If you’re like most Americans, you’ll probably get a home inspection before buying a new home. In fact the U.S. General Accounting Office reported that almost 9 in 10 (85%) homebuyers who applied for a mortgage also ask for an inspection. Home inspections can reveal hidden flaws and repairs that might not be obvious to a homebuyer. A proactive seller might also want to get an inspection to put the buyer’s mind at ease.

Most home inspectors and home buyers will focus on the major structural elements of a home such as the roof, the foundation, HVAC system and electrical wiring. . A thorough inspection will include potential safety hazards like fireplaces. At the very least a home inspector will check the fireplace interior and exterior and if it’s warranted, suggest that you get a more in-depth fireplace inspection.

The first element to inspect is the overall ventilation. The opening of the chimney damper is essential to the safety of the home. The chimney damper allows the smoke from the fire to exhaust through the chimney.  If the damper doesn’t function properly, very noticeable black smoke stains will appear around the fireplace.

A dirty chimney can lead to a fire. If the bricks in the fireplace are dirty, a chimney cleaner will have to be called in to clean it properly. Deteriorating or loose bricks can be a potential fire hazard. If you’re trying to sell a home, it’s prudent that any fireplace issues are resolved so that it’s safe and ready for sale.  You wouldn’t want the sale to be held up because of a few chipped bricks in your fireplace. A home inspector will be able to tell how often a fireplace has been used and if it’s dirty. The more that it has been in use, the higher the level of creosote buildup that should be removed.   In some cases a home inspector might recommend a level II chimney inspection, which involves a video recording of the interior of the chimney.

If you are buying or selling an older home, after the 1930s they typically have the fireplaces installed on an exterior wall. The weight of the fireplace structure made it necessary for them to be built on a solid foundation. Over time the foundation may deteriorate or due to the elements the chimney tilts away from the structure. While the solution can be remedied sometimes it might be better to and install a new, zero clearance structure that will not require a foundation.

A chimney inspection may determine that the firebox is cracked or there are cracks, spaces in the mortar in the chimney bricks. We have found some homes to have malfunctioning dampers or in some cases missing. Older homes might not have a spark arrestor which was not required when they were being constructed but are now required by code in many counties.

Have a home inspection and fireplace inspection are a smart investment. Homebuyers will feel more confident about their purchase and home sellers will ensure that he can get the best price for the property. When it comes down to it if you’re buying or selling a home getting a home inspection makes a lot of sense.