Chimney liners?

I own a home built in 1988 that included a 90+ furnance vented directly to the outside, a masonary woodburning fireplace, and a high efficiency hot water heater that vented into the fireplace chimney. These all appeared to have passed inspection when the home was built.
I purchased the home in 1997 and have since had to replace the furnace (with another 90+)and changed the fireplace to gas logs. Last weekend the 15 yr old hot water tank failed. Went to Home Depot and purchased a new one and paid to have it installed. When the installer arrived he noted the 90+ furnace and stated that he could not install the hot water heater unless I paid $450 to have a chimney liner installed. Since my $309 water heater, $219 installation, $55 permit fee, and $450 chimney liner = $1033, I flatly told him to forget the whole deal. (I purchase the same heater and installed it myself later that day, without the "benefit" of the liner, permit, or installation charge; something the installer stated happens quite frequently).
Now, I've done the research on the reasons for a liner (lower temps, condensing gases, chimney eroding, etc.) and have looked into putting a liner in myself. However, I have some questions and I'd like to hear from the experts:
1. Is such a liner really, truely necessary? (the home passed inspection when it was built; as a wood buring fireplace it surely was less likely used than with the perpetual pilot that I have running in it for the gas logs and the water heater is virtually the same as the one used when the home was built; I live in Michigan by the way, so freeze/thaw is a given).
2. Why is it that it seems impossible to obtain the chimney liner kits for do it yourself install? (Nearly every site indicates they don't sell to homeowners and that its really important to have it done by "experts"; yet I've read all the install instructions and it generally seems to be a straight foward "feed it down the chimney, gently pull it through, connect it up" install; certainly nothing very complicated).
The fact that I can't seem to purchase a kit and must go through a dealer and pay for the installation smacks of the type of dealer control on HVAC/furnace items to deliberately keep consumers from making their own repairs. I mean, c'mon, this certainly isn't brain surgery, and the unfortunate experiences I've had with some of the "skilled" installers tells me I'd be far more careful with the installation.
I put my faith in the honest responses I anticipate from this group (Keeping in mind that if a liner is truely necessary it would really miff me to pay $450 for a $150 aluminum liner kit that will take two, untrained, just out of high school, laborers about an hour to install).
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Answers inline.

First question. All of the 90 plus efficiency furnaces come with a 'limited' lifetime warranty. Didn't you check this out? Besides, what does this have to do with your question?

No, the liner is not necessary. Oh, it is if you want to keep the chimney (and I'm guessing it's masonry, but a house built in 1988 is unlikely to have a masonry chimney. Most are pre-fab). The flue gasses cool as the rise through the chimney and condense. The condensate is acidic and will rot your masonry chimney from the inside out. When the liner finally rots out and blocks the flue, you and your family may not wake up one day. Oh, and this assumes the chimney has a seperate flue for the fireplace/gas logs and the WH.

I guess this is not a question for me because I am in the trade. I know for sure there are places on the net that sell to anyone. Just do a search for Chimney+liner and you may find them..... There are times to let a pro do the work, though. Plus a pro may see something that is actually wrong that you may miss.

You may have a track record of picking the cheapest of the lot.

I have in front of me an ad out of a trade magazine. It is of a stainless steel 316Ti all-fuel chimney liner and it certainly is not $150.00, but nearly double that. This kit includes a 6" X 25' liner, with a cap, top plate, tee, tee cap and lifetime warranty. Don't bother asking me the name of this company.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thank you Heatman for your honest response. I appreciate you taking the time to respond and I have replied to your questions below:

The former owner was good enough to leave me with all the furnace information and when a power "brownout" occurred when we were not home, the furnace quit. I called the firm that installed the original unit, they came out and told me the circuitry was fried and that this caused the blower motor to burn out as well. Though I provided them the warranty info, etc. they informed me it wasn't covered and that it would run $1200-$1500 to repair a 12 year old furnace and a 3 day wait on parts. Or, since it was mid-February and about 20 degrees, they could install a new furnace that day. Wasn't much of a choice. Now, your response makes me wonder if they were telling me the truth. And I only mentioned the furnace so that it was clear what the venting situation was with my home.

I cannot say with certainty that its a masonry chimney throughout, but it appears to be. Nor can I confirm that it has a separate flue for the fireplace and the WH. This is something that I would definitely determine if I decided to try a do it yourself install. I have already placed carbon monoxide detectors upstairs, next to the fireplace, and in the basement to warn of any possible venting problem.

I have found many sites with chimney liners, but next to none that advise me of price or are willing to sell directly, and I have looked quite extensively. As stated nearly all indicate no direct sales. I also realize that a "true" pro may be called for in some situations, especially those involving safety. However, as noted below, sometimes the "pro" you think your paying for doesn't act very professional. I have no problem with paying a fair and reasonable price for time and materials, as well as a TRUE professional job that lets me sleep at ease at night. However, I'm really gonna kick myself if I pay for an install and the two, just out of high school, guys show up, drop a simple flexible aluminum pipe and are finished in less than an hour and it costs me $450 plus for something I could have done at far less expense and with no additional skills.

