Why do chimneys need to be inspected?
An improperly installed system, damaged or blocked flue, or a flue which contains substantial creosote deposits represents a real threat to you and your property. Even if you've been using it for years without any problems, a hazardous condition may still exist. If you do not use your chimney, the system should still be checked to ensure it is sealed up properly to prevent air from entering or escaping from your home. A drafting chimney can dramatically increase your energy bill in both summer and winter.
A brief history
For years, the scope of work performed in the inspection or evaluation of a fireplace, stove or other venting system has been left to the discretion of the chimney service technician. These unregulated "inspections", while convenient for chimney service companies, proved to be inconsistent from company to company and oftentimes failed to address all safety issues.
On January 13, 2000, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) adopted these levels of inspection into code NFPA 211 Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances that remove much of that "discretion". Inspections are now clearly defined as Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3, and each level has a clearly defined scope. The bottom line is that if the company inspecting your chimney is not certified to inspect and does not follow NFPA 211 guidelines, then the inspection is not legitimate.