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Home Inspections Should Address Chimneys and Fireplaces

by Chicago Agent

Home inspections are crucial to the real estate process and help the buyer’s agent and buyer avoid costly surprises.  And while home inspectors provide an extremely valuable service, the majority don’t have the tools or training to analyze the fireplace and chimney systems.

Most home inspectors scan the firebox and flue with a flashlight and scan the chimney exterior above the roof line for cracked bricks or mortar.  While both are necessary when inspecting a home, they’re missing the core of a 20 to 30-foot. system that weighs tons, may hold problems and can be a major moisture source into and out of the house – the chimney itself.

Rob Lindemann, president of Lindemann Chimney Service in Lake Bluff.

Rob Lindemann, president of Lindemann Chimney Service in Lake Bluff.

As president of Lindemann Chimney Service, one of the largest and highest-credentialed chimney firms in Chicagoland, we’ve professionally inspected many chimneys per day for 40 years.  And while most are fine, some have problems a potential buyer must know.

For example, we run a video camera and light source up the entire flue for careful scanning.  A flashlight can’t possibly show detail 20 feet away, and views are blocked by the damper.  With a video camera, we look for cracked flue tiles, deteriorated mortar or voids resulting from house settling.  Hot gases can penetrate these spaces and cause house fires, and excessive creosote build-up can also generate fires.

The roof and chimney junction must have tightly-sealed flashing to prevent major water leaks into the house. The chimney needs a proper cap with an animal cage.  Raccoons, squirrels and birds love chimneys for homes and breeding babies, especially on the smoke shelf just above the damper.  An animal cage keeps them out.

If chimney mortar is cracked above the roof line, it may need tuckpointing.  But it also might indicate a damaged chimney interior needing a liner and/or rebuild.  That’s because everyone knows the chimney vents the fireplace — but few realize the chimney also vents the hot-water heater and commonly the basement furnace.  Both send hot gases past the chimney flue tiles, hour after hour, day after day, for years or decades.  Hot water vapor can penetrate flue tiles and create gaps or voids that spur fires.

Certified chimney sweeps have the tools and training to find potential problems and recommend solutions. Regarding cost, Lindemann Chimney Service offers two inspection levels.  A formal level two inspection that can be attached to official home-sale documents costs $219.  And a  thorough inspection without documentation is normally free.  (If the chimney is coated with creosote, however, it must cleaned before inspection and we offer that if needed.)  Both inspection levels provide buyers with peace-of-mind before committing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We own homes and recognize the tremendous psychological and financial benefits of a thorough inspection.  Addressing the chimney and fireplace make a home survey complete.

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