Fireplaces are the centerpiece of most homes. They are where families gather around for the holidays, where you relax after a tough day, and where you’ve hosted many game nights with friends. They also tend to be the most neglected area of the home. All home appliances need a little attention and care sometimes, and your fireplace and chimney are no exception.
Luckily for homeowners in the greater Houston area, Lords Chimney is here to keep your chimney working in peak condition. We offer a full slate of chimney services from sweepings to leak repairs. Set up your annual chimney inspection with us now by calling 281-497-4000 or by scheduling online.
What Is a Chimney Inspection?
How do you know if your chimney is in working condition? The truth is, you don’t really know just by looking at it. A chimney can appear perfectly fine to the untrained eye, but there could be all sorts of issues brewing beneath the brick. That’s why it’s important to have a professional from Lords Chimney take a deeper look at the exterior and interior of your chimney to make sure all of its parts are in prime shape for efficiency and your household’s safety.
An inspection isn’t just about finding problems after they’ve become budget-busters. Damage doesn’t happen overnight (unless, of course, there’s a sudden weather event or a chimney fire). Most issues start out small and are far more cost-effective if they’re caught early on. A chimney inspection gives you the chance to be proactive about the overall health of your chimney.
What Happens During a Chimney Inspection by a Lords Chimney Technician?
All of our chimney inspectors will be in full uniform and present you with a business card and photo ID. Protective footwear will be worn to protect your flooring. The technician will then do the following:
- Conduct a visual inspection of the inside portion of your fireplace.
- Go up on your roof and complete a visual inspection of the portion of your chimney above the roof.
- Put down durable floor coverings in front of your fireplace to keep your household protected.
- Inspect your chimney using video scanning equipment that displays pictures of your flue on an LCD screen. These images are used to determine if cracks or voids exist and if a cleaning is needed.
- If needed, sweep the firebox, damper, smoke shelf, smoke chamber, flue, and gas logs.
- Provide a written report describing the condition of the chimney and show you pictures of any potential problems discovered in the system.
- Clean up all work areas, leaving your home as if we were never there in the first place.
Are There Different Types of Chimney Inspections?
There are three levels of chimney inspections. So, which one do you need? That depends on what’s going on with your chimney. If you just want it checked out and there’s been no evidence of a problem, you need a Level One inspection. A Level Two or Level Three inspection is recommended if you’re planning to put your home on the market or if you’ve experienced an event like a chimney fire.
Level One Inspection
Based on a visual inspection, our chimney professional will give you a written condition report. We inspect the readily accessible areas of your chimney in the living area and at the exterior of your home, including the firebox, damper, and smoke chamber. Outside, we check to make sure the chimney cap meets code and does not restrict the draft. We also check for structural soundness and look for any evidence of deterioration.
Level Two Inspection
It is recommended that this inspection be done before beginning modifications to your chimney or stove heating system, during a change in property ownership, or after a chimney fire or natural disaster. We use a special camera system to look inside your chimney and complete a comprehensive visual inspection. A detailed written report then outlines any areas of concern.
Level Three Inspection
A Level Three inspection includes all the items in a Level One and Level Two inspection, as well as the possible removal of portions of the chimney or the surrounding wall. A chimney has several concealed areas. Whether it is the internal metal flue pipe or the unexposed brick of a masonry structure, sometimes it may be necessary to remove parts of your chimney to inspect the area in question. This inspection is only needed if something is found in a Level One or Two Inspection that cannot otherwise be properly evaluated or addressed. (This seems like a lot, but no worries – less than one percent of the chimneys we encounter require a Level Three Inspection.)
An Overview of Your Chimney’s Anatomy
Now, chimneys are a lot more complex than you think. They seem like simple structures, but they rely on a handful of parts that have to be in good order for your chimney to function as well as it should. Learning about the chimney system may help you understand why inspections are so important.
- Masonry: Masonry is another way of describing the bricks and mortar that make up the exterior of your chimney. During an inspection, we’ll check for signs of deterioration. This can include spalling bricks, cracks in the mortar, missing bricks, and signs of water damage.
- Chimney Cap: A chimney cap is a metal component with mesh siding that sits on the crown and covers the opening of your chimney stopping water, debris, and animals from getting into your chimney. A cap can get damaged over time or be blown off during a bad storm – and if your cap is compromised, it can’t protect your chimney as it’s intended to.
- Chimney Crown: The crown is a concrete or stone slab at the top of the chimney. It overhangs the sides of the chimney to shield the brick and mortar from water by redirecting it away from the chimney. Tiny cracks can form in the crown as it ages, but they can be filled to prevent water entry. If there are too many cracks or if they’re too large, you may need to replace (or rebuild) the crown entirely.
