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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Here is what my clients have to say about my home inspection services:

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Hi Dave,

I want to thank you for the home inspection you did for us at 144 Avis Ave. in Dracut MA. We did not get the house because the home owners did not want to split the cost of fixing that wall. I had gotten two estimates, one from a landscaper and one from a Mason. Both gave an estimate of $15,000.00, for which I am grateful for your inspection and pointing out the wall problem. It would of been an undue burden on us, not to mention I am also grateful about the radon testing also. I just got the results today and they came back at 7.5 and 8.4, so that would of been another expense. I do hope that when we find a new house that you will be able to do our home inspection. Your fee was a drop in the hat, to what it would of cost us to fix the wall and then the cost of venting the basement. My husband was also very impressed with your report and how well it was written. Just wanted to drop you a line to let you know what happened, and hopefully will be doing business with you again very soon.

Have a Good Day
Jackie Sliney


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Last updated on  Feb 21, 2020