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MSchuh2581 01-15-2014 08:21 AM

Issues with Chimney Liner?
Hello everyone,

I just moved into a 100 year old home and had someone come in to do a chimney sweep so I can start using my fireplace. In my home, fireplace is on the main floor, below in basement is boiler and hot water heater, which all share the same chimney. The boiler was converted by the previous owner from oil to gas in December 2012. The boiler is 26 years old.

Of course, once the guy took a look at our current situation, he said our interior tiles were deteriorating, we had a CO2 risk and that we had $2k in repairs to fix the flue liner for our boiler and $3k for the chimney. He did not go on my roof or stick a camera down my chimney to do a full inspection. I've also since then purchased additional CO2 detectors and placed throughout the home and all say I have a 0 level of CO2 currently.

Since that time, I've had 3 supposedly reputable chimney companies come in and assess my situation. Two did not put a camera down my chimney and estimated just over $3k total in repairs to install a new liner, top mount, and repair to the ashpit/firebox for the fireplace (they did not believe that I needed a new liner for the fireplace).

Problem now is the 4th one to come in actually stuck a camera down and this is what he is saying:

This two flue chimney was constructed without a wythe (separation between flues in
the system). This creates certain challenges to repair and restoration of the
chimney. Removal of the terra cotta liner tiles from the fireplace will directly affect
the terra cotta liner tiles from the heating appliance flue.

ISSUES: Damage found to flue liner, mortar joints and smoke chamber due to age,
use and water/moisture exposure.
Scaffold set up and break down
Remove firebox and old damper frame
Break out and remove terra cotta liner tiles from fireplace flue. This will result in
breaking of portions of the heating appliance flue
Install 7 x 11 stainless steel lining system for the fireplace from Forever Flex with
lifetime manufacturers warranty
Insulate the liner as required by manufacturer with ceramic blanket insulation
Re-engineer smoke chamber with UL listed Chambertech 2000
Install top sealing damper
Construct new firebox, adding poured insulation behind for efficiency and safety
Material and Labor expected costs: $7,239.00

ISSUE: Damage to the clay flue liner tiles
Install 8" ovalized liner system from Forever Flex to accommodate current
Install custom UL listed stainless steel base tee with separate entrances for each
Install UL listed support and top plate
Make connections to appliances
Material and Labor $ 3,214.00

ISSUE: Poor methods of past repairs, tarred crown wash, damaged mortar joints,
silicones mortar joints, tarred flashing. This proposal will address the masonry
issues but you will need to consult with a professional roofer regarding the flashing
and cricket needs.
Remove tar from crown wash.
Power wash chimney to remove moss and algae
Grind out mortar joints from roof up
Apply mortar to stone joints (tuck point)
Apply new crown wash.
Install multi flue stainless steel chimney cap to cover both flues
Material and Labor: $2,900.00


I'm trying to see if anyone knows the following:

1. Is this last estimate inline with what costs normally would be for this type of work or are they adding a lot of additional unneeded items? If they hadn't stuck the camera down, I'd figure this was all BS but considering he's the only one that did, not sure if the others came in lower knowing they would upcharge once work began.
2. Currently we do not have central air in the house and the boiler is old. If I were to convert to forced air and heat, how much of this chimney work do you all think would actually need to get done so I can just use my fireplace? If this last quote at $13,500 is accurate, I can put in a new system with central air for not much more than that...

Thanks for you help!!

Read more:

bud16415 01-15-2014 09:07 AM

With a modern forced air gas system you won’t need any chimney at all. They vent out thru a PVC pipe as they extract so much heat due to their high ratings. You will need to add all the duct work though and that can be a big project in an old house. You will then be able to add air very easily. I am no expert on heating but I would guess there are similarly high rated hot water systems also.

As to the fire place is your plan to burn it for supplementing heating? If so these old fireplaces are pretty worthless IMO. They draw so much heat up the chimney they waste as much as they make. If you just want the look of the fire there are vent-less options with gas logs or gas inserts that are also good supplemental heat sources. Around here outside wood stoves that supply hot water to the heating system are really selling now. People that have a lot of access to firewood are switching over to these. And using a gas boiler as backup.

As to the cost issues I can’t answer. I know my brother in law cracked his flu liner with his wood stove and had the flex stainless liner installed from above down old flu and it wasn’t a cheap date. I don’t remember the costs but I do remember him shopping around a lot and had questions very similar to yours.

MSchuh2581 01-15-2014 09:11 AM

Thanks for the reply, the fireplace is just to use occasionally during the winter months for the purpose of just having a fire lit in our living room, not for heating purposes...

kok328 01-15-2014 02:09 PM

if it is just for occasionaly use and not for heating, I would think hard if $13K is worth the ambience.

