Chimney video inspection not always necessary
Dear Angie: Generally, if I intend to use my fireplace, I have my chimney swept. This year, after having it swept, I was advised to have a video scan of the interior of my chimney with video inspection equipment to check for any loose bricks, etc. There was no indication of brick shards or chunks of mortar when they swept. Although happy to have it done, I was rather shocked that the cost is $500! Why is this being recommended and is it a valid suggestion? If customers can't afford the high cost and choose not to have the scan and eventually a fire occurs, will insurance companies then refuse to cover the damages? Elizabeth W., Boston.
Dear Elizabeth: Before you have a video scan, I would recommend you have at least two other companies inspect the chimney and offer their opinion if it needs a video inspection.
Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous companies that try to convince homeowners that their chimney is unfit for use and in need of expensive repairs when that is not the case. Before hiring, do research on consumer reviews for chimney sweeps in your area and look for individual certification from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. The National Chimney Sweep Guild also offers a company credential in which the company agrees to abide by its code of ethics.
That said, there could be a good reason for a video scan. Some chimneys have bends and turns that could make it difficult to see potential problems. A video inspection can also give the technician an up-close view of the flue liner, allowing him or her to detect cracks or other safety issues that might not be caught with a visual inspection alone. Industry experts agree, though, that the price you were quoted does seem high. Many companies offer a chimney cleaning and video inspection for around $200. There might be a reason why the quote is higher than the average – perhaps it included other services in addition to the video scan. Still, if the chimney is in good working order, the flue liners are in good shape and you’re not having any issues with the chimney, a video inspection might not be necessary. Again, getting input from some other companies is recommended.
Industry experts I spoke with said they are not aware of insurance companies ever denying a claim due to a lack of video inspection being done. However, I recommend discussing your policy specifics with your agent.