- Chase Cover: Chase covers are found in prefabricated and factory-built chimneys. They are similar to crowns in that they prevent animals, debris, and water from entering the chimney chase. Unlike crowns, they are usually some sort of metal – like stainless steel or aluminum.
- Flashing: There is an area where your chimney and roof meet that is difficult to seal which then makes it vulnerable to water entry. Flashing is a series of metal pieces strategically layered over this area to prevent water from pooling which can cause chimney leaks. Flashing can get dented and warp due to weather, making it less effective.
- Smoke Chamber: The smoke chamber is above the firebox and below the flue. It’s shaped like an upside-down funnel, and it’s the area where smoke mixes so that it can move into the chimney without causing backdraft.
- Flue Liner: Also called a chimney liner, a flue liner is a flexible tube that extends the length of the chimney and connects it to the firebox or stove. Not all chimneys have a flue liner, particularly in older homes, which makes using the fireplace extremely dangerous. If your system isn’t lined, stop using the fireplace and call us out right away.
- Damper: A chimney damper is a piece of metal used to control the airflow and draft within a chimney. It is typically located either near the top of the chimney or the throat, depending on the model, and it can be opened or closed to adjust the amount of air that enters and exits the chimney.
- Firebox: This is the part of the fireplace you see the most because it’s the part that houses the fire. This is where you’d put wood or install gas logs, and it should be made from a material like firebrick that can withstand intense heat. Firebrick is stronger than red (or common) brick, but can still crack and require repairs over time.
Who Can Inspect a Chimney?
This is a bit of a trick question. The chimney industry isn’t federally regulated and there are no laws in place that prevent anyone from starting up a chimney service company. So, technically, anyone could inspect your chimney. (Not the most comforting thought, huh?)
The better question is who should inspect your chimney? For the most thorough and accurate results, you should bring in a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
CSIA-certified chimney sweeps have the knowledge and expertise to correctly identify problems, whether it’s in its beginning stage or has evolved into a serious issue. The technicians at Lords Chimney had to go through intensive training and pass a comprehensive exam to earn our certifications, so you can trust us with every step of your chimney care.
In addition, the Lords Chimney team has 20 years of experience inspecting, sweeping, and repairing chimneys throughout Houston and Beaumont, and we are proud members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG).
Our expertise doesn’t end with simply receiving our certifications, though. We believe that chimney professionals should continuously update their knowledge and stay informed on industry trends. When a Lords Chimney sweep comes into your home, you can rest assured that your chimney is in capable hands.
Can I do my own inspection?
As we mentioned above, only a CSIA-certified technician should be brought in for chimney inspections.
Without the necessary experience, you could miss things a professional won’t. The team at Lords Chimney is highly trained – we know exactly what to look for, where to find it, and what to do if something is wrong. Chimneys may look straightforward, but potential problems could become dangerous and expensive if they’re not found in time. Let a professional inspect your chimney so you can go to bed worry-free. Call and schedule with us today.
How Often Should I Get My Chimney Inspected?
The CSIA and the NCSG recommend at least one inspection per year for chimneys that are used regularly. Just like you would head to your doctor for an annual checkup, an annual inspection lets us form a baseline of your chimney’s state, so that we can monitor it over time.
Can your chimney really change that much over a year? It absolutely can. Let’s say your chimney damper has started to rust, but it wasn’t like that during the previous inspection. This suggests there’s a new issue that’s allowing water to get into your chimney. We’ll take a close look at the chimney crown, cap, and flashing which are the usual weak spots for water entry.
If you use your chimney quite often, think about scheduling more inspections during the year. Creosote, a sticky black residue that cakes up the sides of your chimney, is an unavoidable result of burning a wood fire. It’s highly combustible and burning more fires can cause creosote to build up quicker. Creosote buildup that’s reached as little as an eighth of an inch can dramatically increase the risk of a chimney fire, according to the CSIA.
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When Should I Have My Chimney Inspected?
Typically, the best time to schedule a chimney inspection is in the spring or summer before the burning season kicks off. We want to address any repairs before you start using your fireplace during the cooler months or you could put your chimney at risk for more damage that can be more expensive to fix.
In addition, it’s harder to lock in an appointment the longer you wait. Fall is the busiest time of year for chimney sweeps because a lot of homeowners will wait until then to schedule an inspection. By scheduling in the spring or summer, you’re giving yourself flexibility to get an appointment that best fits within your schedule and you’re getting ahead of the crowd if you need to schedule any follow-up repair work. If we find an issue during an inspection in the fall, it may take us some time to get back around to you because we’re booked up at that point. The last thing we want is for you to have to wait to use your fireplace.
