Is it possible to inspect a chimney flue from the fireplace to determine whether it needs cleaning? Maybe with a flexible shaft camera? What is the procedure?

  • If your buying the house (as indicated in a comment on an answer) then add a flue inspection by a professional to the list. It’s well worth understanding it’s maintenance needs in full. Cracks etc in the lining cause structure fires, it’s not just cleaning. Get a certified chimney sweep and have it fully cleaned and inspected.
    – Tyson
    Feb 7 '18 at 15:54

Of course if you can get a camera up (or down) the flue then you might be able to see excessive build up of carbon (etc.) deposits. However, it will be as black as can be up there and the small light on most USB type endoscopes might not be bright enough to really make an accurate assessment.

Generally, if you're thinking the chimney might need cleaning, it needs cleaning! Chimneys are usually cleaned on rotation by time, i.e. once per year. If you're a 24/7 wood burner through 5 month long winters, then twice a year might be needed.

If you're an occasional fire burner, the flue still needs regular cleaning, because occasional fires don't get the flue hot enough to burn off small deposits. In fact, a little used chimney can be more of a problem than one which is screaming hot every day.

  • In my case I am buying a house, so I do not know the condition of the flues. The chimneys are very tall and will probably require a large aerial lift and be expensive to clean, so I want to determine which need cleaning (if any) and which do not. One issue is that most flues are set behind the fire place, so the boroscope would have to go around some corners potentially. Feb 7 '18 at 13:45
  • 1
    The damper in most fireplaces makes the flu hard to inspect without a camera. As handyman suggested unless the previous owner has had it cleaned prior to the sale it would be a good idea, the taller it is the more buildup there will be as the cooler surfaces tend to collect more cresote, I used to clean mostly metal sleeved wood stoves but some brick and brick was always the worst and hardest to clean.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 7 '18 at 17:48

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