A recent article published by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) provides a helpful summary of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 211, Standards Codes for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents, and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances. Home inspectors should clearly understand these standards codes and know when to report on defects or when to recommend a chimney sweep specialist—not as a disclaimer.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 211 identifies three levels of inspections for chimneys, fireplaces, vents and solid fuel-burning appliances. Strangely enough, even the Level 1 inspection exceeds home inspection standards. This inspection requires removal of the damper plate for viewing of the interior surface of a fireplace smoke chamber. The inspection is conducted when the chimney is swept or during an annual inspection.
A Level 2 inspection is usually required during real estate transactions. Level 2 requires inspection of the chimney and of the interior surfaces of the flue. This is typically done with closed-circuit video equipment.
Level 3 inspection is rarely performed and entails all portions of the Level 1 and Level 2 inspections as well as gaining access to concealed areas of the chimney. This inspection requires some dismantling or destruction of parts of the chimney.
For greater details and videos on the NFPA 211 regarding chimney and fireplace inspections, visit the CSIA website.