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At today's inspection the buyer hired a "chimney inspector" to take a look at the chimneys. Two chimneys, one original and 60 yrs old at least, with four flues, 3 fireplaces and 1 utility. Another chimney maybe 25 years old serving another fireplace.

I won't get into the s..t he overlooked, no ladders or cameras involved in his days work. He basically told the client that all the flues were junk. He spent more time writing the estimate (close to 30K) than looking at the chimneys . All about BREECHES, FIRES AND CERTAIN DEATH! This is after he explained to them the corrupt nature of his own industry and that he was ONE OF THE FEW WHO DO THE JOB HONESTLY, DON'T GET ME WRONG!

That said there is one item that these guys always pick up, the terra cotta liners are not perfectly lined up, hence the impending breech and sudden death. I rarely look up a masonry chimney and see the clay sections aligned perfectly. What is the call on that? Granted on a couple of these when I opened the damper mortar came falling down and I could see where there was mortar loss between the sections of liner.

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Your topic title says Level I inspection. If the property is transferring ownership, it should be a Level II inspection.

I recommend Level II on just about every wood burning fire place with masonry chimney. I do this regardless of how much I can see, how good it looks or how much it appears to have been used. I write up mis-aligned flue liner sections when I see them.

There can be parts of the chimney that intersect with house components and are not visible. CO gas can move through gaps in the chimney and into the structure in areas that are hidden from view by simply looking up or down the chimney. Creosote can build up in liner gaps and result in fire hazards.

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Standard practice around here. 1/8" misalignment of flue tiles and they claim they're required to report it to the local fire marshal to condemn the house. The occupants have to immediately vacate the house unless they sign a contract to rebuild the chimney.

That's harsh.

John, they are going to call someone for a Level II.

The newer chimney at the rear of the house was only 30" tall over the roof as I measured. The chimney guy looked at it from the ground and said, Well, it's close, probably ok. That did not instill a lot of confidence in my clients as to anything else he said. I decided not to share any of my discoveries with him.

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Standard practice around here. 1/8" misalignment of flue tiles and they claim they're required to report it to the local fire marshal to condemn the house. The occupants have to immediately vacate the house unless they sign a contract to rebuild the chimney.

Bill, am I reading this correctly? "They", meaning the dofus that is scamming the owner?

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Standard practice around here. 1/8" misalignment of flue tiles and they claim they're required to report it to the local fire marshal to condemn the house. The occupants have to immediately vacate the house unless they sign a contract to rebuild the chimney.

Bill, am I reading this correctly? "They", meaning the dofus that is scamming the owner?

Yup. One of the scare tactics used to get the homeowners to immediately sign and give a deposit - before they have time to think or get another opinion.
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Same general situation here. A single loose brick @ the top of a chimney will get an admonition that "the house will burn down and kill your entire family".

On a local note, I had a client call me the other day asking for a company to do a Level II Chimney Inspection. I told him to call that company in Lake Bluff. He told me he read and heard quite a bit about their unscrupulous up-sell tactics.

Any local inspectors here hear such?

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Yeah, me. It's a problem because they are also the best folks to get to do the Level II, install liners, or whatever.

I literally had one the other day where there was a single loose brick @ the top of the chimney, not even associated with the liner, and they were going for the "burn the house down" sales pitch.

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A proper Level II inspection does not make conclusions such as the house burning down or CO exposure. It should be stated in terms of the defect in relation to the NFPA 211 standard. The inspector may take it upon himself to assert what the uncorrected sequelae of that defect may be but that's not part of the inspection standard. To state that a house will burn down is an expression to a degree of engineering certainty. If they inspector is not an engineer he should tread lightly on stating what 'will' happen if uncorrected. He can state several consequences that 'could' happen if uncorrected but stating 'will' puts a time line on it and that's an engineering or professional opinion. Last time I checked, chimney sweeps are considered 'tradesmen' by the courts. Only a few hundred have ever been trained and certified as fireplace and chimney inspectors. Any time someone makes such an assertion make sure they declare what their credentials are. If put into a report, ask for their C.V. .

Bill, I'd like to see something in writing which fire marshal is making that requirement. Is this near Newtown in Buck's Co.? FYI, I have never ordered anyone out of a house or coerced a contract. That's not only illegal but unethical and assinine.

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I've been recommending NFPA Level II inspections for years on certain fireplaces. Lately, the local sweep who I've been recommending has stopped doing them. He says that they're just too involved and expensive and he believes that they're only going to get more involved and expensive with future editions of NFPA 211. He now does his own inspection, following his own protocol, using scopes when necessary, and using his own common sense. I trust him and will continue to recommend him.

However, if someone in my area were to want to get a proper Level II inspection, as far as I know there's only one guy left who does them. This guy is F.I.R.E. certified but he's not a sweep, just an inspector. I'm a little unclear on this point. Isn't it necessary to clean a chimney before you can conduct a Level II inspection? If so, can a F.I.R.E certified inspector do the cleaning if he's not a sweep? Does he work with a sweep to do the cleaning first?

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Bill, I'd like to see something in writing which fire marshal is making that requirement. Is this near Newtown in Buck's Co.? FYI, I have never ordered anyone out of a house or coerced a contract. That's not only illegal but unethical and assinine.

Bob, it's not a fire marshal making any requirement. Some sweeps out here say claim they have to report any "major problems" to the fire marshal, who will then condemn the house. It's a scare tactic to make a sale.

One of our fireplaces in our last house hadn't been used in DECADES. I told my wife not to use it until I check and clean the flue. She got fed up waiting and called a certified sweep. They told her it had a RECENT "major chimney fire" and needs to be completely rebuilt. If she signed and gave a deposit immediately, she could lock in a special price of $4800.00.

