Chimney Inspections

By the Orillia Home Inspector

Certified Building Code Official


WETT Insurance Inspections


Do you require a basic visual inspection such as for insurance or pre-purchase of a home equipped with a wood burning appliance or fireplace? A basic visual inspection is a general overview of the readily accessible parts to determine if the system meets current regulations. If this description fits your needs, any WETT certified member is trained to perform a basic visual inspection.

Certified WETT inspectors will specifically inspect components of all wood-burning appliances and fireplaces to determine if they were installed safely and in accordance with building and fire code requirements. WETT inspectors are required to complete a minimum of four days of formal training and declare a minimum of 80 weeks of related field expeirence before being certified.

A solid fuel burning appliance shall not be connected to a chimney that is connected to a fireplace or incinerator, except where; (a) the fireplace or incinerator is made inoperable; (b) all entries to the chimney flue, other than the appliance flue pipe, are effectively sealed with noncombustible materials; (c) access for cleaning is provided; and (d) the fireplace damper handle is made inoperable.

A flue pipe shall be securely supported from the structure by means of metal or other noncombustible supports and horizontal pipes shall be supported at intervals not exceeding 3 m. the flue pipe shall be as short and straight as practical; and a single wall pipe shall not exceed 3 m total length of pipe and shall not have a total change in direction of more than 180 degrees.

When a flue pipe is passing through a thimble, the female end of the flue pipe shall reach but not protrude beyond the interior surface of the flue. The male end of the flue pipe shall extend beyond the thimble by at least 30 mm. A flue pipe or manifold serving one or more solid-fuel-burning appliances shall be constructed of steel or other approved noncombustible material with melting point of not less than 1100 degrees Celsius. Galvanized steel shall not be used.

An unsafe fireplace may have a buildup of creosote. This flammable substance is hard, dark and crustlike and is produced during incomplete combustion of wood, and when it accumulates inside the fireplace or chimney over time, it can cause a fire.

Soot is also a flammable deposit, dark in colour but softer than creosote. Most chimney sweeps recommend cleaning when soot deposits reach  1/8-inch in depth.

For safety reasons, fireplaces should always have a glass or mesh screen to prevent sparks from escaping and igniting an adjacent wood or carpet floor.

A complete inspection might involve checking whether the chimney has a cap with wire mesh sides to keep rain, birds, animals, and debris from entering. The outer mortar between the bricks or stone of the chimney will be examined to make sure it is intact. The inspector also looks for cracked tile liners or missing bricks, and dents, rust and missing screws on metal chimneys.

All homes with fuel-fired appliances should have both a carbon monoxide (CO) detector and a smoke detector. This is especially important if the home has a fireplace or woodstove, or both.




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Inspection Definitions

1. Chimney - vent flue gases from fireplaces or heating equipment.
2.  Chimney flue top or chimney cap (if present)
3.  Chimney crown or chimney top seal
4.  Chimney Flashing seals the roof penetration to avoid leaks into the structure.
5. Masonry fireplace
6. Fireplace ash pit door. 
7.  Fireplace ash pit cleanout door.
8.  Fireplace mantel - horizontal trim attached to wall above fireplace opening.
9. Hearth - flat surface in front of the fireplace, protects flooring from fire.
10. Ridge cap or ridge vent (if present)
11. Ridge board
12. Cripple rafters or Jack rafters (between chimney and house eaves - rafters that do not extend the full distance between house eaves and the roof ridge board)
13. Rafter blocking or cross bridging, also found on floor joists and in some wall framing
14. Soffit or lookout or house eaves. The soffit is the enclosed portion of the roof that overhangs the house walls at the roof lower edges.
15. Roof sheathing or roof decking.
16. Roof shingles (asphalt shingles, clay tiles, slates, wood shingles, or shakes, similar materials)
17. Drip edge (used at lower roof edges or eaves). The drip edge is special metal flashing intended to divert water off of the roof lower edges into the roof gutter system. Drip edges should spill into the gutter, not behind it. 
18. Gutter (attached over or to fascia board) to collect roof drainage and prevent it from spilling down and along the building walls (leaks) and basement (wet basements
19. Downspouts (conduct roof drainage from the gutters to a destination away from the building or into a storm drain system).
20.  Downspout leader or downspout extension (hard to see, behind that front right entry porch column)
21. Gable end and gable-end attic vent. The gable end the house wall on a conventional simple gable roof such as shown in our sketch is the triangular end wall
22. Gable end fascia. The gable end fascia is the trim board attached to the roof edges, extending from ridge to lower roof edge, and where a rake overhang is present, covering the outermost rake rafter or barge rafter.
23. Gable end vent or attic vent at gable end