Wood Burning Chimney inspection

Can someone tell me that if we suppose to inspect the wood burning chimney? if yes then do we inspect the chimney liner? what tool we use for that? as far as I know an inspector can’t do much about the wood burning chimney and doesn’t carry such a tool. Please let me know if I am missing something here. If there is any website available that can help… Really appreciate the help…

Check the NACHI SOP.

Someone posted this on the BB in the last year or two hope it helps.

Recommendation: Video-scan by a Certified Chimney Specialist before closing escrow.

It is impossible for a home inspection *to determine with any degree of certainty whether the flue is free of defects. In accordance with recommendations made by the National Fire Prevention Association to have all chimneys inspected before buying a home, you should consider having a **Certified Chimney Specialist conduct a Level II inspection of the chimney flue prior to close of escrow. ***
A Level II inspection is very comprehensive and can better determine the condition of the flue than can a limited generalist inspection or a Level I chimney inspection.

Here is 2 links to web sites about chimneys


To the best of my knowledge, HI’s are not allowed to unspect any wood burning equipment including the chimney and piping unless they are W.E.T.T. certified inspectors.
Here is the WETT site: http://www.wettinc.ca/what.html

I was recently asked to install an airtight, I refused. First, according to the local fire chief and the Building Inspector, a person has to be a licensenced heating contractor to install wood burning equipment in Ontario. Second, after installation, the equipment has to have a W.E.T.T. certificate.
There is too many liability issues for me to even consider installing an air-tight without these cerifications and licenses.
Hope this helps.

Good sites Gary

Not to cause an argument, but wouldn’t that logic also exclude electrical systems, plumbing systems and HVAC systems unless we were licensed in those fields. Basically, we would be looking at the roof and structure only.

I do inspect, to the best of my ability, the flue and chimney. Any inspector worth his title can and should be able to identify a cracked, separated, missing, damaged, dirty, blocked, inappropriately constructed or incorrectly installed flue liner, within reason of course. We should also be able to determine if required combustible clearances have been met. Any inspection should include the chase, cap and crown so long as they are accessible. We should be able to give the client a great deal of knowledge if things are not found as they should be.

However, I limit my liability to the visible and accessible portions of the appliance. My state does not require a Level II inspection for a real estate transaction, but I do notify my client that the flue should be cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep at least once per year and this would be a great time to have it performed. As by-products of wood combustion often hide areas that may be of concern, I recommend that the chimney be cleaned and evaluated to determine if it is safe to use. I will not state that it is ok for use, but I will tell them of any items that I can see are in need of correction/repair. Whether they actually have it cleaned/inspected by a certified sweep is up to them.

I’m with Jon on this one. Inspect it to the best of your ability and recommend cleaning and further inspection. There are few reasons for an inspector to not give a preliminary inspection of any wood burning device.



To the best of my knowledge, HI’s are not allowed to unspect any wood burning equipment including the chimney and piping unless they are W.E.T.T. certified inspectors.
Here is the WETT site: http://www.wettinc.ca/what.html

Correct, in Ontario, you must have a WETT certification and BTW it is not possible to do a proper inspection of a chimney flue unless it has been cleaned first.

Arshad: If you do inspect and report on wood burning appliance and something goes wrong your butt is out in the breeze.


Unless there’s been a regulatory change in Ontario since I sat on the National WETT board 8 years ago, there are no regulations providing that only a WETT certified person can inspect a wood heating appliance. Insurance companies hold the big hand and only accept WETT certified persons inspecting for insurance purposes. Not a law but essentially an all around requirement due to this insurance issue!!!

For those that are not WETT certified:

I have had a WETT master’s designation since 1988, initially as a technician and now as a system advisor. I now do not install so have to rely on a couple of master technicians to keep me in touch and answer questions when something new comes up. One of these masters (25+ years experience) has STOPPED DOING INSPECTIONS OF EXISTING INSTALLATIONS due to the liability incurred. He still installs and carries 10 million in insurance but will not inspect. This had made me stand back and wonder about continuing to do these inspections myself!! They are actually a quite small revenue stream addition.

For those that do not have WETT or CSIA certification think twice before doing a wood heating system inspection.

Thanks for the input Brian.

I was of the understanding it was a rule but it really dosn’t matter.

I agree that we should never try to inspect any wood burning applaince.


Thanks Brian… I was only going by what I’m told by building and Fire officials.

I just finished my HI classes, and we were taught to inspect the wood burning chimney (wood burning stoves for that matter) for proper clearances, damper is present and functional, firebox is intact, look up chimney for obstructions and the such, but to always recommend a level II inspection. NFPA 211 Recommends that a level II inspection be performed on the sale or transfer of the property to include a camera scope of the chimney.

Check these books for what to inspect: Both have sections on what and how to inspect.

1)Principles of Home Inspection, Systems and Standards.

2)Home Reference Book, Essentials of Home Inspection.

Here is what I place in my narrative section of my report under chimneys

Our inspection of them is that of a generalist, not a specialist, and meets 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 our 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, we will not guarantee their integrity and recommend that they be video-scanned before the close of escrow.

You can’t recommend too many other pros to inspect after yourself!! You’re supposed to be the HI pro…it’ll end up repeating what happened to a realtor here a few weeks ago…showing up for the inspection were licensed carpenter, plumber, electrician, HVAC technician. The buyer had a prior inspection recommend a couple of other pros so on this house he said “Might as well call the pros first and save myself the cost of the first incomplete home inspection!!”

There are parts of the chimney you can see and operate, thus, remark on. After you have addressed the defects that you found, if any, you can further recommend a Class II Fire Inspection conducted by a chimney sweep or other specialist as recommended by the NFPA each time a house changes hands to inspect for less obvious defects.

So, even if you could not observe all of the components, you would just call it good then? and not recommend a chimney sweep or other qualified person to inspect further?

I. The inspector shall inspect:
A. The fireplace, and open and close the damper door if readily accessible and operable.
B. Hearth extensions and other permanently installed components.
C. And report as in need of repair deficiencies in the lintel, hearth and material surrounding the fireplace, including clearance from combustible materials

Here’s a shot from an inspection last week. I would have been lax not to report this to my client. Of course I do not do a formal woodstove inspection and I would never say that an installation was safe to use. I might report that the flue liner appeared to be clean and intact, I take a snapshot down the chimney if possible, and that there appeared to be adequate clearances, etc. Also check for a registration tag. This info helps the client make their buying decision - that the stove will likely pass a formal WETT inspection, if need be.

John Kogel

The inspector shall also:

  • stick his head in the firebox and have a look at the chimney liner , smoke shelf and chamber and amount of creosote, if any.
  • climb the roof, if not dangerous, and have a look down the flue for any obstructions and amount of creosote. If not possible or visible, call in the pros.
    -recommend cleaning when necessary, (not every chimney needs it)
    -know when to recommend a chimney scan

I thought it was our job to find issues that could be problematic for our buyers. None of us (not even the best) can be the end all to each inspection, but we should look around enough to know if we need to call in “THE PROs”. :roll:
The SOP leaves a lot of lattitude for how far we take the inspection.
Inspected this one last week. Is there anyone on this board that doesn’t think there is a problem here.
Union Road_03 (Small).jpg

I would say that the chase is definately too large for the lliner and has allowed the liner to “fall” to one side of the chase, opening a gap between the flue tiles towards the bottom of the chase. Cahase probaby doesn’t have a cap at the top either. This may be a good candidate for a solid s/s liner with a good metal cap.