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Scammers should be reported to the local authorities. There are a number of them up in your area Bill that are local plus the out of town hacks from NY and central PA.

The local guy doing his own thing because a Level II is 'expensive' and 'involved' is a fool. He is not doing his clients any favors. The levels of inspection have been around for 14 yrs. now and proven in courts all over the country. It is THE std. of care now.

Jim, anyone can get F.I.R.E. certified, including home inspectors. No, you don't have to sweep a chimney to inspect it. Dale Feb, who wrote the program and presides over all courses is not a chimney sweep. Actually, he tells the story at a deposition where the deposing attorney was reviewing his credentials. At the time, Dale was maintaining his CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep cert.. When the attorney got to it, he laughed out loud and chuckled, "you really had me until you told us you're a chimney sweep!". Not a sterling reputation.

Just hold a FIRE Cert. is no guarantee. There are a few I know of who commit fraud and abuse both ways: claiming and denying grounds for an insurance claim.

With regards to pricing for relining open hearth fireplaces, let me inject a few points:

The fireplace flue must be sized to the current code. This is often impossible without downsizing the liner. A liner must be listed meaning, for a fireplace, it must meet UL 1777 for solid fuel (2,100F rating). That means about 1" of special insulation. Add that to the properly sized liner and it would often never fit even with breaking out the old flue tiles. So, you have a few options. You can reduce the size of the opening commensurate with the size of a listed insulated liner that will fit but that often is about half the size of the present opening. There are a few kits, such as Ahrens and Bellfires, that you may get your local AHJ to sign off on. They typically use a liner that's about 16-20 to 1 aspect/ ratio.

You can offer to install a listed insert (gas, wood or pellet) but only if it meets the mfrs. listed instructions. Often, those instructions call for a 211 compliant chimney (which does not exist in the wild), "code compliant" or the least degree as "working". However, when you go to install the liner(s) their listing will always require a min. 4" solid masonry units because that's how they're listed. If its an old rotten chimney with a lot of missing mortar between the bricks, that technically would not be a suitable chimney to reline unless the masonry was repaired/ replaced first. Woodstove inserts require an insulated listed ss liner (2,100F) full length. Pellet inserts require a full length uninsulated ss liner. Gas inserts require one full length alum. liner on the exhaust. Some intakes are full length and some must be 'short-stacked" or just into the smoke chamber in order to draft properly. See the listed instructions. Wood inserts will require additional floor and mantel protection.

I know insurance companies are paying about three times the price you quoted Bill for PROPERLY relining fireplaces. I don't reline fireplaces anymore because I'm old , it's the worst type of relining and I usually get hurt. I hate busting out flue tile!

When considering repairing an open hearth fireplace, I think there should be a discussion about the difficulty in getting open hearth fireplaces to draft properly without spilling smoke plus they are huge energy hogs sucking about 400-600cfm out the room. Their day is just about over unless we revert back to the stone age. Actually, the EPA is working on outlawing them and they're making good progress so enjoy them while you can.

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When considering repairing an open hearth fireplace, I think there should be a discussion about the difficulty in getting open hearth fireplaces to draft properly without spilling smoke plus they are huge energy hogs sucking about 400-600cfm out the room.

I've had only excellent experiences with having open-hearth fireplace flues lined with the Ahrens system. I even had a fireplace that you could park a mini van work perfectly. I've recommended it to thousands of clients, many friends and historic sites. I've found many draft problems with other types of lining systems. Many have resulted the fireplaces being unusable.
Their day is just about over unless we revert back to the stone age. Actually, the EPA is working on outlawing them and they're making good progress so enjoy them while you can.
Thousands of my clients have purchased 18th century (and some 17th century) homes with open hearth fireplaces as a main feature (myself included). I've worked with living history museums, inns and taverns that feature open hearth cooking. Is the EPA going to run around like law enforcement during prohibition, bricking up fireplaces?

Soft knock on old farmhouse door.

"Hey man, let me in - I gotta roast an ox."

"What's the password bub?"

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They're working on it Bill. Already well into measuring open hearth Fp emissions. The DOE outlawed vented gas logs > 10,000 BTu/hr. They are about to set new, lower emission requirements for woodstoves, which are already just about at the edge of technology.

Glad to hear the Ahrens systems are working well. They do put out more radiant heat than traditional Fps, too.

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Let us say I saw a wood burning masonry fireplace and chimney and it looked pretty good to me. I tell the client it looks good and I don't recommend a Level II inspection. Then, for whatever reason the property owner gets a Level II inspection at some point recently thereafter. The chimney pro tells the owner $4000 of repairs are needed.

I suspect I shouldn't be surprised if I got a phone call from the owner asking me to pay the bill.

As much as I hate to give a scam artist a chance to rip somebody off, I would hate it even more to be the one paying the bill.

I plan to continue recommending Level II inspections to prevent finding myself in this situation. I can only hope that the client hire an honest person.

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I won't get into the s..t he overlooked, no ladders or cameras involved in his days work. He basically told the client that all the flues were junk. He spent more time writing the estimate (close to 30K) than looking at the chimneys .

Chris, there are two companies in North Jersey that totally rely on the camera, and not much else. One of them purports to Just inspect the flue. The other is supposedly the Guardian of the chimney. No ladders on their fancy SUVs.

At today's inspection I asked the chimney inspection guy if the flue looked like there had been oil heat used at one time. He said No, but it looked like there was a coal fired boiler used at the heating flue. I said the house was built in the 1960s, how's that !! He insisted that it could have been coal residue in the flue. Lack of common sense.

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