Sometimes just running a camera is not enough. That’s why the National Fire Protection Association requires a more comprehensive assessment under very specific conditions:
15.4.1—A Level 2 inspection shall be conducted under the following circumstances:
- Upon addition or removal of one or more connected appliances or upon replacement of an appliance with one or more of dissimilar type, input rating, or efficiency, unless the last connected appliance is removed and chimney use will be discontinued
- Prior to relining of a flue or replacement of flue lining
- Upon sale or transfer of the property
- After a building or chimney fire, weather or seismic event, or other incident likely to have caused damage to the chimney
A Level 2 Chimney Inspection includes the additional inspection of the basement/crawlspace and attic for issues related to structural integrity, damage from water entry, and clearances to combustibles. Drafting calculations related to the size of the fireplace opening and the shape and dimensions of the flue tiles are also performed.
Sometimes the evidence we uncover during a Level 1 Inspection behooves a more thorough examination of the system. For example, severe external cracking on the outside of the chimney would indicate that the structure is moving. In such instances we frequently recommend upgrading to a Level 2 Inspection because viewing the footing and foundation is prudent in assessing the structural integrity of the chimney.
Like a physical prior to a surgery, a Level 2 Inspection is required before a major repair or alteration. Many clients wonder why scanning the chimney flue is necessary when they have already decided to have a direct vent gas insert installed. Wouldn’t the installation of aluminum venting for the gas hearth appliance resolve issues such as cracked flue tiles?
Cracked tiles and even unlined flues can be present with a direct vent gas insert because it will have its own liner pipe. But there are things that the scan will reveal. Though rare in some cases, if we scan every time, we’ll catch them when they come up. Here are some examples:
1. Creosote migration outside of the clay flue liner. If there are voids in the clay liner section joints, or large gaps or even unlined areas, creosote can migrate outside the clay liner. These deposits are not corrected by a sweep or even the new liner. The clay liner must be removed and any creosote within the masonry chase must also be removed prior to the installation of a direct vent gas insert. Creosote migration is a fairly common occurrence.
2. Foreign objects visible in the flue. These include gas lines, electrical wiring, plumbing pipe and expanding foam insulation— to name a few. A liner doesn’t fix any of these defects.
3. Wood and combustibles. I have scanned flues and found unlined areas where framing is exposed. One might find tiles resting on top of combustibles or wood shims between tiles.
4. Thimbles and breeches. Older homes may have these on upper floors or on the back side of the fireplace. These are openings where other appliances were once connected and removed long ago. In one old Victorian home we found a loose pie plate in a cupboard covering an abandoned flue in the upstairs kitchen! We have seen these thimbles not sealed at all, partially sealed, sealed with combustibles, you name it.
These are just a few examples. Not only will a new gas insert not fix these issues, but, if installed in haste without following the national requirements for proper inspection, these are examples where the installation could actually cause a problem. Imagine the liner for a direct vent gas insert touching a piece of wood exposed in the flue!
Although sometimes rare, one does encounter such deficiencies in the field. And if a service provider were omit such steps and defects go unaddressed, there could be a major loss that nobody wants.
The NFPA requirement for Level 2 Inspections upon the sale of property is an important bulwark against the lack of public awareness regarding fireplace safety. Unfortunately many new homeowners going to light their first fire are unknowingly operating fireplaces that are potentially hazardous to use. Realtors with their clients best interests in mind are correct in following national requirements for Level 2 Inspections. If you’d like to learn more about what that entails, click the button below to schedule an appointment.