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Level 2 Inspection: Factory-Built Fireplace


A level 2 inspection includes everything defined from the level 1 inspection, with additions.  This level of inspection is recommended when the appliance or fuel is changed or if a level 1 inspection is not sufficient to determine serviceability of the venting system.   A level 2 inspection is also used when the property is being sold; if you are planning on lining or relining the chimney or if there has been a building or chimney fire, weather or seismic event or any operating malfunction likely to have caused damage to the chimney.

A level 2 inspection will require that you go on the roof to investigate the chimney and access to the chimney must be gained from the attic, if possible.  By definition, all accessible portions of the chimney are to be inspected.  This means you must gain access to the crawl space if at all possible.  Remember that if it is full of water or represents unnecessary risk, you write that on your report acknowledging that you did not go there and why.

In this level of inspection the primary focus is to determine proper clearances in as many areas as possible without intrusive or destructive means.  This is also where the video scan is considered a necessity.  An inspection of a chimney with multiple offsets can be impossible without the camera.

Begin the inspection at the fireplace

Record the fireplace make and model.  This information is usually found on a tag near the front side of the fireplace and behind the screen.  If there is a combustion air supply, make sure it operates properly and is not blocked.  The manufacturers’ installation instructions will provide clearance information from the fireplace opening to the sides and describe how the finishing material is to be installed around the fireplace.

In many cases the clearances from the fireplace opening to the trim and mantle are the same as a masonry fireplace.  If you can locate the installation instructions, make a copy and keep one for future reference.

Attic inspection

Once in the attic it should be possible to determine if clearances are met on interior installations as the chimney passes through the floor and confirm it is properly firestopped.  Make sure there is no insulation against the chimney and that it has an attic insulation shield.  Look for any electrical wires in contact with the chimney and proper clearances as the chimney passes through the roof.  On exterior installations where the chase is open to the attic, you may be able to look for firestops.  There should be one at every floor or ceiling level.  Look for water damage anywhere it might be visible, especially just below the flashing.

Inspecting the top of the chimney

You will closely inspect the storm collar, rain cap and the flashing.  If there is a chase pan, look for rust or low spots that allow water to remain on the pan.  Make notes if you see any pinholes or other damage.  If there is a cricket installed, inspect it and write it up on the job sheet, describing the construction.  If the chimney chase is wider than 30 inches and does not intersect the ridge, a cricket should be recommended.

Get an accurate measurement of the dimensions of the flue and the chase.  Measure the height of the flue from the top of the chimney to the fireplace.  If there are offsets in the liner make a note of the degree of offset.

Note the overall chimney condition.   Proper chimney termination height can also be determined.  While you are up there, look down any additional flues.  If there is obvious damage, write it on the job ticket.

Outside of the chimney chase

Inspect the outside air supply if there is one installed.   Look for any irregularities in the construction of the chase where the chimney is joined the structure.  Make note of any irregularities, such as staining or other indications of water entry.

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