Skip to main content
Home InspectionHome Safety

Fireplace Inspection During a Home Inspection

By April 9, 2023No Comments
Wood Burning Appliance
Dirty ash clean out on exterior portion of chimney during recent home inspection.
Dirty Ash Clean out

Safety is a main reason for home inspections. If a home contains a fireplace, Fidelity Home Inspections includes a level one fireplace inspection. A level I inspection is a visual inspection of the hearth, firebox and accessible portions of the venting system. Fidelity Home Inspections verifies the damper can open and close. We visually inspect the observable portions of the venting system, which may include a chimney.

Chimney inspection by drone during a recent home inspection.

If the fireplace is dirty, our visual inspection will be obstructed. For example, any defect that is underneath the ash in the picture below can’t be observed.

Picture of fireplace firebox that is covered with ash.  Portions of the firebox are not visually observable.
Dirty Fire Box

Fireplace Inspection: Damper Operation

Fidelity Home Inspections inspects any damper that is visually observable. When a fire is started in the fireplace, the damper is opened to allow smoke and combustion gasses to escape through the chimney. When the fireplace is not being operated, the damper is closed to prevent unconditioned air from entering the residence. This keeps drafts out during the winter and saves the home owner’s energy bills. The picture below depicts a damper that Fidelity Home Inspections operated during a recent home inspection.

This image shows a fireplace damper that is open during recent Fidelity Home Inspections fireplace inspection.
Opening Damper During Inspection

Fireplace Inspection: Cracks in Firebox

Some common issues we observe in the fireplace during inspection are cracks in the firebox and missing mortar in the firebrick. The firebox is part of the venting system and takes the most abuse. The high heat in the fireplace firebox can transfer through the cracks and missing mortar into the structure of the residence. This can cause a fire. Carbon Monoxide can also transfer through the cracks into the residence. This creates a hazardous condition that can result in dangerous levels of carbon monoxide entering the residence. We observed these firebox cracks during a recent fireplace inspection (see the image below).

Cracks in fireplace firebox that Fidelity Home Inspections found during recent fireplace inspection.
Cracks in Firebox

Fireplace Inspection: Level II Inspections

Fidelity Home Inspections wants our clients to feel warm, cozy and safe during their fireplace operation in their new home. If a home contains a fireplace (other wood burning appliance or gas burning appliance) we always recommend a level II inspection by a CSIA-Certified Chimney Sweep®.

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) a level II inspection required:

  • A level 2 inspection is required when any changes are made to the system. Changes can include a change in the fuel type (for example, you’re switching from woodburning to gas), changes to the shape or material of the flue (i.e. relining), or the replacement or addition of an appliance of a dissimilar type, input, rating, or efficiency. Additionally, a level 2 inspection is required upon the sale or transfer of a property, or after an operation malfunction or external event that is likely to have caused damage to the chimney. Building fires, chimney fires, earthquakes, as well as weather events are all indicators that this level of inspection is warranted.
  • What’s it like? A level 2 inspection shall include all things covered in a level 1 inspection but should also include a visual inspection (through video scan or other means) to examine the internal surfaces and joints of all flue liners incorporated within the chimney. A level 2 inspection will address any obstructions in the venting system. A level 2 inspection will address proper clearances from combustibles in accessible locations, so it should also include an inspection of the accessible** portions of the chimney exterior and interior, including attics, crawl spaces, and basements. There are no specialty tools (i.e., demolition equipment) required to open doors, panels, or coverings when performing a level 2 inspection. No removal or destruction of permanently attached portions of the chimney or building structure or finish shall be required during a level 2 inspection.

If you would like to find a CSIA certified chimney sweep in your area click this link:

About the Author

Athena Deichman owner of Fidelity Home Inspections and rescue dog
Athena Deichman

Athena Deichman is the owner of Fidelity Home Inspections. She is not a fan of the winter, however, she would enjoy napping in front of a fireplace after taking a long walk on the beach. She wants everyone to know Fidelity Home Inspections serves New Jersey. We are a N.J. Licensed Home Inspection company. Fidelity Home inspections also provides radon testing and wood destroying insect inspections. We are FAA licensed for drone operations. Call today for a home inspection appointment 609 337 6167. For further information check out our website

Leave a Reply