What the home inspector missed, a chimney sweep caught

My CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep found the mantel was separating from the wall. A home inspector did not catch this, or what it possibly could mean.
My CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep found the mantel was separating from the wall. A home inspector did not catch this, or what it possibly could mean.

I am extremely appreciative of the home inspector whom my spouse hired to do a run-through of a 19-year-old house we intend to purchase. This professional identified potential mold in the crawl space as well as potential water-entry issues due to poorly installed decorative flashing on part of the roof. In both situations, we investigated further with the appropriate specialists in their respective industries.

The home inspector noted no concerns (positive or negative) about the factory-built Heatilator in the main living room, the centerpiece of the room because it is surrounded by a lovely hearth made of red brick facing.

But I knew enough about the unknowns involved with fireplaces and chimney systems to independently hire a pair of CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps, Bryan and Joe with Your Chimney Sweep of Indianapolis (and the closest to my zip code via CSIA.org.) I intend to use the wood-burning fireplace this winter, and there was no evidence that any recent chimney inspection had been conducted, so of course I wanted assurance that comes with an inspection. A Level 1 inspection would be a wise way to guarantee we were making a good investment.

The good news came first: the chimney flue was compliant with no visible defects observed. I could see for myself, as Bryan used a Chim-Scan so I could assess the interior. The company’s report borne that out: “Scan revealed no visible issues with the primary flue pipe connections.”

“Bad news,” Joe told me during a point in the inspection.

Bryan Smith, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep,  used a Chim-Scan to look up the flue of a home that I am considering buying.
Bryan Smith, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, used a Chim-Scan to look up the flue of a home that I am considering buying.

It was the condition of the rest of the chimney system that surprised me. From the report, which went from outside to inside.

    • Chimney termination does not meet the minimum height requirement,” with a reference to IRC 1001.6 /the 3-2-10′ rule. [You want your chimney to be tall enough to not experience interference on the roof. See video. Note that my CSIA sweep knew the codes.]
    • Chimney chase cover is concave and holding water. Suggest replacement with a stainless steel chase cover with the proper breaks for drainage.” Yep – that was easy to see. Snow had accumulated and melted, but should have not stayed on the cover.
"Chimney chase cover is concave and holding water. Suggest replacement with a stainless steel chase cover with the proper breaks for drainage."
“Chimney chase cover is concave and holding water.
Suggest replacement with a stainless steel chase cover
with the proper breaks for drainage.”

 

What was really troubling was the weight of the brick on the facade and hearth was pulling away from the wall.  The gap was at least one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch on the left and right sides, and across the mantel. Joe wrote in the report, “Facade is separating from the wall indicating improper/no support under the brick.” It was not known just from looking at this issue whether this was a 100 percent cosmetic concern (due to home settling) or something more substantial.

"Facade is separating from the wall indicating improper / no support under the brick."
From the report: “Facade is separating from the wall indicating improper/ no support under the brick.”

 

I contacted the home inspector to return to the home and report back. I was curious why he hadn’t caught what to me is obvious. This home inspector went back to the residence and into the crawl space; I still don’t fully know the cause. But I’m glad the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep made me aware; I made sure the homeowners’ Realtor got a copy of the report, so that they are aware.

Ashley Eldridge, in his 22nd year as CSIA’s Director of Education, frequently instructs home inspectors both locally and nationally. He was not surprised by the depth of what Bryan and Joe found.

“Home inspectors are generalists. A CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep is a specialist,” said Eldridge.

My realtor was right next to me during this inspection, and he had never watched a chimney sweep in action. As I explained to him, just because there were multiple issues observed, it didn’t necessarily “kill” the sale. It’s information, and information makes for a more educated consumer. If this house purchase goes through, I would budget to remove the old brick and rebuild the fireplace facing — this time with the proper support underneath.

Find your CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep at csia.org/search.


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