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Breweries and Distilleries: Preparing for a Boiler Inspection

By October 1, 2023October 30th, 2023Insurance

Steam generation is the heart of many breweries and distilleries, so maintaining the system’s health is vital for safe, efficient and uninterrupted operation.

The inspection process is an important component of preventive maintenance that may help identify issues before a problem occurs.

Nearly all states require boiler inspections, and some insurance companies also perform inspections as part of their underwriting requirements or risk management activities.


When to Inspect

Inspection requirements vary among jurisdictions, but often involve annual inspections by a state licensed boiler inspector. You can find local boiler laws and the authority having jurisdiction at Determine when the system was last inspected; usually an inspection tag is affixed to the boiler’s exterior. Schedule an inspection in advance of the system’s certification expiration to avoid disruption. The inspector will inform you if an external or internal inspection will be performed.

Types of Inspection

External inspections are often performed under normal operating conditions with no opening of the boiler, thus there is usually no interruption to production. Your steam system operator should be available to discuss operating conditions with the inspector.

Internal inspections require additional planning since the system will be offline. Plan production schedules in advance to avoid conflicts and allow for a few hours of downtime. Internal inspections require the boiler be open and out of operation. Who conducts the teardown will vary based on your unique facility, but often it’s done by a contractor or the steam system operator. Prior to inspection, discuss with the inspector what will need to be open for them to view or observe.

Based on system design, areas that will need to be open could include cross-connecting pipes, plugs, caps, floats, probes and burners as well as other systems.


Time and Documentation

Whether undergoing an internal or external inspection, you will need to make available your water chemistry logs, blowdown, and maintenance records. The inspector may review them with your operator when discussing operating conditions and asking about the system’s service history.

An external inspection may last 15 to 30 minutes, while an internal inspection may require 30 to 45 minutes in addition to an hour for teardown and an hour for rebuild.

External Inspection Items

Inspectors generally look at the boiler’s exterior paint for discoloration, a sign of potential overheating, and will use a sight glass to look for clean combustion. Piping, joints and relief valves will be visually inspected for leaks or other signs of weeping. On high-pressure systems, the low-water cutoff may be tested where possible.

Internal Inspection Items

With the boiler torn down, inspectors will take a closer look at internal components.

Firing tubes above and below the water line are visually inspected for signs of oxygen pitting and corrosion. Changes in the surface of the firing tube, such as blisters or signs of rust, may indicate a potential water chemistry issue. If left unresolved, damage to the firing tube and other internal components may result.

Water level probes and float valves should appear clean and free of buildup. Dirty probes or buildup on float valves are a quick indication of a more serious issue within the system. A failed water shutoff could result in damage to the system caused by dry-firing.

Burners are visually inspected for signs of combustion issues, commonly in the form of soot buildup. Soot is the result of inefficient combustion and, left unchecked, diminishes burner efficiency and longevity. Common combustion issues include incorrect burner air/fuel mixture tuning, lack of make-up air from inadequate room ventilation or improper damper size or installation.

Combustion chamber refractory panels are inspected for large cracks or crumbing material that may contribute to system overheating. Boiler exterior paints are typically designed to show signs of overheating through discoloring or by turning a lighter shade.


A new inspection tag with date and inspector signature will be affixed to the boiler exterior. Follow up with the inspector on any violations or recommendations that have been resolved so they can notify the authority having jurisdiction to file an inspection report, and the certificate can be issued.

Check with your insurance carrier or state inspector to determine if you are responsible for notifying the authority and requesting the certification. If you are a client of The Turner Agency and your coverage is through The Cincinnati Insurance Company (and one of their state-licensed inspectors completes your inspection), this notification will be completed on your behalf.


Choosing the right insurance agent is one of the most important decisions you will make. The Turner Agency, Inc. is a local Trusted Choice® independent insurance agency headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, and we specialize in meeting the insurance needs of brewers and distillers.

We understand the risks you face and offer custom insurance solutions that include General and Liquor Liability, Commercial Property and Auto, Worker’s Comp, Equipment Breakdown, Spoilage/Product Recall/Product Contamination, Tank Collapse and/or Leakage, and more. Contact Trevor Painter at or at 864-400-3523 for a free review of your coverage

The information in this article was obtained from our partner, The Cincinnati Insurance Company, and is not all inclusive regarding the subject matter. This content is offered for educational purposes only.