Common Problems Found During a Chimney Inspection
A chimney inspection can be an adventure. For instance, sometimes we go in not expecting much just to be greeted by a family of stubborn raccoons who don’t want to be evicted.
What are the most common things we come across during inspections?
A chimney leak usually leaves evidence once it’s gone on long enough. Notice any of the following? You might have a water problem.
- Is there a musty odor coming from your fireplace?
- Is vegetation forming on sections of your chimney?
- Are the metal parts of your chimney rusting?
- Noticing wood rot or wall/ceiling stains?
These are all signs of a leak which most homeowners don’t find out about until it’s gotten really bad. During an inspection, we can find where the leak is coming from and resolve it.
Chimney Masonry Damage
Masonry damage is unsightly and can lower the value and curb appeal of your home. At its worst, bricks can fall off your chimney and become safety hazards to you and your neighbors. An inspection allows us to spot brick damage before it gets to this point. Cracking and chipping are early signs that something is off.
Damaged Flue Liners
Flue liners can crack because they’re subjected to extreme temperatures. And a split or cracked liner could leave parts of your home vulnerable to fire and carbon monoxide exposure. If your liner is damaged, there are several options to repair it. Lords Chimney offers HeatShield® and stainless steel liners. Let’s figure out what’s best for you.
Cracks in the Chimney Crown or Cap
The crown and the cap are the most exposed parts of your chimney so they’re at the mercy of elements. Your crown and cap are the first lines of defense against water so it’s pivotal that they are sound and intact. We’ll look for any signs of damage, rusting, cracks, or water-related issues – all of which we’re equipped to address.
Woodland creatures are for Disney movies, not for your chimney. If we come across any uninvited guests during an inspection, we can remove them for you. Then, after the fact, we’ll get a sturdy cap installed, so you don’t have to worry about this issue recurring in the future.
I Don’t Use My Chimney. Do I Still Need an Inspection?
We know what you might be thinking: you rarely, if ever, use your chimney. Do you even have to bother with a chimney inspection?
Yes! You might not have to worry about the damage that comes with regular use, but that doesn’t mean your chimney is completely out of harm’s way.
Your chimney is still prone to wear and tear due to age, whether you use it or not. Think about an old car you’ve stored in your garage for a few years – it probably hasn’t gotten the love it needs and parts have started to rust after a while. You wouldn’t hop in and try to drive it without checking a few things out first, right?
A chimney has to be considered with the same mindset. It will take a beating from changing weather that can break down brick and mortar.
In addition, there’s also a chance that you may not be alone in your home. Animals love chimneys because they’re a cozy, safe space compared to the outdoors, and a fireplace that’s not in use is a bigger attraction for wildlife because they can settle in undisturbed. It’s very common for birds, squirrels, rats, and raccoons to hunker down in a chimney to get through the winter. No one wants rent-free roommates, especially ones that can be as loud and smelly as these critters.
The good news? If we find animals or nests during our inspection, Lords Chimney is fully equipped for animal removal. In all of our experience, we haven’t encountered a creature we can’t get out. (The lone exception is chimney swifts which are legally protected and can’t be removed during their nesting season.) Let’s get it done – call us at 281-497-4000 or schedule online today.
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How Much Is a Chimney Inspection?
That is the age-old question and, unfortunately, it’s hard to answer without knowing more about your chimney situation. Cost can vary depending on what level of inspection you need, the size of your chimney, and what type of chimney you have. A Level Three inspection means we have to demolish and remove parts of your chimney or nearby structure, so you can expect that to be more than a Level One inspection.
But no worries – before we proceed with the inspection or any other type of work, we’ll provide an estimate of the cost.
And if repairs, restorations, or a rebuild is in order? Well, these can up your price point quite a bit, but no worries. We’re proud to offer quality financing options – just ask about what we can do for you!
Does Lords Chimney Offer Chimney Inspections Near Me?
We travel far and wide all over Houston and Beaumont. We serve Texans in Harris County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Austin County, Galveston County, Wharton County, Jefferson County, Orange County, and Hardin County.
Don’t fret if you don’t see your county listed above. Just give us a call and we’ll let you know if we can come to you. If you are outside of our usual service area, we may be able to travel to you for an additional fee. A customer care representative will be happy to lend a hand.
Call Us for Your Chimney Needs
Your chimney is an important part of your home, so don’t skip the basics when it comes to taking care of it. If you’re looking for the right team to trust with all of your chimney needs, the Lords Chimney crew is the one for you. Call us now to schedule an appointment at 281-497-4000 or reach out online. Our customer care team will be happy to walk you through any questions about the inspection process, pricing, or anything else you can think of.