Part of the Home inspection process is inspecting the fireplace and chimney. (if applicable) The fireplace can be a safety hazard if not properly cleaned and taken care of. Depending on the type of fireplace installed depends on how it operates and what components need to be installed and working properly.
The Chimney can vary in material but need to be solid, not leaning and flashed at the roof line. Many chimneys are made of brick. The brick should be mortared into place and not falling out. Chimney caps are often made from mortar or metal. The chimney cap at the top should not have gaping cracks (mortar) or overly rusted (metal) assuring that water will not penetrate the chimney. A common problem with leaky roofs often lies around the chimney. If not properly flashed around the chimney, it can cause major leaks and the water can do substantial damage to the attic structure below.
On a wood burning fireplace, the damper needs to be operable so that the smoke goes up the chimney and not back into the house where it can be a health hazard. The chimney should have a spark arrestor on it so that hot ashes will not come out of the chimney and settle on the roof causing damage to the roof and fire hazards.
There are typically two types of gas burning fireplaces:
This fireplace is designed to burn up all the harmful gasses before they enter the home without a need to be vented to the outside; thus called a non-vented fireplace. They are designed to work with either propane or natural gas.
This fireplace is designed to have a damper similar to a wood burning fireplace that vents the harmful gasses not burnt by the fireplace outside the home. This fireplace is designed to work with propane or natural gas.