These titles are frequently used interchangeably, but a chimney sweep is someone you hire to clean your chimney to keep it free of creosote buildup and other debris. In contrast, a fireplace inspector is licensed and trained to look for conditions and safety issues. A fireplace inspector may sweep your chimney if they need to do so in order to see more detail, but it is not their primary job as it is for a chimney sweep.
The main issues that a fireplace inspector looks for fall into four main categories:
- Creosote Buildup – Creosote is a compound that results from wood that isn’t fully burned. It’s light and gets blown up into your chimney on heatwaves and smoke from your fire and stays there until it’s removed. Creosote is one of the leading causes of chimney fires and can also cause numerous health issues ranging from skin irritation to the risk of cancer.
- Chimney Cap Problems – Your chimney cap is essential for your fireplace system. It helps keep out the weather, birds, rodents and other creatures looking for a place to nest. Even a slight compromise in the integrity of your chimney cap can cause issues.
- Chimney Birds – There is a bird so known for nesting in chimneys that we named them “chimney swifts.” Normally nesting in unused chimneys or moving in over the summer months, their nests pose a considerable risk of chimney fires. They bring in all sorts of combustible materials like dry sticks, twigs, pieces of paper and yarn, essentially all things that could cause problems when you have your first fire.
- Gaps and Cracks – As your hearth and firebox settle with age, there is the potential that the mortar used to seal your chimney can crack, or the actual structure can shift. Cracks allow moisture and critters to get into your chimney, making you vulnerable to fires and even a possible chimney collapse. While hairline and superficial cracks often go ignored, you should have any crack fixed quickly.
What Does A Fireplace Inspection Cost?
A fireplace inspection done by a licensed professional has a wide range of prices. There are three levels of inspections ranging from $100 for a simple Level 1 inspection to $5,000 for a detailed Level 3 inspection, typically only done if the fireplace has undergone severe structural damage.
There are price ranges within each level, as well. That variation is based on the size of your fireplace, the number of flues, and how frequently your fireplace is used. Ensure that anyone you hire to inspect your fireplace is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Do I Need A Gas Fireplace Inspection?
Gas fireplaces have certain benefits that their wood-burning siblings lack. Mainly, they burn cleaner and are easier to clean and maintain than a traditional wood-burning fireplace. Not to mention saving money and the effort it takes to keep stocked up on wood.
There is a risk of carbon monoxide leaks with gas fireplaces like all gas appliances. This is the main thing that an inspection of a gas fireplace focuses on. It’s essential to have your gas fireplace inspected once a year. Even if you don’t use it heavily, this is a critical element of home maintenance that can’t be overlooked or forgotten. Carbon monoxide poisoning from a gas leak has flu-like symptoms and can easily be fatal once the gas reaches a certain level.
Keeping your gas fireplace the safe and cozy part of your home should mean that yearly inspections are a must, as is having carbon monoxide detectors close to your gas fireplace and any other gas appliances.
Fireplaces are the epitome of winter coziness and provide the perfect place to gather with friends and family. Keeping your fireplace in tip-top shape is an easy home maintenance task to add to your yearly routine, ensuring your fireplace stays a warm and cozy mainstay of your home.