There are a wide variety of chimneys in Massachusetts, which represent an even wider variety of interrelated components that comprise them. However, there are three basic types of chimneys: single-walled metal chimneys, masonry chimneys and pre-fabricated metal chimneys that are commonly referred to as factory-built chimneys. Single-walled metal chimneys should not be confused with factory-built chimneys, and are rarely found in residential use, but masonry (lined and un-lined) and factory-built chimneys are a commonplace in Massachusetts.
My inspection of chimneys is that of a Generalist and not a Specialist, and meets all industry standards. However, significant areas of chimney flues cannot be adequately viewed during a field inspection, as has been documented by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, which reported in 1992: "The inner reaches of a flue are relatively inaccessible, and it should not be expected that the distant oblique view from the top or bottom is adequate to fully document damage even with a strong light." Therefore, because my inspection of chimneys is limited to those areas that can be viewed without dismantling any portion of them, and does not include the use of specialized equipment, I will not guarantee their integrity. I recommend that all chimneys be video-scanned for deterioration or missing liners (see picture below) before the close of escrow.
Chimney flues need to be cleaned periodically, to prevent the possibility of a chimney fire. However, the complex variety of deposits that form within the chimney flues (as a result of incomplete combustion), and which contribute to such fires, are complicated and not easily understood. They range from soot or pure carbon that simply does not burn, to creosote tars that can easily ignite. All of these deposits are commonly described as creosote, but creosote has many forms, ranging from crusty carbon deposits that can be easily brushed away, to tar-glazed creosote that requires a professional chemical cleaning. These deposits must be identified and treated by a chimney Specialist. However, cleaning a chimney is not a guarantee against a chimney fire. Studies have proven that a significant percentage of chimney fires have resulted within one month of the chimney being cleaned and many more have resulted within a six-month period.
It is impossible for Massachusetts Home Inspections to determine with any degree of certainty whether all flues are free of defects. In accordance with recommendations made by the National Fire Prevention Association, I recommend that all home Buyers have the chimneys inspected before purchasing their home. You should consider having a C S I A, or equivalently certified chimney sweep, conduct a Level II inspection of all chimney flues prior to close of escrow.
UNLINED CHIMNEY IN NEED OF AN APPROVED LINER
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Dave had an impressive website that seemed to be too thorough to be anything but genuine. The thing that seemed to sell me was that he says right on his website that you may pay a little more for his service, but that his quality is higher. So I decided to give him a try even though I had no reference from another person hoping for someone of top quality. I was not disappointed. He was at the home early as promised and had done an inspection of the exterior and was writing up notes so that when I arrived, he walked me through the exterior first. Even with his early arrival, we were still there for about 3 hours looking through every little corner and cubby. He would occasionally stop and fill out his inspection forms which were easy to follow and read; he gives you a full folder of his notes that are well organized.
Dave was open to all questions and concerns so every time I saw something that was potentially concerning to me, he would look, give his opinion and often shared other experiences with similar circumstances. He also had a good sense of humor which helped to lighten what can be a stressful experience (having someone pointing out problem items that you didn't see). I would highly recommend Massachusetts Home Inspections.