Inspecting the chimney access door

Wanted to ask if other inspectors inspect the access door for chimneys.

For example; You cant look down the stack at the roof do to pitch/cap.

I try to open the doors if accesable. I usually find dead birds and I like to use a mirror to see if the flue is clear and if there are any visual defects.

Some times the doors are in poor condition & are rarely if ever opened.



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If I can get to it and open it I look in it. I found one full of water which was strange since it had a rain cap.


I look, but often find that they have not been opened in so long that simple operation is not possible (and I am not about to force it or break it). I will also say very little about it in my report.

Usually, I am referring the chimney out for cleaning or a Level II inspection by a certified chimney sweep anyway, so I include the ash box and access door for evaluation as part of that service.

I also do not open the flue, I ask the owner if present. If it hasn’t been used in years who knows what dead animals will fall out… or live bats!! (Had it happen. Not a big deal to me, but it is to the home owner.)

I always look if there is one.

I’ve never heard of a chimney access door and, obviously, never seen one. Can someone post a few pictures; I can’t tell what that posted picture is.

RR - it is a cleanout under the “floor” of the chimney for models with ash bins.

If, on the floor of the fireplace, there is a grate or other opening to sweep ashes into, there will be a cleanout somewhere (basement or exterior of home) to allow you to go in and clean out the ashes by the shovel full periodically (or if you are like most homeowners, never!)

These are my pics from my home…





That’s not a “chimney access door.” That’s an “ash door.” And it is not in the chimney; it is in the firebox, usually the firebox floor, but sometimes the rear firebox wall. On the outside of the chimney should be an “ash cleanout door.”

However, if that what is being called a “chimney access door,” then, when possible, I do open them. Rarely do I find one accessible because all of our fireboxes here either are full of logs and ashes (and I don’t clean out fireboxes; that’s the chimney sweeps’ job) or they have installed a gas logset of some type.

If I were to call anything the “chimney access door,” I would consider the damper to be such.

Perhaps I have the wrong terminology. I have always called the opening on the floor of the firebox and ash door or ash catcher. The other opening I refer to as the chimney cleanout, although I suppose it is more correctly referred to as the ash box cleanout.

Maybe I have been using the wrong terms, but I thought the firebox was the area where the fire exists in the fireplace. The area below that should have another name (but again, not a chimney or fireplace expert - I refer all that stuff).

I still knew where he was going with the question…The part he was referring to as the chimney access door is the opening I show on teh exterior of the home below the fireplace level where the ashes collect.

So the ash cleanout door.

But since the ash is below the firebox, there would be no access to the chimney through the ash cleanout door (hopefully) other than through the firebox and then through the damper.

But I think I’m with everyone now, I hope. So if we’re talking about the ash cleanout door on the exterior, yes, I open them (when possible, they usually are rusted shut or been covered up with soil). If we’re talking about the ash door in the bottom or side of the firebox, yes, I open them when possible. If we’re talking about the chimney damper, yes, I open them.

So I guess I could have avoided these few posts by just saying, “Yes,” huh?

A quick search found this:

I guess I was referring (and will refer in the future) to the “ash pit” and it’s clean out door (what I believe we had been calling the “Chimney Access Door”) .

Good to know.

I open dampers and atempt to open the others, but often have a hard time with the clean out doors.

In the end, they all get referred for a Level II inspection by a chimney sweep, unless they are nice and clean.

Even when they are nice and clean, they should get a Level II inspection by a licensed chimney sweep.

As an example, back in February or so I found a 1984 fireplace that I told my Clients looked like it had never been used, not even once. But I still recommended a Level II inspection, and I’m sure glad I did. They took my advice (love it when Clients do that) and the chimney sweep found all sorts of problems. After getting a report and a “Thank you” from my Clients, I’m now of the opinion that one of two things happened:

1 - the builder or his subcontractors did a sloppy job and no one ever found out
2 - someone did eventually find out but possibly settled with the builder or his subcontractors for money and then spent the money on something else, or those who found out about it didn’t have the money to get the necessary repairs done.

You just never know.

Note that if you go to, the Level II inspection is recommended whenever real estate changes hands. There is not an exception for chimneys that “are nice and clean.” I suspect there’s a reason for that.

Good point. I have only had two nice and clean chimneys, and they were in newer construction (less than 2 years old), however - builder error is worth considering.

A toast!


The chimney you looked at…was it used for furnace or water heater drafting? If so water in that area can mean a blocked chimney…bird nest etc…

Add some points when the BCS sytem is in place.

The BCS system has been in place for quite a few years now. I’m thinking Ohio State/??? this year.

Speaking of clean-outs-----here is a picture from yesterday’s inspection. It has been this way for 64 years----the wood looks brand new! Gas fired furnace. The picture is looking up past the furnace vent connection (out of the picture to the right)/. At the upper left there is a floor joist running through the flue. The 19 year old furnace was toast from condensate corrosion.

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