Schedule Your Annual Chimney Inspection With Lou Curley’s Chimney Service

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommend that all chimneys and vents be inspected annually, including chimneys and vents serving fireplaces, stoves, furnaces, boilers, water heaters, and clothes dryers.

Inspections are designed to give you a good idea of how your system is performing, whether or not you’re in need of any fireplace repairs, and whether or not it’s time for a chimney cleaning, which is why inspections should be performed every year.

Tech loading van with equipment with garage in the background.

What Is a Chimney Inspection & What Is Its Purpose?

The purpose of a chimney inspection is to provide you, the homeowner, with an accurate idea of your chimney’s condition, and alert you to any dangers, damage, or issues that need to be addressed for performance and safety.

The NFPA breaks down chimney inspections into three different levels:

  • Level 1 Inspections — A level 1 inspection is recommended for chimneys which have been regularly up-kept, and which haven’t undergone any changes in use, fuel type, liner, or attached appliance. During a level 1, the basic soundness of the chimney structure and flue is checked, and the chimney is checked for blockages and combustible deposits like creosote. Basic appliance installation and connections are also evaluated.
  • Level 2 Inspections — A level 2 inspection is recommended for chimneys that have undergone changes, like a change in fuel type, liner, or appliance. These are also required when the property is sold or transferred, and when a malfunction, chimney fire, or external event has occurred that may have damaged the chimney. Level 2 inspections include everything that’s included in a level 1, but they also include a video scan of the flue interior, and a look at the accessible portions of the chimney’s exterior and interior, including attics, crawl spaces, and basements. We’ll also check for proper clearance from combustibles in accessible locations.
  • Level 3 Inspections — A level 3 inspection is recommended only when serious hazards are suspected, and when the removal of certain components of the building or chimney is required to gain access to the areas in question. These inspections include everything in a level 1 and level 2 inspection, but, as stated, may require the removal of chimney interior walls, chimney crown, or other chimney or building components.
Virtual inspection equipment and vacuum in the background.
Tech doing chimney inspection with safety equipment.
Tech doing chimney inspection with safety gear.

Although a video scan isn’t required during a level 1 inspection, all of our inspections include video scans. By scanning the interior of the flue, from top to bottom, we’re able to get a much better look at the overall system’s condition in order to determine if any sort of chimney repair service is required — so to us, it just makes sense to make it part of every inspection.

Why Do I Need a Chimney Inspection?

A neglected or damaged chimney can pose serious risks, including chimney fires, carbon monoxide leaks, and structural issues. Every year, there are over 25,000 chimney fires in the United States that cause more than 125 million dollars in property damage. A chimney fire can have a devastating impact on your life and home, but most of them can be avoided with regular chimney inspections by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney sweep. 

If there are blockages, creosote buildup, deterioration, or other damage in your chimney, your fireplace is not safe to use. A chimney technician is trained to spot potential problems in their early stages when they’re more manageable and easier to fix. If you avoid inspections and allow issues the chance to progress, necessary repair work can quickly become extensive and costly. You should view a chimney inspection as an investment that can save you money in the long run.

In the end, a chimney and fireplace system that is well-maintained is more efficient and you’ll be able to use it with that peace of mind you deserve.

How Often Should I Have My Chimney Inspected?

We mentioned it above, but it’s worth reiterating.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and CSIA recommend having your chimney inspected once a year at a minimum. This gives us the ability to monitor your chimney for changes over time and recommend repairs that can extend its lifespan. 

If you don’t use your fireplace that often, you still need to keep up with annual chimney inspections. A lot can change in the span of a year and your fireplace is no exception. Your chimney may have been given the thumbs up at one point, but in the time since your last inspection, a pair of chimney swifts could have chosen your chimney as their home for the breeding season. The materials they usually gather to build their nests – twigs, debris, and insulation – are flammable and can block your chimney. Even if the chimney swifts abandon the nest, the remnants still present a huge fire hazard. A chimney inspection will identify that type of blockage and one of our chimney technicians can get to work removing it.

It’s possible that we will recommend scheduling two inspections per year if you use your fireplace often or throughout more than just the normal burn season. Discuss maintenance plans with your chimney technician that best suits your needs. Ready to chat? We’re here for you. Call or reach out to us online now.

What Are Some Common Problems Found During Chimney Inspections?

During chimney inspections, chimney sweeps check for a variety of issues to ensure the safety and efficiency of the chimney and fireplace. Lou Curley Chimney Sweep has been inspecting chimneys and there are some things we’ve run into a lot over the years. Here are some of the common issues we may discover:

  • Evidence of water damage. Water can enter the chimney system through cracks and damage, leading to corrosion, deterioration, and mold growth. Water damage can also affect the interior of your home as it can cause leaky ceilings and walls.
  • Too much creosote. Annual chimney sweepings can keep creosote buildup at bay, but a change in your chimney system can result in more buildup than usual. It only takes about an eighth of an inch of buildup to become a serious hazard.
  • There are cracks and other damage. Chimney bricks or flue liners can develop cracks and damage over time as part of the process of wear and tear. Cracks allow heat and gases to escape, potentially leading to a chimney fire or carbon monoxide leakage.
  • There’s a blockage. Obstructions in the chimney can be caused by debris, animal nests, or other foreign objects. These blockages can limit proper ventilation and lead to smoke and toxic gases entering your home.
  • The damper isn’t functioning correctly. The damper regulates the airflow in the chimney. If it’s not working properly, it can result in poor drafts, inefficient burning, and energy loss.
  • The cap or crown is missing or damaged. A chimney cap and crown help prevent water, debris, and animals from getting into the chimney. A missing or damaged cap is an open invitation to the elements and critters. 
  • The flashing is damaged. Flashing acts as a waterproof seal where the chimney and the roof meet. If it’s improperly installed or damaged, it can lead to water leaks.
  • The masonry is breaking down. Over time, the masonry of the chimney can deteriorate due to exposure to the elements. This can affect both the chimney’s appearance and structural integrity.

