Chimneys And Flues

chimney maintenance


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




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Buying a home is arguably the most important, exciting and nerve-wracking purchase a person will ever make.  This is the reason you need a great home inspector, and Dave Valley is just that.  He is empathetic – he understands and appreciates the various emotions a potential home-buyer goes through.  Most importantly, Dave provides you with objective information so you can make the most informed decision possible. 


It was a pleasure working with Dave – he contains all the qualities that make a great home inspector – he is the consummate professional, prompt, courteous, meticulous in his detail and honest.  Dave was reasonably priced – in fact Dave charged me the same amount I spent 10 years earlier on a smaller house and provided a far better work product. 


I arrived at the house at the agreed upon time on a cold and nasty day, and found Dave outside inspecting the exterior of the home.  He was already a half hour into his inspection – I think this exemplifies and is symbolic of the fact that Dave is respectful of his client’s time. 


Dave was pleasant to deal with, personable and thoughtful not only to his client but also to the buyer’s real estate agent.  


Dave spent almost four hours in his investigation of a 2,000 square foot house.  He answered all my questions and reviewed every observation he had with me.  David provided a detailed report, and encouraged me to call and email him to discuss the report and to ask questions. 


The highest compliment I can give Dave is to say that I would use him again and will encourage and recommend him to others. 

Michael S. Giaimo


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Last updated on  Feb 21, 2020