By Jamie Wallace
People considering buying a home should not neglect getting a chimney inspection.
Here are five reasons why.
1) Chimneys are one of the most neglected structures in a home
Did you know that very few chimneys that vent a furnace or fireplace have ever been professionally inspected? The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 211) is the national standard for chimneys and vents and states that a chimney shall be inspected annually. A chimney is always under attack by corrosive flue gasses which wreak havoc on its flue liner.
The average gas furnace is pushing out about one gallon of water vapor through your chimney every hour during freezing temperatures. A chimney also rises above the roof line, making it the most exposed part of a structure to the elements. Yet, it is estimated that less than 10 percent of all chimneys have been professionally inspected. That’s a staggering number of potential carbon monoxide and fire hazards virtually unseen to the homeowner.
Don’t inherit someone else’s damaged chimney. This is preventable through a Level 2 chimney inspection by a certified chimney company.
2) When you sell your home, you’ll be stuck paying for the repairs
Inspections are bound to come when selling your home. A good friend of mine had me inspect two fireplaces after he purchased the home. Unfortunately, the flue tiles were cracked and the two chimneys did not pass inspection. He was disappointed because he loved the idea of relaxing at night by the fireplace. He never made the repairs and sold his home five years later only to have to pay (a higher price) to have the chimneys corrected.
It’s always difficult telling homeowners their chimney needs repair, but telling new homeowners is heartbreaking! We know that this could have been prevented with a Level 2 chimney inspection. Not only does proper code and standards require this for the sale or transaction of a home, but at the expense of a few hundred dollars the customer may avoid paying thousands to repair the chimney.
3) Your chimney has more value than you know.
The average masonry fireplace is worth about 6-10 percent of the value of your house. The cost to install a masonry chimney with a fireplace can be well over $30,000. There is a reason you don’t see many masonry fireplaces or masonry chimneys on new construction homes. Masonry is an art, and fireplaces and chimneys are some of the most difficult to master.
There are simply not enough skilled masons in this field of expertise. Even a metal factory-built or gas fireplace can cost over $10,000 to replace. For sellers, this is critical to remember. A functioning fireplace will add to your sale price and increase the number of buyers interested in your home.
For buyers, realize that a home with an operational fireplace is a rare find. They are not making many more of them, so keep it in good shape and understand that you have a masonry piece of art with a lot of potential.
4) The average chimney repair is over $2,000.
Chimneys can be expensive to repair. Your chimney professional is usually dealing with heights that most people wouldn’t walk upon. Now add a steep incline, heavy equipment, inclement weather and you have a fairly dangerous and undesirable job. It is also a specialized business with specific codes to follow and holds massive liability.
Your average contractor will not know the IRC codes, the correct construction of a chimney, or the proper installation of a gas fireplace. At Chimney Heroes, a large portion of our work is correcting poor installations. These leak water, smoke, or simply don’t pass inspection due to improper construction. A good rule of thumb, the quicker you fix your chimney problem, the less expensive it will be to repair. For example, repairing the small cracks on the top of your chimney is saving you from future water damage and further degradation. This neglect ultimately results in mold in the attic and a chimney rebuild.
5) Always have a Level 2 inspection done by a certified chimney company.
Home Inspectors provide an amazing service but they are most likely not qualified and certified to inspect chimneys. Do not rely on their general overview of the fireplace or chimney to serve as an accurate report. This is especially important when it comes to real estate transactions.
The NFPA 211 standard states a level 2 chimney inspection is required upon the sale or transfer of a property. There are over 66 items to inspect for a Level 2 chimney inspection outlined in the NFPA 211. In order to be safe and not stuck with a major problem after you buy, it’s imperative that your sweep knows the proper codes and standards, and uses the right equipment.
A flashlight will not let you see all the possible damage to a chimney, which is why specialized chimney cameras were designed. Legitimate organizations which offer certifications include the Chimney Safety Institute of America; a the leader in chimney and venting education and certifications. As a home owner this is the first organization I would make sure my sweep was certified with.
Another is the National Fireplace Institute. This organization is also a top industry leader in education for the hearth industry. Specifically, the installation of wood, gas, and pellet appliances.
Wallace is the owner of Chimney Heroes of Saratoga Springs.