What Should I Do if My Chimney Inspection Reveals a Problem?

It’s not ideal, but sometimes our inspections turn up a problem that needs our intervention. If we find a problem, your chimney technician will document it in their inspection report and discuss repair options with you.

Here’s the thing, though. We get that repairs aren’t convenient – both on your schedule and your budget. We don’t want our clients to stress, so we recommend keeping a few questions in mind when your inspection report reveals damages:

  • Can repairs wait or does the issue need to be addressed immediately? Some chimney issues need to be repaired right away. Stage 3 creosote buildup needs to be dealt with quickly as it only takes a single spark to ignite a chimney fire. Cosmetic damage like chipping bricks can possibly wait a little while.
  • What are all of my repair options? It’s rare that there’s only one way to solve a problem – and that sentiment is also true for chimneys. For instance, we may be able to fix a damaged crown with sealant (which would be cheaper), but if the cracks are large or cover a significant part of the crown surface, we will likely have to replace it. There are usually multiple relining options, too, if that’s your issue.
  • Is it safe to use my fireplace before repairs are completed? Talk to your chimney sweep if you plan to use your fireplace before we can repair it. It may not be possible to safely operate your fireplace depending on the type of problem we find.
  • What can I do to prevent this problem in the future? There are chimney issues that are inevitable. You can’t safeguard against severe weather or basic wear and tear, but you can take a proactive approach towards most other things. For instance, you may need to rethink the type of firewood you use if you have a recurrent issue with creosote in your wood-burning fireplace. (Green and unseasoned wood hold a lot of moisture which promotes creosote buildup.)

When Is the Best Time to Book My Chimney Inspection?

Lou Curley Chimney Sweep is here for Delaware County residents all year long, but there are times of the year that are a bit busier than normal. If you can, we recommend scheduling your annual inspection during the spring and summer months. That gives you the most flexibility with scheduling follow-up appointments, and enhances convenience overall.

In addition, should we find problems during the inspection, we can get back to you for repairs well before the burning season arrives – and you don’t have to miss out on quality time next to your fireplace. Just imagine getting your inspection booked right as the weather turns cold, only to realize you need to book further repairs or maintenance. Only… our schedule is packed, so you’re now looking weeks into the future to get an appointment in. That’s a long time to put off lighting your first fire!

Has It Been a Year or More Since Your Last Chimney Inspection?

When hiring someone to perform your chimney inspection, be sure to check for certification with a nationally recognized agency. The Fireplace Investigation, Research, and Education Services (F.I.R.E.) certified Fireplace & Chimney Inspector credential is the only chimney inspection certification in the country. To earn this credential, the inspector has to take a six day, fast-paced, hands-on class, and pass an intense, comprehensive exam.

When you entrust your chimney inspection to us, you can rest assured we’ll provide a thorough and accurate assessment of your chimney and its current condition. We’ve inspected thousands of chimneys over the years, and we stay current on all codes and standards. We’re also F.I.R.E.-certified Chimney & Fireplace Inspectors, International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) certified Professional Chimney Inspectors, and we’ve taken countless trainings and classes, including the CSIA’s Inspection & Report Writing class.

Do Home Inspectors Inspect the Chimney?

Are you buying or selling a home? Make sure you schedule your level 2 chimney inspection with a CSIA-certified chimney professional. While you may think the home inspector will take care of it, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors Standard of Practice, inspectors are not required to inspect the flue or chimney interior during a home inspection.

What most likely will happen is the inspector for your future home will do a cursory glance over the chimney and fireplace system to check for any obvious signs of issues or damage. They may give it a check of approval, or they may recommend a further evaluation from a professional. Whatever they recommend, we urge homeowners to take the latter advice – book an inspection with a professional chimney technician. Home inspectors – while being great at their job – aren’t chimney experts. It’s all too possible for things to be missed or overlooked.

Just imagine settling into your new dream home, lighting up a fire, then realizing something isn’t right… Now imagine getting an evaluation and realizing that thousands of dollars worth of repairs are needed. All that expense could have either been negotiated into the sale of the home or could have been a requirement for the previous owners to address… but now it’s your problem.

Trust us – this isn’t something to overlook. Book with us today!

Do HVAC Contractors Inspect the Chimney Venting Your Oil Or Gas Furnace or Boiler?

When you have your boiler or furnace serviced annually, your HVAC contractor may clear out debris from the base of the chimney, but they won’t clean or inspect the chimney itself. That means, should any actual damage be present, it will be overlooked – and continued use of your vent could be putting your home and family at risk.

Like any chimney, the chimney venting your oil or gas furnace or boiler should be inspected annually and swept as needed, so be sure to schedule your annual inspection with one of our CSIA- and F.I.R.E.-certified chimney sweeps. We also reline furnace and boiler flues, so if we find damage or corrosion during our annual inspection, we can help.

Schedule Your Chimney Inspection Today

Ready to schedule your inspection? Scheduling is easy with Lou Curley’s Chimney Service — simply call 610-626-2439 or request an appointment right here on our website! Wherever you live in Delaware County or the Main Line area, experience you can trust is only a call or click away.


Our chimney and fireplace repairs are included in all the chimney services we provide to all our customers, season after season.