Actually, far from it. I simply try hard to be an informed consumer. I like to know exactly what I'm paying for, to include what it costs the contractor for his materials, and what he charges for his time. I always get 3 or more bids, try to evaluate by quality and experience, and then finally price. I have NEVER taken the lowest bid for any work base upon price alone. Yet, sometimes when you think your getting a caring, skilled tradesman, you end up with something else:
1. One burner control switch on my electric stove top quit, the GE repair man who spoke of his 20+ years of experience told me it wasn't repairable and I need a new built-in stove top; well after he left I discovered the control had a simple breaker switch on it, push it in and "presto" the switch and stove are fine;
2. the aforementioned furnace company, when installing my replacement furnace, failed to install the central air unit properly, and when summer came it dumped literally buckets of condensate into the furnace;
3. the microwave on my built in micro/oven quit and a different appliance repairman told me the unit was fried and had to be replaced. Turns out it was a simple 15 amp fuse built inside the unit needed to be replaced;
4. as for this particular venting question, I was told by the Home Depot installer that the furnace company that installed the replacement furnace should have informed me about venting the WH, and that the fireplace company that installed the gas logs should have done the same as well. Yet this last weekend was the first I had heard of this chimney condensate problem.

Again, thank you for your response. But, as a person in the trade, you know that a fair percentage of those in the trades do not hold to the same high standards as yourself. I am simply trying to inform myself as to the costs, risks, and difficulty of this work and to avoid kicking myself for paying hundreds of dollars (or $1000+ in the case of stainless steel liners) and receiving a quick and dirty job done by someone with skills comparable to my own. Now, if you know a reputable firm in the Detroit area that will let me buy the materials and pay for a TRUE professional job at an fair hourly rate, I'd jump at that.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Listen let the poor guy hook up his own liner, hopefully he'll do it right and then he can sleep well knowing that he saved a buck. No sense wasting your life explaining to some cheapskate that he can't dictate what your time or anyone elses is worth. I hope his employer reads his post when he pays him. P.S. cheap guy- didn't your pop ever tell you that the satisfaction of saving a buck is nothing compared to the anguish of paying for something twice? Find someone you like (if that's possible for you) and pay him his/her asking price without negotiation even if its a young person(god forbid they have success too)! How hard is that, you know how much they want. Don't get slammed but pay the norm, sheesh some people don't deserve houses. This is why for centuries common folk weren't permitted to own land and property. Your home is yours to care for while you are alive after it is a monument to you- or not, you decide.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I do almost all the work on my house because I have almost never paid for work that ended up done properly. The special occasions when it was done right was only because I was watching over every minute to make sure that stupid decisions, to save a few minutes work, were not made.
I recently monitored a furnace installation for a friend. The installers were ready to install the ductwork so that it would block the window from being opened. As it ended up, the window was still blocked after they finished after they wedged everything to install the final pvc exhaust. I figure I can re-route the pvc easier than getting them to do it right.
It isn't just money. It is also quality. The money certainly does help motivate one though.
Bob
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote in message

Sure there are alot of no good rotten scoundrels out there. But most people aren't epuipped to fix a light switch much less climb their house and install a chimney. They would be better served to pay a prefessional as they are paid when they claim their professioal salary. Kabeesh?!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
the work on my house because I have almost never paid

done
that
installers
from
I
help
Yep. I also understand that many or most workers I have dealt with seem to not really care about all the little details that make a job be "done right". They know that they will probably never see the result of their work again, and they do it the quick way rather than the right way. Things like missing flashing, above ground treated posts buried in the ground, or blocked windows matter to me, but not to some of them. Since I never have any guarantee that they will do the job right, I usually do it my self.
Bob
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Risuli:
R > I own a home built in 1988 that included a 90+ furnance vented R > directly to the outside, a masonary woodburning fireplace, and a high R > efficiency hot water heater that vented into the fireplace chimney. R > These all appeared to have passed inspection when the home was built. R > R > I purchased the home in 1997 and have since had to replace the furnace R > (with another 90+)and changed the fireplace to gas logs. Last weekend
Haven't seen any answers posted as of this writing but will add we had the same requirement here. Upgraded the gas furnace a couple of years ago. Originally the gas furnace and gas water heater vented into the chimney which also vented a long-unused mini-fireplace to burn paper. Not sure if separate flues. When they installed the gas furnace they said they would either need to install a chimney liner (about the same price as you were quoted) or a pair of PVC pipes to vent to the side of the house. We have two PVBC pipes sticking out the side of the house.
- barry.martinATthesafebbs.zeppole.com
* How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?
--
RoseReader 2.52 P003186
The Safe BBS Bettendorf, IA 563-359-1971
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.