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Chimney Inspections: NFPA 211 Chimney Safety Standards

Post by : dminCMC


Before January, 2000 were done at the discretion of chimney sweeps who were not required to follow any specific policy or guidelines. This created a cause and effect situation in which many chimneys were left uninspected, or poorly checked, when they were actually in a serious state of disrepair. The end result was a high number of undetected chimney safety issues and subsequent chimney fires. In response to public and political pressure for new safety measures, the National Fire Protection Association developed a new inspection standard for chimneys, fireplaces, vents, and solid fuel burning appliances (i.e., coal, wood and pellets) which was adopted on January 13, 2000 as code NFPA 211.

NFPA 211 has effectively taken discretion out of the equation by defining three levels of inspection service that a certified chimney sweep will provide. Whether a Level 1, 2 or 3 inspection should be made is determined in each case depending on the type and condition of the fireplace and heating appliances, their frequency of use, the chimney system in place, appliance connections to the venting system, and other specific factors. The following information explains what each inspection level involves and the services the chimney sweep should perform for each level.

Level 1: This is the minimum required inspection performed when there have been no changes or modifications to your fireplace, heating appliances or chimney and you intend to continually use the system in the same way as you’ve always done. For example, if you aren’t planning to convert your wood burning fireplace to a pellet stove insert or change from an oil furnace to a natural gas furnace, then a Level 1 chimney system inspection would be recommended.

During a Level 1 inspection the chimney sweep will evaluate the readily accessible inside and outside areas of the chimney as well as the accessible parts of the fireplace and heating appliance and the connections to the chimney. The sweep will inspect the structural integrity of the fireplace, chimney and flue liner and check that all heating appliances are installed and connected properly to assure safe operation and venting. He or she will confirm whether there are any combustibles in the flue such as animal nests, debris and creosote deposits and clean the chimney accordingly if there are.

Level 2: This chimney inspection is more involved than a Level 1 and it is necessary whenever changes are planned or have been made to any part of the system. Examples of such changes would be an insert installation into a fireplace or the replacement of an old boiler with a new, high efficiency unit. A Level 2 inspection is also required if:

  • The property is being sold or transferred to a new owner.
  • The house or chimney footing has settled over time causing noticeable cracks or other damage to the chimney masonry.
  • There has been a chimney fire, a partial house fire, a weather event, etc. which could have damaged the chimney.

In the course of a Level 2 inspection the accessible parts of the chimney and the surrounding structure i.e., attic, roof, crawl spaces and basements, will be checked thoroughly for soundness and building code compliance. While access to certain parts of the chimney, the building and heating appliances will require the use of small tools, Level 2 does not involve any permanent removal or destruction of any part of the chimney, wall finishes or building structure to complete the inspection. This is primarily a visual inspection of the outside and inside of the chimney system which will include the use of a video camera to examine the clay or metal flue liner and brick fire shelf of masonry chimneys or interior structures of prefabricated chimney systems.

Level 3: A Level 3 inspection is required when either a Level 1 or 2 inspection raises valid suspicions that inaccessible or hidden parts of the chimney system or nearby walls are concealing a fire hazard or out of code installation. In order to gain access to specific hidden areas that are the subject of a Level 3 inspection it may be required to remove or destroy some of sections of the chimney, building structure or nearby finished walls. This inspection level is the most expensive to have done and will usually require costly post-inspection repairs to the chimney and surrounding area.

The purpose of NFPA 211 is to help assure the safety of your family and to protect your property from a serious fire hazard. The takeaway from this post is that you should have your chimney and heating appliance systems professionally cleaned with a minimum of a Level 1 inspection on an annual basis. If you are buying a home with a chimney you should be sure the house has passed a required Level 2 inspection of the system before closing. And, if you are changing or adding appliances to an existing chimney, you will want to have a Level 2 inspection to assure the system will be able to safely vent all smoke and toxic gases produced by the appliances.


Creative Masonry and Chimney has the certified technicians to clean your system and perform NFPA 211 inspections. Call us today at 860-225-9178 or 860-675-9178 for your chimney sweep and inspection service.