Industry Standard for Chimney and Venting System Inspections

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) reports that a new industry standard for chimney and venting inspections has been adopted to help homeowners better understand the level of work required by a certified chimney sweep to adequately examine a system. Until now, the scope of work during an inspection has been at the professional discretion of the certified chimney sweep.

"Providing accurate and complete information to homeowners is one of the primary missions of a certified chimney sweep," says Mark McSweeney, executive director of the CSIA. "It's their goal to give homeowners piece of mind. This new standard helps define for homeowners the type of inspection their certified chimney sweep needs to complete."

This new standard now classifies chimney and venting system inspections into three levels -- Level I, Level II or Level III. Each level of inspection has a specific scope of work and specific criteria.

On January 13, 2000, the National Fire Protection Association adopted these levels of inspection into code NFPA 211 (Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances). NFPA 211 is the standard upon which certified chimney sweeps base their services.

Once the inspection level is determined, the certified chimney sweep explains the scope of work to the homeowner as follows:

Level I Inspection: This inspection is recommended when the chimney and venting system is easily accessible and when the homeowner is planning to maintain its current use. In general, this the level of inspection performed in most homes. In a Level I inspection a certified chimney sweep verifies that the chimney structure is sound and that the chimney is free of obstructions and combustible deposits, such as creosote.

Level II Inspection: The addition of a new home heating appliance or a change in the type of fuel a homeowner is burning requires a Level II inspection. This inspection level is also required upon the sale or transfer of a property or after an operating malfunction or external event that is likely to have caused damage to the chimney. The scope of a Level II inspection includes that of the Level I inspection plus the inspection of accessible portions of the attics, crawl spaces and basements. It may also include a performance test such as a smoke test or a pressure test and possibly an interior chimney video inspection if recommended by the certified chimney sweep.

Level III Inspection: When a Level I or Level II inspection suggests a hidden hazard and the evaluation cannot be performed without access to concealed areas, a Level III inspection is recommended. This type of inspection confirms the proper construction and condition of concealed portions of the chimney structure and the flue. Level III inspections are generally necessary when investigating an incident that has caused damage to a chimney or building, or where a hazard is detected and suspected.

"Chimney sweeps across the country have reported to us that these new standards allow them to better communicate to their customers the need for more comprehensive inspection techniques," notes McSweeney. "We anticipate that these changes will result in an increased level of service and protection to the homeowner."

Both the CSIA and the National Fire Protection Association recommend yearly chimney inspections to help prevent fire and carbon monoxide poisonings. The CSIA also recommends that chimney and venting inspections be completed by CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps.

CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps have earned the industry's most respected credential by passing an intensive examination based on fire codes, clearances and standards for the construction and maintenance of chimneys and venting systems.

The CSIA, established in 1983, is a non-profit, educational institution, dedicated to educating the public about the prevention of chimney safety hazards.

For a free copy of the brochure "Chimney Inspections Explained for the Homeowner" or for a list of CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps, call (800) 536-0118 or visit the CSIA web site at The CSIA is located at 2155 Commercial Drive, Plainfield IN., 46168.

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Melissa Heeke, Communications Director

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Reprinted with permission from the Chimney Safety Institute of America,