MSchuh2581 01-15-2014 02:14 PM

So if I were to ditch my current steam heating system and install a new heating and cooling system (although since I have an old house, one with ducts could be a challenge), how much of that work especially from the last quote I have there do you all think would even be needed for an occasionally used fireplace?

nealtw 01-15-2014 06:03 PM

Continueing to use a chimney when you are aware that it needs repairs can void your fire insurance. If you think there ever is a chance that you may may to cool the house in the summer converting may be a good option. A gas fire place can have a direct vent thru the back of the chimney, doing away with any repairs there. There are some really neet electric inserts that would fool you too. Time to look at all options and get prices for all of them. The repointing and repairs above the roof will still need to be done anyway.
Do away with the fireplace may save you with your fire insurance, they should give you a discount.

bud16415 01-16-2014 06:12 AM

Very tough question to have someone else answer for you. There are lots of options and maybe even still some unknowns for you. The basic question is how bad is your fireplace and chimney and flu? The several people that came out and didn’t go on the roof or scope the chimney it’s hard to give their assessment any validity. The one that did come and do the inspection may or may not be giving you the correct story. You have a feeling of his reputation I believe and you can go by that. I take it that none of these companies charged you for the inspection and it was part of a service that supports the work they do. Did you have a home inspection done before purchase and was there any mention of the chimney condition in that report? Is there a third party inspection company in your area that doesn’t have skin in the game and only does inspections and recommendations? Did the fellow that scoped the chimney show you the video of the cracks etc. he found as he was doing it? The exterior stuff he found can also be a clue as these items you can directly view and these also should have been caught with a home inspection. As Neil pointed out no matter what direction you go some of these have to be fixed that will allow water to get in the house. As to if you could use it once in a while for a fire that’s a question no one here can answer for you. You started out requesting a chimney sweep to just clean up your flu and no one was even willing to do that they all referred to major repairs. So based on that the first batch of people were ether scamming you or they could see damage right close to each end top or bottom. Did any of them invite you to look at the problems they saw?

I have caught a chimney on fire before and it is not anything you want to experience. At very least you need to know it’s clean and not full of creosote. The intense heat of a chimney fire is often what cracks the liner. And leaves the inside quite clean.

You didn’t mention where you live or the climate or what kind of a budget you have to work with. The 100 year old home we just bought and are restoring does not have a fireplace and I believe it was coal fired in the beginning and switched over to forced air gas in recent years. Living in northern Pa our need for central air would be more of a luxury than a necessity. And we do fine with a 10,000 BTU window unit for the down stairs and a 5,000 upstairs in the bedroom. And I have a 10,000 in my detached workshop. Just run them as needed. I personally like hot water heat such as you have now with its ability for zones and such. With the age of your unit there should be something much better out there now to replace your old boiler with if you don’t need the central air.

Everyone has different priorities and budgets and for me $13,000 for an occasional fire wouldn’t be in the cards if I could take that same money and update my main heating and cooling needs with something more dependable and energy friendly. Chances are your house could use lots of other updates maybe windows, doors, insulation, roof etc. Having had wood burning fireplaces for me the appeal went away pretty fast to actually using them. Storing wood with bugs in it and the mess of the fire and cleaning up the ashes wasn’t my thing. When it’s time to go to bed and the fire is still banked and snapping and popping I never liked and would stay up watching it and watching the heat go up the chimney as it was still too early to close the damper. I would much more enjoy some gas logs or a gas log insert that would be a true back up heat source. But that’s me and everyone has different budget abilities and desires.

MSchuh2581 01-16-2014 08:47 AM

Thanks for the reply. I am located in northern New Jersey. The previous owner left us 6 air conditioning units, haven't experienced a summer yet in the home so do not know how good of a job they will do in cooling the house or what the energy bills will be once they are in use.

Does anyone know how I can look on my own to see if there's something really wrong here? My home inspector made no mention to these issues in his report and unfortunately did not recommend having the chimney and heating flue checked in his report.

As for the one that put the camera down, they did charge me to do this. I'm trying to get one of the others to come back and put the camera down to do their check. The other two did not put a camera down, one didn't even go on the roof. I found all 4 of these off having very solid online reviews so also if anyone knows of any reputable chimney companies that service northern NJ that they have worked with it would be greatly appreciated.

nealtw 01-16-2014 09:08 AM

Online reveiws, we would like to think, if we want good reveiws we want happy customers, you might find this site interesting.
This one is in Canada but the are lots of companies like this.

MSchuh2581 01-16-2014 09:10 AM

I can't trust anything anymore...

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